Boosting primary school children’s communication, confidence, and wellbeing through theater

How Speech Bubbles is spreading inclusive, involving theater across England’s schools with a social franchise partner network

Figures suggest that 50% of children face some kind of treatable communication difficulty. Good communication is fundamental to all progress and processes of learning. It is also intrinsic to the successful socialization and identity formation of the very young. Further, there is “increasing evidence” that “those with unaddressed language, speech and communication problems go on to have complex health and social needs in later life.”


Speech Bubbles is a national primary school drama intervention supporting children’s communication skills, confidence and wellbeing. Originally a program of the UK-based organization London Bubble, its mission is to provide the artistic direction, skills, environment and resources to create inspirational, inclusive, involving theater, which shares stories that animate the spaces of the city and the spirits of its citizens. Speech Bubbles is based on an understanding of the importance of “fantasy play” and storytelling in helping young children to make sense of the world around them, adapt to the classroom, develop language and collaborate with peers. 

Speech Bubbles has been certified at Level 2 of Project Oracle’s Standards of Evidence, a sector-leading accreditation scheme for validating social impact. The program has also been independently evaluated and found to be successful in its impact on the behavior, attitude, and confidence of participating children.


In 2015, London Bubble recognized that in order to expand the impact of Speech Bubbles to more individuals, they needed a plan for scale. They had previously worked with six partners in the London and Manchester areas, achieving similar positive impact results. However, they realized these new replication partner sites were not financially sustainable long-term. The organization approached Spring Impact wanting to create an effective and financially sustainable plan for scale.


Spring Impact and London Bubble co-designed a replication strategy through a franchising model and systemized key operational documentation before the pilot phase. Our work together focused on validating franchising as the chosen replication model versus other possible models, and using financial modeling to inform these recommendations. Spring Impact also heavily supported building out the full package of support to begin piloting the new strategy with partners, including an operations manual and full business model that allowed London Bubble to immediately put its new strategy into action. 

London Bubble cites its work with Spring Impact as most useful not only in building a strong foundation from which to begin implementing their strategy, but also for the way Spring Impact has helped to guide and support them in the years that followed. 


From their original base in South London, the program has now replicated to 10 new locations and been able to expand impact across England, including East, South East, and North London, Kent, and Greater Manchester. 


Some 1,200 people have benefitted from their work, in 60 schools. Speech Bubbles continues to assess improvements in speaking, listening and learning, as well as both emotional behavior and conduct behavior, and have seen upwards of 75% of children showing improvement in the first two measures. 

Photo: Speech Bubbles

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