Education Endowment Foundation:Speech Bubbles

Speech Bubbles

London Bubble Theatre Co
Implementation cost
Evidence strength
Impact (months)
-1
months
Project info

Independent Evaluator

Behavioural Insights logo
Behavioural Insights
The Institute of Education logo
The Institute of Education
Using drama and storytelling to develop pupils’ communication skills.
Pupils: 500 Schools: 25 Grant: £257,310
Key Stage: 1 Duration: 4 year(s) 4 month(s)
Completed September 2021

This evaluation is part of a round of funding between the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society of Arts to test the impact of different cultural learning strategies in English schools entitled Learning about Culture’. These projects have been independently evaluated by a collaboration between the UCL Institute of Education and the Behavioural Insights Team who have also produced an overarching report to draw together learning from all five trials within the round.

An independent review of the Speech Bubbles approach indicated that it had promise to develop pupils’ self-efficacy and communication skills. A comparison group study led by the University of East London also indicated that the approach had promise.

Wider evidence from the EEF toolkit on oral language interventions shows consistently positive effects of on average +5 months’ additional progress over the course of a year. The impact tends to be greatest for younger children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. A number of studies also show the impact of trained teaching assistants effectively supporting oral language skills and reading outcomes.

The trial was a two-arm individually randomised controlled trial involving 1006 pupils across 26 schools. The independent evaluation found that pupils who received the SB intervention had, on average, lower reading attainment scores (equivalent to one month’s less progress) as compared to children in the control group. Pupils who received Speech Bubbles did not show any substantial difference in oral communication skills as compared to pupils in the control group. These are our best estimates of impact which both have a high security rating of 4 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale. However, as with any study there is some uncertainty around the result: the possible impact of this programme on both reading attainment and oral communication ranges from three months less progress to positive effects of two additional months of progress.

The evaluation did find that members of the SLT, TAs and drama generally reported feeling positive about the intervention and reported noticing positive changes in pupils’ oral communication skills, self-efficacy, and self-regulation. However, the perceived impacts on pupils’ literacy were limited. 

The EEF has no plans for a further trial of the Speech Bubbles programme.

  1. Pupils who received the Speech Bubbles intervention had, on average, lower reading attainment scores (equivalent to one month’s less progress) as compared to children in the control group. Pupils who received Speech Bubbles did not show any substantial difference in oral communication skills as compared to pupils in the control group. These are our best estimates of impact which both have a high security rating. However, as with any study, there is uncertainty around the result: the possible impact of this programme on both reading attainment and oral communication ranges from three months less progress to positive effects of two additional months of progress.
  2. The impact evaluation did not find evidence the Speech Bubbles intervention had any effect on creative self-efficacy or social skills. The intervention did not have a differential impact on reading attainment or oral communication skills by eligibility for free school meals.
  3. Members of the SLT, TAs and drama practitioners in the case study schools generally reported feeling positive about the intervention and reported noticing positive changes in pupils’ oral communication skills, self-efficacy, and self-regulation. However, the perceived impacts on pupils’ literacy were limited.
  4. Overall, fidelity to the delivery model and dosage were high, based on data gathered through interviews, surveys, observations, and delivery records.
  5. The key factors identified that influenced implementation and delivery of the intervention were: (i) the need to have SLT support to secure required resources (e.g., the same room each week); (ii) SB facilitators acting as role models and partners in delivery; and (iii) the characteristics of the pupils and associated group dynamics during the SB sessions.
Outcome/​Group
ImpactThe size of the difference between pupils in this trial and other pupils
SecurityHow confident are we in this result?
Reading attainment (Progress in Reading Assessment: PIRA)
-1
Months' progress
Oral communication (Renfrew Bus Story test: RBS)
0
Months' progress