Online story exchange experience to boost Bradford primary school children’s speaking skills
The new two-year project will be led by Story Makers Company - based within the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett – and Bowling Park Primary School in Bradford. It is funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Teacher Development Fund.
The team will use drama and storytelling to bring the primary school curriculum to life for children in Year 3 and Year 4 (ages seven to nine) – focusing on the children’s communication.
Lisa Stephenson - Course Leader for the MA in Creative Learning at Leeds Beckett, and Director of Story Makers Company, explained: “Drama and the creative arts have a unique way of engaging learners, drawing from their lived experiences in meaningful ways. This activates communication and oracy - our ability to articulate ideas, develop understanding and engage with others through spoken and non-verbal language. Within the current primary education curriculum policy, oracy and communication have far less of a focus than reading and writing – which is why this project is so important.
“Through this project, we will be collaborating with diverse artists, teachers and children, across these richly diverse schools in Bradford, to create imaginative and culturally relevant opportunities through drama - bringing to life the curriculum whilst developing the children’s oracy and communication skills.”
Building on the Story Makers Company’s existing work in schools, the project will facilitate a community of practice between artists, teachers, senior leaders and children. The curriculum that they create will then be shared across all of the schools through an online ‘story exchange’ experience - encouraging children, artists, teachers and parents to share ideas, and creating a new curriculum resource model that the schools can continue to use.
The eight participating schools are all part of the MYBD5 partnership - a network of schools in the economically deprived, inner city, BD5 area of Bradford.
The 3800 children across the MYBD5 partnership area come from a diverse range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The schools work collaboratively together and have developed a wide range of shared opportunities for enriching the curriculum, staff development and school improvement.
Claire Taylor, Senior Lead at Bowling Park Primary School, said: “This work is important to the MYBD5 school network now more than ever, due to the impact of Covid-19. Over the last year pupils have missed a significant amount of time in school during Key Stage 1 (KS1) in which language development and oracy is integral to the curriculum. Most families in the area do not speak English at home and have limited language development opportunities.
"Therefore, for this cohort, it will be vital for their progress to build this into their curriculum. It will also be crucial to develop their confidence, as time away from school reduces their interaction with each other, and opportunities to talk and share ideas – these things are essential for helping children to flourish.
“The BD5 network of schools are also keen to work more with families and communities across Bradford. The schools have very strong ties to the local community and will bring this benefit to the project - ensuring that it remains relevant to their children’s lives and experiences.”
Within each of the schools, the project will involve all Year 3 class teachers - connecting a total of 18 classes and teachers, with Bowling Park Primary acting as the project hub school. It will then extend to Year 4 classes.
Central to the project will be coaching, mentoring and professional development for the teachers and artists involved. Drawing on the expertise of the Leeds Beckett academics - including Professor Rachel Lofthouse – the team will guide the more experienced practitioners in supporting and developing those with less experience.
The project builds on the existing strong relationship between Story Makers Company and Bowling Park Primary School – In 2020, the team collaborated on a project working with Roma children at the school, using drama and creative writing processes to create a fiction story. The story – Chasing the Volcano – has been published through Story Makers Press, along with a teachers’ guide to support the use of drama techniques to explore the text. The team also co-delivered a professional development day to 15 schools on the use of drama, language development and Roma literacies.
Story Makers Company has also led a United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) project, using drama to create meaningful contexts for writing in KS1 and KS2, with Burley and Woodhead Church of England Primary School, in Burley-in-Wharfedale. Following the project, the school became the lead Literacy Hub for Bradford schools.
The new project will run from September 2021 to September 2023, and has received £148,000 from the Teacher Development Fund, awarded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation.