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Tell your Story – developing oracy and emotional literacy through arts partnerships

The Tell Your Story project bringing early years, school and FE educators together with arts and cultural organisations to develop emotional literacy, oracy and cultural capital


Head Teachers / School Leaders, Local Authorities, Pastoral and Support Staff, School Teachers, Settings & Early Years Practitioners, Trusts

Aimed at

Early Years Foundation Stage, KS1, KS2, KS3, KS4, KS5


Early Years, Inclusion and SEND, Language Development, Mental Health and Wellbeing

Why was the project needed?

Following the continued 2021 lockdowns schools, colleges and early years settings found that they were working hard to support children and young people’s confidence and emotional literacy. Educators were also reflecting on the impact of Covid restrictions on children and young people’s ability to engage with the arts – as shared arts resources were put away and children were temporarily unable to dance, sing and perform together. In a meeting of the Ipswich Education Leadership Board school leaders expressed a desire to open their sites to the struggling arts sector to meet the growing need for children, young people and their families to enjoy creative activities together in public spaces.

The Tell Your Story project was created to address these challenges, and to give local children and young people the chance to tell their own story after Covid.

What happened and what was the impact?

Educational settings in Ipswich and Felixstowe were offered £2500 grants to partner with a local artist, arts-based or cultural organisation on a project to develop children and young people’s oracy and/or emotional literacy.

the project was open to Early Years settings, schools (including special schools and alternative provision) and post 16 sixth forms and colleges within the Ipswich Opportunity Area and Felixstowe.

The following conditions of funding were set:

Participating schools, settings and colleges should buy in some partnership activity from an external local artist, arts or cultural organisation.

Funded activity should create new opportunities for children to engage with the local cultural offer, particularly for those children and young people who have had the least opportunity to do so. For this reason in secondary and post 16 settings this is likely to sit as a cross curricular or enrichment activity rather than within GCSE/BTEC/A Level option subjects.

Participating schools, settings and colleges are strongly encouraged to engage with support from the Ipswich Cultural Education Partnership (ICEP) throughout the application, planning and delivery process.

The project was oversubscribed, and priority was given to applications that:

  • demonstrated new activity or partnerships
  • clearly articulated intended measurable outcomes for the children/staff that participate
  • demonstrated that the activity would help the school or setting develop their cultural education offer over time

Applications only had to focus on the end outcome that the school or setting was seeking for young people. The Ipswich Cultural Education Partnership used the applications to “match” settings to local arts and cultural partners, and together they formalised their project idea and submitted it to release funding.

45 different projects took place in Spring and Summer 2022, across 9 early years settings, 5 secondary schools and colleges and 19 primary schools. The case studies below show the range of impacts experienced by different activities that schools and partners put together, all of which targeted either emotional literacy, oracy or both.

What did and didn't work?

The Involvement of the Ipswich Cultural Education Partnership (ICEP) and the generosity of the arts partners who helped with the matching process was key to the success of the project.

An unexpected outcome of the project was interpretation of cultural partnerships – interpreted by many grant recipients as an opportunity to look more deeply at children and young people’s identity, heritage and sense of belonging, resulting in some really exciting performances and creations.


How did you measure success?

Schools and settings chose how they would measure outcomes. These varied from bespoke pupil perception surveys before and after activities, to standardised approaches such as the Highfield Resilience Tracker or the Warwick Wellbeing or Leuven scales. Early Years settings tended to use observations of children’s behaviour and parent perception surveys. Some schools looked at attendance and engagement data.

For many projects engagement with the process was a win in itself, where the children and young people targeted regularly found it hard to participate in activities and conversations with their peers, and the creative approach gave them an opportunity to express feelings and ideas in a new way. Many schools and settings were keen to improve parental engagement, and measured success in having more parents feel comfortable to come into the school or setting and watch performances and view children’s work.


Ingredients For Success

  • Excellent support from some very committed Arts partners through the Ipswich Cultural Education Partnership (ICEP)
  • An organic application process – applicants weren’t expected to know what they were applying for, but had to have a clear picture of the “problem to solve” and an open mind to the art form that they would be matched with to achieve the outcomes they hoped for


Is the Project Complete or Ongoing

The moderate size of the grants meant that for many, it was not an unfeasible sum to pay again if the partnership proved to be a valuable one for beneficiaries. Case studies below show that many grant holders plan to continue their partnerships and will seek funding elsewhere or use their own funds in future. Many of the projects created artefacts, performances, murals and displays that would endure and have a use for future community activities and learning within settings.

How is the Project Sustainable

A second round of funding  followed a “sharing” session by webinar – all schools and settings were able to see the partnerships and activities elsewhere and try more than one of the projects

For some arts partners this was their first experience working with schools and/or settings and has enabled them to develop their offers. For many schools and settings it was their first experience of an external arts provider and a chance to try something new for their children and young people. Many teachers and staff were able to learn with their children how to repeat the interventions, and were able to use some of their grant to provide materials or resources for further arts based work within the curriculum

We have developed links with local artists who can support future projects at the school.  We are also developing links for local art students to come into the school and work on art projects with our young children. 

Ruth Coleman, Highfield Nursery Ipswich

Estimated Costs


Area Most Impacted

Mental Health

Emotional Literacy


Arts curriculum

Teacher Development

Curriculum Development

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Bringing stories to life with Music and Dance - The Children's Triangle Nursery and Dance East

The Sensory Trolley - Emotional literacy at Happy Tots with Jacqueline Davies

A Moment in Time - Highfield Nursery and Art Eats Events with ceramicist Ange Lester

Alma's Voice - Highfield Nursery with Rock Paper Scissors and Toddle Talk

‘Through the rhythm of the music we tell our story’ - Little Learners Nursery

Tell Your Story at Northgate High School with Suffolk Archives, Art Eat and more

Let your Hands do the Talking - Rainbow Bright Nursery with Rock Paper Scissors and Toddle Talk

"A Meal with Friends" - diversity and confidence at Stoke High School with Alice Andrea Ewing

Expressing emotion through dance - The Willows Primary and DanceEast

Engagement and Film-making at Westbridge Academy with Slide Productions

Music Adventures at Wigwams Nursery with Arts La O'Lam and DanceEast

Key Stage 1 Storytelling - Handford Hall with Wonderful Beast theatre company

Big Feelings - Springfield Infant School with Cohere Arts

We belong together - The Nature Den Nursery with Arts La O'Lam

Bringing History to life - Sidegate Primary with Ipswich Museum

EYFS Emotional Literacy Through Outdoor Art - Morland Primary and Arts Eat with the Nest Project

Bringing the past to life – Clifford Road Primary with Lisa Temple Cox

If Objects Could Speak (Pop Up Museum) - Clifford Road with The Hold, Museums Service and Trinity College

Next steps to do something similar yourself

These are a list of Big Idea resources that you can use to implement in your setting:

Ipswich Cultural education Partnership

Hullabaloo 22 - A summer of arts activity for children, young people and families in Ipswich

Tell Your Story fund info

Champions and contacts

Hub Contact Details

Jacqueline Bircham, Trust Senior Leader for Families and Communities
Ipswich Cultural Education Partnership
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