Inner-city children with speech, language and communication difficulties showed significant improvements in response to a drama-based intervention, research from the University of East London (UEL) has found.
The intervention, Speech Bubbles, was developed by the
London Bubble Theatre in the wake of an independent cross-governmental review
undertaken in 2008 by John Bercow, MP, now the Speaker of the House of Commons.
The review underlined the severity of the impact of speech,
language and communication needs (SLCN) on childrens confidence, social and
emotional development, school progression and mental well-being. This year the
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and I CAN published Bercow: Ten
Years On (www.bercow10yearson.com) . The follow-up
report shows that as many as half of all young children from neighbourhoods
with high social deprivation continue to have such difficulties. These put
children at increased risk of a range of psychological and social problems.
Speech Bubbles uses a story drama approach to help Key Stage
1 children (age 57 years) to develop their communication skills. The programme
was developed in partnership with Southwark Council in 2009, and is now
available to primary schools in Southwark, Lewisham, Greenwich and Lambeth with
London Bubble Theatre, and in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Enfield, Rochdale, Oldham
and Manchester with partner organisations. In total, more than 800 pupils are
involved in the programme each year.
The research found the programme brought significant
improvements when its participants were compared with a control group.
The researchers identified children aged between 5 and 8
with speech and language difficulties in three different inner London primary
schools. The children were placed in two groups, the first of which received
the programme in 2015-16, and the second in 2016-17 a total of 164 children.
Children receiving the intervention in 2015-16 made
significantly better progress than the control group in three out of six of
the categories tested – storytelling and narrative, understanding spoken
language and social interaction. Children receiving the intervention in 2016-17
improved on their scores in spoken language, storytelling and social
interaction without reaching statistical significance.
The study will be followed up with a Randomised Control
Trial conducted by the Education Endowment Foundation. This is expected to
involve 500 pupils across 25 schools, from September 2018, and will be one of five
trials examining whether cultural learning approaches can help boost primary
pupils achievements. All five projects will be evaluated by UCL Institute of
Education and the governments Behavioural Insights Team.
A separate report by Pro Bono Economics and EY, suggests
that Speech Bubbles is a low-cost intervention that delivers good value for
The projects patron is Mark Rylance, the first Artistic
Director of Shakespeares Globe theatre in London.
What wonderful new evidence of
the benefits for young people of the work of Speech Bubbles! I imagine I would
never have become an actor if my parents hadn’t been able to find people to
help me with speech when I was a young boy, he said. Speech Bubbles is
essential work for our children in schools.
Jonathan Petherbridge, Creative
Director of London Bubble adds, Speech Bubbles is a drama programme developed
by London Bubble a company who run projects which bring the benefits of
theatre-making to people of all ages. This report will significantly improve
our evidence base, adding detailed knowledge about the programmes economic
benefits to our evidence of the joy that children experience when they take
Neil Pratt, Chief Economist Pro
Bono Economics says, Speech Bubbles delivers good value for money, with a
benefit to cost ratio that is relatively high compared to values reported in
studies of other primary age interventions in education. This is an encouraging
finding, given the vital importance of good communication skills in a childs
For further information please contact Adam Annand,
Associate Director London Bubble Theatre, firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7237 4434.
The UEL research report is available at: http://www.londonbubble.org.uk/page/reports-research-writing
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