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Half Moon’s Limehouse ‘speech bubbles’ to help children’s cultural learning trials

PUBLISHED: 18:00 18 October 2017 | UPDATED: 07:07 19 October 2017

John Scurr Primary schoolchildren taking part in Half Moon's 'Speech Bubbles' project in Limehouse. Picture: Half Moon

John Scurr Primary schoolchildren taking part in Half Moon's 'Speech Bubbles' project in Limehouse. Picture: Half Moon

Half Moon

Pupils in Tower Hamlets primary schools are among 9,000 children up and down the country taking part in trials to find out if different cultural learning approaches can help improve their achievement rates.

Young members of Half Moon theatre were over the moon in 2014 receiving a huge cash gift from  the City of London Ironmongers’ livery company for the Speech Bubbles project. Picture: Half MoonYoung members of Half Moon theatre were over the moon in 2014 receiving a huge cash gift from the City of London Ironmongers’ livery company for the Speech Bubbles project. Picture: Half Moon

The Speech Bubbles project staged at the Half Moon theatre in Limehouse is taking a leading role in the nationwide programme of trials.

“Taking part in theatre helps children reach their true potential,” Half Moon’s director Chris Elwell said. “The trials aim to find if different cultural learning approaches can help make a difference to young lives.”

Speech Bubbles itself, run by the London Bubble Theatre Company, involves 500 pupils in 25 primary schools which is being used as part of the Learning About Culture programme announced yesterday by the Royal Society of Arts and the Education Endowment Foundation.

The Foundation’s Sir Kevan Collins said: “There’s an urgent need for more evidence on the benefits of different approaches to the arts in education. These trials will give us that evidence.

“All children including those from disadvantaged backgrounds deserve a rounded and culturally-rich education. But not many get the chance with schools increasingly accountable for the impact of spending decisions on pupil attainment.”

Other projects in the trials include whole-class music and drama sessions to be evaluated at random, to test their impact on academic attainment and behaviour patterns like resilience, self-confidence and creativity.

Classroom teaching assistants are to run weekly drama sessions with theatre professionals where pupils take turns as authors, performers and being the audience.

The trials are aimed at five-to-seven year olds, many of whom lack confidence in how to communicate or have poor attention and listening skills. Parents are also being invited to take part.

Royal Society of Arts chief executive Matthew Taylor said: “We need to think systemically about how to strengthen the arts in schools, not just campaign for their survival. Evidence of how arts can make a difference to learning can help make the case, but can’t guarantee effectiveness on their own.”

East London’s famous Half Moon theatre has been the Tower Hamlets ‘Speech Bubbles’ partner since 2012. It is working with seven Tower Hamlets schools so far this year—Mowlem, Mayflower, Lansbury Lawrence, Ben Jonson, Wellington, John Scurr and Cubitt Town Infants, all funded by the Henry Smith charity at Aldgate.

Speech Bubbles is a targeted, year-long intervention project which helps children up to seven develop speaking, listening and attention skills by taking part in drama. It also brushes up the teaching skills of school staff in creative group work, with its legacy at the end of the project.

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