More than 300 children in Kent schools with language and communication difficulties will receive support through the Speech Bubbles charity in partnership with Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells.
Trinity Theatre’s Creative Engagement teamwork with schools across Kent on creative projects, run a fantastic Youth Theatre programme and community groups for older adults. Their team boasts skills in costume, set and prop design, drama and puppetry and their aim is to enable participants to achieve their creative and personal potential.
This generous grant will enable Trinity Creative Engagement to work with 16 primary schools in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Dartford, Gravesham, Thanet, Ashford and Swale, reaching 320 children aged between five and seven.
Speech Bubbles is a drama-based intervention for children in years one and two with speech, language and communication needs. Trinity Theatre has been running the programme for six years, and it has been running in London, Manchester and Salford since 2009.
Speech, language and communication needs are often referred to as an invisible or hidden disability because they are often not visible or obvious, resulting in their significance being overlooked.
Speech & Language UK estimate that a staggering 1.7 million children are struggling with talking and understanding. This is a 20 per cent increase since 2020 and the effects are impacting children’s learning and social interaction.
The programme is designed to aid children in their speech and communication, and also to fill them with confidence. By using their own stories, exactly as they tell them, the sessions are designed to empower each child, build their imagination and expression, both verbal and non-verbal.
This funding is giving these children the opportunity to take part in sessions that are designed around their natural instincts to play and explore, whilst making a significant difference to their mental health, wellbeing and their learning. Teachers of participants of the programme in 2022-2023 saw an improvement back in the classroom in 89 per cent of the children.
The programme is designed to not only empower and boost the children, but also the participating school staff. In their end of year evaluation for 2022-2023, across 52 schools, 97 per cent of teaching assistants said they felt they had increased knowledge, skills and confidence when supporting children who have been referred against the Speech Bubbles criteria.
The grant from West Kent Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.
Katie Sommers, Education Producer at Trinity Theatre, said:
“We’re very grateful to West Kent Freemasons for their generous grant. If a child is unable to communicate properly then they are inevitably going to have very serious problems at school. The Speech Bubbles programme will not only lead to huge improvements in their communication skills but also in their self-confidence. It’s hard to overestimate the positive impact this programme can have on a child’s development.”
Mark Estaugh, Provincial Grand Master from West Kent Freemasons, said:
“I’m really pleased we’ve been able to help Trinity Theatre with this wonderful speech and language programme that can transform a child’s prospects at school. A child will only get one chance at an education and thanks to Speech Bubbles they can take full advantage of it.”