Bradford schools to pilot project aimed at improving the communication skills of children

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We feel really grateful to have received the funding from SHINE, because Beckfoot Trust schools’ mission is to create remarkable schools where no child is left behind and giving us this grant will really enable us to help achieve that.

Zoe Mawson Headteacher, Beckfoot Heaton Primary School

Five Bradford schools are to pilot an innovative project aimed at improving the communication skills of children by supporting their parents and by bringing communities together.

The Passport to Confidence scheme has been made possible thanks to a grant of more than £80,000 from SHINE.

Four primary and a special school, all part of Beckfoot Trust,  are taking part in the programme, which will also involve local community groups.

Staff are currently recruiting a team of Parent Champions who will co-design a passport of learning activities; some for parents directly as well as others with their children.

It is hoped that through collecting stamps in the passports by taking part in each session, parents will learn how to support their child’s communication and language development as well as building a network of support.

And by linking five school catchment areas, the programme will also help bring families with different life experiences together to learn from each other.

Activities will include a combination of regular face-to-face and virtual sessions supported by a skilled Early Years Practitioner. It is envisaged that there will also be local visits to places of interest like museums, galleries, parks, and places of worship to practise the skills that parents will learn.

Sessions will take place twice a week during term time and regularly in the holidays.

Zoe Mawson, headteacher at Beckfoot Heaton Primary School, said: “The idea is that as you complete all the activities in your passport, you become more confident in how to support and develop children’s communication. And as the children take part in the activities, they are learning new communication and language skills all the time.

“If children’s communication and language skills are at the expected standard by the end of early years, they are much better equipped to be successful at school and in life.”

One third of the children starting at Beckfoot Trust schools are currently behind the expected standard for language and communication and Mrs Mawson says the situation has been getting worse in recent years.

“Our children’s communication outcomes are already lower than other areas and this has been exacerbated by a number of issues,” she said. “Technology means that children are interacting less with adults, which is commonplace here and across the country. And, of course, the pandemic has increased social isolation, which is one reason why the social cohesion aspect of our project was really important.”

“Communication is an enabler for children to become confident and motivated learners, whether that’s about things within school or in life around them.  If children know how to confidently communicate , this enables them to thrive.  Learning becomes more accessible and self-confidence grows so children feel an early sense of belonging.”

“Our schools serve diverse communities and there is a real power in people being together for this project. As this project builds more connections, and as we do more things together, then shared experiences allow a greater variety of learning opportunities for families and children.”

Mrs Mawson added: “We feel really grateful to have received the funding from SHINE, because Beckfoot Trust schools’ mission is to create remarkable schools where no child is left behind and giving us this grant will really enable us to help achieve that.

“This grant enables us to do more than we ordinarily would to bring families and schools together, and so I genuinely feel this project can make a huge difference. We can’t wait.”