Children across Hull finding their voice with Shout Out project

Back to: Home
In this section: All updates News Twitter

Young children across Hull are finding their voice thanks to a dynamic new project that encourages them to express themselves through outdoor play.

Large numbers of youngsters in the most deprived parts of the city live in crowded homes with little opportunity for getting outside. It can result in them arriving at school lacking in confidence and with a limited vocabulary.

Now, thanks to a £95,000 grant from SHINE, early years staff at fifteen Hull schools are being trained in how to interact meaningfully with pupils outside of the classroom.

The Shout Out project is the brainchild of Fiona Mckinnon, an inspirational early years teacher at Stockwell Academy.

She explained: “Shout Out aims to empower children from disadvantaged backgrounds to find their voices and develop their language in a natural, uncluttered and liberating space, free from the restrictive formalities of the classroom.

“The key objective is that, with the support of parents, children will find free expression and new ways to communicate.”

Alongside the training, schools will receive new resources to allow them to make the most of their outdoor spaces, and workshops will be held to show parents the benefits of outdoor experiences.

Ms Mckinnon added: “It’s about freedom, freedom to be allowed to play, freedom to express yourself. Outdoors, you have that freedom to explore the pitch and the volume of your voice, and you can’t do that inside.

“Quality interactions with parents are difficult in small, shared areas. Two lockdowns have made the matter worse. Therefore, most children in our settings are working two years behind their age-related expectations in language.

“Emotionally, these children really need to be outside when they go to school. When they are inside, they feel very shy and anxious. When they are outside, they are completely different children.

“But it’s up to the adults to make use of that environment, because adults tend to prefer to be inside. We pour so much into our indoor environments because that’s our culture. We don’t want to be cold and wet. But, how often as a child did you think, ‘I’m a bit cold, I’m going to go inside now?’ It doesn’t happen.

“It’s not just that children want to go outside, it’s that they physically need to go outside to release all that tension they’ve been holding.”

As a teacher, you’re always thinking of things you could do for your children that you know would make a difference, but you can’t, because you haven't got the funds. And so, for SHINE to say, ‘actually, you can do that’, it was an emotional moment, because it means I am going to be able to do something that can make a real difference for these children.

Fiona Mckinnon Early years teacher at Stockwell Academy, Hull

Children taking part in Shout Out will spend at least half of their time at school outdoors, interacting with other children and staff, working in teams on activities such as den building, woodworking and music making. The youngsters will be encouraged to use what they see around them to ask ‘where’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions, and to use language that challenges, contributes to a conversation, or conveys an idea.

The children will be regularly observed to see if the number of words they use increases as they participate in Shout Out.

As the programme is innovative, it will be adapted and modified as lessons are learned.

The pilot project will run for two years, benefitting more than 1,600 children aged between three and five. It is hoped that if it is a success the scheme can be rolled out into more schools across Hull and even further afield.

Ms McKinnon described the funding from SHINE as a “once in a career” opportunity.

“As a teacher, you’re always thinking of things you could do for your children that you know would make a difference, but you can’t, because you haven’t got the funds. And so, for SHINE to say, ‘actually, you can do that’, it was an emotional moment, because it means I am going to be able to do something that can make a real difference for these children.”

Dr Helen Rafferty, Interim CEO of SHINE said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be supporting Fiona McKinnon, and the children of Hull through the Shout Out project. All children deserve the opportunity to express themselves and develop their language through rich opportunities and meaningful play.

“Through taking the classroom outdoors, and training teachers in how to bring conversations to life, we know that we are helping the children of Hull to thrive and succeed.”