Acclaimed actor and director, Mark Rylance, has given his support to Speech Bubbles, a national programme devised by The London Bubble Theatre Company for children who need support with their communication.
Each week, small groups of children in schools across London and Greater Manchester, take part in weekly practical drama sessions, telling stories and acting them out together. Evidence indicates that these children face lifelong disadvantages if not supported to help improve these crucial skills.
New research undertaken by Dr Jonathan Barnes, Senior Lecturer in Education at Canterbury Christ Church University has identified significant benefits of the programme for the children who take part. Dr Barnes, undertook research, over a six month period, to measure the impact that Speech Bubbles programme has on important aspects of the learning and engagement of children. He found that there were improvements in speaking, language, listening and general communication for 70% to 80% of the children taking part. An improvement in the children’s confidence, communication and friendships was also identified. It was also noted that these improvements positively affected the children’s engagement with all aspects of school.
Dr Barnes said: “We know from many studies that poor communication in early life is connected with poor educational and social outcomes both within education and in life. This project has shown how the emotional, personal and deeply creative aspects of theatre-making not only engages children but gives them confidence to speak out and really want to participate in school.”
“As a result of Speech Bubbles success, I recommend that theatre practitioners continue Speech Bubbles interventions in more schools and across the country. It is important that drama practitioners lead such programmes and that schools and authorities recognise the motivating power of creative activity. Ultimately, I believe that Speech Bubbles should be franchised and used in disadvantaged communities across the country.”
Mark Rylance recently revealed how he didn’t speak until he was six years old, and that it was by acting and playing other people he found his voice. On becoming a patron of the programme, Rylance commented: “I found a voice through making theatre and am proud to be the patron of Speech Bubbles, which helps hundreds of children to do the same.”
With the support of the evidence from Canterbury Christ church University and the backing of their new patron, The London Bubble Theatre will be rolling out Speech Bubbles to many more children over the next 3 years, via a social franchising programme.
Adam Annand, Programme Director of Speech Bubbles and Associate Director of the London Bubble Theatre company, said: “Children, school staff and parents have consistently told us how much they value Speech Bubbles, it is fantastic now to have this rigorous research to back that up.”
The SHINE trust is supporting the programme to train partner companies to deliver the programme in schools local to them.
From September 2015 over 600 children with a SLCN will be acting out each other’s stories in Speech Bubbles sessions and, like Mark Rylance, finding their voice and confidence.