Speech Bubbles

Speech Bubbles is a KS1 drama intervention supporting children's communication skills, confidence and wellbeing. Teaching assistants work with a drama practitioner to deliver a weekly drama session aimed at improving children’s communication skills. Children with weak communication skills are preferentially selected for the programme.This approach places pupils at the centre of the activity, and they become at different times, author, performer and audience. Towards the end of the programme, parents and carers are invited to come and take part in the activity.

Teaching assistants attend an initial training day and a second day with their drama practitioner halfway through the project. After each session, the teaching assistant and drama practitioner reflect on the session and co-plan the activities for the next week. Sessions are delivered to two groups of 10 children each week and pupils can be drawn from Year 1 or 2.

Why are we funding it?

An independent review of the Speech Bubbles approach indicated that it had promise to develop pupils’ self-efficacy and communication skills. A comparison group study led by the University of East London also indicated that the approach had promise.

The wider evidence from the EEF toolkit on oral language interventions shows consistently positive effects of on average +5 months’ additional progress over the course of a year. The impact tends to be greatest for younger children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. A number of studies also show the impact of trained teaching assistants effectively supporting oral language skills and reading outcomes.

How are we evaluating it?

Teams from The Behavioural Insights Team and The Institute of Education (UCL) have been appointed to conduct the evaluation. The main trial will consist of a two-armed randomised controlled trial with 25 schools, with 40 pupils from each school randomized to treatment or a business as usual control. The project will be targeted at Year 1 and Year 2 pupils with poor communication skills.

There will be dual primary outcomes: a measure of communication and reading measured by a standardized assessment. The secondary outcomes will include a measure of pupil engagement. There will also be a cultural measure of ideation (children’s ability to generate ideas and articulate them to others) spanning all five culture round trials.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2020.