Research shows drama helps children with communication needs

09 June 2015

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.

Research shows drama helps children with communication needs

Speech Bubbles project © Jonathon Vines

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.

Notes to Editor

Leading charity I CAN has reported a 72% rise over a period of six years in the number of children reported with SLCN. In some communities upwards of half of children start school with delayed language, with many going un-noticed.

Read the full report on the University website.

Speech Bubbles

  • As part of Speech Bubbles, weekly practical drama sessions are carried out at the partaking children’s primary schools. During the 45 minute sessions, the children chant the values that underpin Speech Bubbles; good listening, kindness, and taking turns.
  • In the 2015/16 academic year we are expecting over 700 children to be involved in over 35 schools.

London Bubble Theatre Company

  • London Bubble operates out of an old warehouse in Rotherhithe, Southwark, and London. The award winning company has been making theatre in the community, with the community and for the community, for over 40 years.

Canterbury Christ Church University

  • For interviews with Dr Jonathan Barnes contact Holly Finch, Media Relations Officer at Canterbury Christ Church University on 01227 863528 or .
  • Dr Jonathan Barnes conducted his research on behalf of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, who published the report.

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With almost 18,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 97% of our UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2013 UCAS).
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 05/12/2017 04:27:00