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Case Study
  • Categories: Education & learning through the arts

Speech Bubbles

Speech Bubbles is a small charity with big ambitions. Based in London they work across England alongside an extensive network of theatre partners. They support young children with communication needs that affect confidence, friendships and learning. They do this by providing weekly small group drama activities. Their rigorous evaluation and research evidence identifies the significant difference that taking part makes, with improvements in children’s speaking, listening and personal wellbeing.

Speech Bubbles started in 2009 in response to The Bercow Report, which reviewed services for children with speech, language and communication needs. The review showed that a lack of affordable and available services was failing children experiencing the most disadvantage. In 2020 ICAN reported that the problem was growing with 1.5 million children struggling with understanding words and talking. In 2022, post pandemic, that had increased to 1.7 million. At the same time teachers are reporting a lack of confidence and training in, supporting children’s communication and using drama in the classroom.

Speech Bubbles knew they needed to do more. With support from PHF’s Arts-based Learning Fund they’ve been able to do two things:

Support new theatre partners to join the programme, reaching more children in more regions.

In 2022 Speech Bubbles teamed up with Colchester’s Mercury Theatre and Bounce Theatre in Wandsworth. In 2023 they will be joined by HIT in Hertfordshire and Nottingham Playhouse.

“Midway through a recent session, I caught one six-year-old telling her partner, ‘Speech Bubbles is a place to feel happy.’ when she thought her partner was too sad to join in a game. Minutes later they were diving into an imaginary ocean together and sunbathing in Australia.’ I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”
Louise, Bounce Theatre

“We are proud to be partnering with Speech Bubbles to deliver their hugely successful intervention programmes for children with additional communication needs. Nurturing creativity, confidence and wellbeing through interactive storytelling has always been at the heart of our provision for young children, and this well-researched and evidenced programme for primary schools will complement our ever-growing schools offer.”
Sarah, Nottingham Playhouse

Develop a Continued Professional Development (CPD) model for KS1 staff.

As well as working with targeted groups of children Speech Bubbles wanted to support teachers to build creative, communication friendly techniques into their classroom practice, with the goal of supporting every child. They have consulted with teachers, Speech and Language Therapists and children and are now trialling the CPD model. The initial feedback is extremely positive.

One SENCo fed back that “The sessions were very useful in giving us ideas to bring into class and embed in the routines of the day.”

Another teacher said that there are “Fun, exciting activities involving communication, drama and expression (that) will encourage children to join in and participate.”

Speech Bubbles will continue to build on the feedback they receive and the children they work with describe their impact best: “Speech Bubbles has made me listen to others in class and share my ideas more. I love Speech Bubbles.”

Speech Bubbles. Image: Liz Atkin.