Story: Poppy’s story

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When Poppy started school, she had a vocabulary of no more than 10 words and could not speak in sentences. This greatly hindered her ability to express thoughts, engage in conversations, and fully participate in classroom activities.

Before joining St Paul’s Catholic Primary School, in Billingham, Teesside, Poppy had been living abroad, where limited opportunities for interaction with other children had hindered her social and linguistic development.

Moving to a new country was something of a culture shock for Poppy, making her move to primary school even more difficult.

Realising Poppy needed some targeted support, Poppy’s teachers introduced her to Learning Links, a home-learning resource supported by SHINE.

Learning Links has been developed by Victoria Wilson, a teacher at St Paul’s, who won a grant from Let Teachers SHINE for her innovative idea.

Learning Links supports parents and carers through hands-on activities that do not require any additional materials or technology.

Poppy’s parents actively engaged in workshops and small focus groups conducted by school staff, which provided them with a thorough understanding of the Learning Links resource and its effective use.

Equipped with this knowledge, Poppy’s parents began incorporating Learning Links into their daily routine, using the play-based resources for a minimum of 15 minutes each day.

After several months of consistently using Learning Links, teachers noted that Poppy was making significant progress in her communication and language development.

She was able to articulate herself at the expected level for her age group and she could retell the story of “The Three Little Pigs” using objects, such as building blocks, showcasing improved vocabulary, sentence construction, and comprehension skills.

Furthermore, Poppy’s progress extended beyond communication and language. She was also making notable advancements in number sense.

Through the engaging activities provided by Learning Links, Poppy gained a stronger understanding of numeracy concepts and began working in line with her peers.

And this progress not only improved Poppy’s mathematical abilities but also enhanced her overall readiness for school.

With the support of Learning Links, she has been able to overcome communication and language barriers, thrive academically, and is now well-prepared for her educational progression.

Poppy’s parents are amazed by the progress she has made.

Now at the end of the pilot stage, Victoria and her colleagues remain committed to expanding Learning Links.

Victoria said: “By building on the knowledge and experiences shared by SHINE-supported projects, the team is determined to develop our Learning Links resource that not only narrows the educational attainment gap but also empowers vulnerable children and their families to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.”