Local stories & puppets help east Belfast children build confidence & skills

EastSide Learning has partnered with a local east Belfast teacher to develop a programme which aims to help children build confidence and contribute to their future learning. Called Hearsay, the programme targets children in Primary 2 who have been identified as reluctant speakers or children needing more support to develop good listening skills.

EastSide Learning has been able to support the development of the Hearsay programme through funding received from the Social Investment Fund, under the Delivering Social Change Framework for the Belfast East Community Education Project administered by Short Strand Community Forum.

Developed by Caroline Lennox, the Literacy Co-ordinator in Victoria Park Primary School, Hearsay uses stories and activities with a local context to promote active listening and thoughtful talk. It also helps practitioners create an environment where children feel valued and happy to communicate using puppets as prompts.  The use of puppets helps to provide a more relaxed atmosphere for positive communication during the sessions.

A successful pilot of the programme was supported in Victoria Park Primary School between February and June 2018.  The 12- week programme, which starts in January 2019 will be rolled out across a further 8 local primary schools in east Belfast.

Maggie Andrews from EastSide Learning said:

“EastSide Learning has been delighted to be able to help develop the Hearsay programme which will contribute to improving outcomes for children who could otherwise be left behind. Teachers are always thinking of new ways to help children learn but often they have to rely on their own expertise as resources are often expensive or not locally relevant. It is essential that we offer support to develop this teaching talent in our schools and we hope that the Hearsay Programme is the start of doing just that.”

Caroline Lennox, the Literacy co-ordinator in Victoria Park Primary, commented:

“With an increasing number of children in foundation stage with poor listening and communication skills it’s important that we explore methods to help tackle this issue. The Hearsay programme resources were developed with advice from RISE NI and using puppets, social stories and props as a tool to engage children in productive talk. With this research I developed two puppets - Champ the dog and Harland the cat and created stories about them that the children could relate to. The stories have a local context which sets a more relaxed atmosphere for positive communication.”

Ann Burton Principal of Knocknagoney Primary School congratulated Caroline and EastSide Learning on their initiative:

“This work will have impact in all our schools and help to ensure that children get the help they need at the earliest possible stage using these great resources. As it is delivered in the period between 2.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m. within normal school hours it has minimum cost which is vitally important as there is very little financial support available to schools to develop new programmes.”

Dr. Mark Browne, Deputy Secretary, Strategic Policy, Equality & Good Relations Directorate, said:

“It is great to hear about the success of this pilot intervention focused on helping young children with communication difficulties and how it is now being rolled out to 8 local primary schools. I have no doubt this programme will make a massive difference to the children and schools involved. The Community Education project is an excellent example of how the Social Investment Fund works ‘to make life better for people by reducing poverty and unemployment and addressing physical dereliction.”

For further details on EastSide Learning visit www.eastsidelearning.co.uk