Over four decades supporting deaf children and their families

The Elizabeth Foundation was set up in 1981 by parents Shirley and David Metherell MBEs, whose daughter, Elizabeth, was diagnosed as profoundly deaf when she was 22 months old.

In response to a lack of local support for Elizabeth, and inspired by the John Tracy Center in Los Angeles, Shirley and David established and developed The Elizabeth Foundation to support other parents of newly diagnosed deaf children.

The Elizabeth Foundation quickly grew and developed a unique working partnership with the Audiology Department at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust.

Today we remain the UK’s single largest provider of early intervention, educational and support services for preschool children and babies with all degrees of deafness.

Key moments in our history

Shirley and David Metherell celebrate the birth of their daughter Elizabeth. By the time Elizabeth was 8 months old, her parents have concerns about her hearing. However, it takes until she is 22 months old (in 1981) for Elizabeth to be officially diagnosed as profoundly deaf.
Following Elizabeth's diagnosis, her parents take their daughter to Los Angeles, USA to visit the world famous John Tracy Center for young deaf children. Inspired by The John Tracy Center's remarkable services and driven by the need to help other parents of newly diagnosed deaf children, on their return Shirley and David set up a support group to provide early intervention services. Four other deaf babies and their parents begin to meet regularly in the Metherell's home, helped by a local volunteer Teacher of the Deaf. Within just seven months, the new organisation - named The Elizabeth Foundation after their daughter - gains full charitable status. The following year we are joined by a specialist Teacher of the Deaf from The John Tracy Center, with classes now held in temporary accommodation (nicknamed 'The Hut') in the grounds of Shirley's local primary school.
The charity secures a 99-year lease on a plot of land near Portsmouth's main hospital, and plans are drawn up for a purpose-built family centre. Shirley and David Metherell start a major fundraising and public relations drive, and together with a group of parent volunteers start building with the first major grant from The Tudor Trust.
The Elizabeth Foundation launches its Home Learning Programme for parents of preschool deaf children unable to attend regular sessions at the Family Centre in Hampshire. This printed course later formed the basis for our unique online Let's Listen and Talk programme for parents.
HRH The Princess Royal officially opens our new purpose-built Family Centre in Hampshire. This new building was self-built by the five fathers of the original Elizabeth Foundation children, with finances raised from the local community and grantmaking trusts.
After completing a successful fundraising appeal, The Elizabeth Foundation completes and opens its Newborn Hearing Screening and Paediatric Test Centre. The first of its kind in the country - operated jointly with the local Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust. In the same year, The University of Portsmouth recognises Shirley Metherell's work with deaf children and their parents by awarding her an honorary Master of Education degree.
The Elizabeth Foundation enjoys a second visit by HRH The Princess Royal. By this time, The Elizabeth Foundation has gained national recognition for its innovative work across the UK.
Renowned musical educators Ann and Ezra Rachlin founded The Beethoven Fund for Deaf Children in 1976 to help deaf children all over the UK to access music. The Beethoven Fund supported our work for many years by helping to fund instruments and our music studio. When Ann retired in 2004, we were both privileged and delighted when she requested that we incorporate the name of her charity with The Elizabeth Foundation to continue her inspiring work. Ann became our President that same year,
The Elizabeth Foundation celebrates its 25th Anniversary of helping deaf children and babies learn to listen and talk.
The Elizabeth Foundation launches the 'Raise the Roof' Appeal to enlarge and enhance our Family Centre in Hampshire to cope with growing demand for our services for preschool deaf children and their families.
We celebrate our 30th Anniversary with the successful completion of our Raise the Roof building work. The expanded facilities at our Family Centre in Hampshire include a new baby and toddler classroom and additional office space for teaching and support staff.
After over three decades steering the charity's growth, Shirley Metherell retires. The following year (2014), HM The Queen makes both Shirley and David Metherell Members of the British Empire (MBE) in her 2014 New Year Honours for services to deaf children and their families.
Fundraising commences and then building work starts to extend our Test Centre building so we can provide an enhanced range of services in the future.
Julie Hughes, formerly the charity's Director of Children and Family Services, is selected by the Board of Trustees as the new Chief Executive.
Following an Early Years Register Inspection in April, the charity's specialist preschool education services for preschool deaf children retain their 'Outstanding' Ofsted rating.
Leading percussionist - and Patron of The Elizabeth Foundation - Dame Evelyn Glennie visits to launch the charity's innovative Let's Listen and Talk online service for parents and professionals supporting preschool children with all degrees of deafness. Using our experience of delivering the successful Home Learning Programme, this website provides a comprehensive package of information, videos and tailored advice to support parents in helping their deaf children learn to listen and talk.
Our newly-completed Ovingdean Building Garden Suite provide state-of-the-art facilities, including two purpose-built, soundproof audiological testing rooms, alongside reception, therapy and consulting rooms. We have developed these new facilities to enable partnership working with other organisations. The launch tenant is the University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service (UoSAIS) who are using the brand new facilities to provide outreach services for clients with Cochlear Implants.
With over 80 children regularly attending classes at our Family Centre and over 800 parents and professionals registered on our Let's Listen and Talk programme, The Elizabeth Foundation remains the largest single provider of education services for preschool deaf children in the UK. Shirley Metherell, MBE, the charity's founder, sadly passed away in August 2021.
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