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GROW BIG: SENSE EVALUATION REPORT MARCH 2016 Sally Fort for Earlyarts www.earlyarts.co.uk
GROW BIG: SENSE
EVALUATION REPORT MARCH 2016
Sally Fort for Earlyarts
www.earlyarts.co.uk

CONTENTS

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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1. EVALUATION BRIEF & METHODOLOGY

8

2. PROGRAMME DESCRIPTION

10

3. OUTCOMES

12

4. BARRIERS / CHALLENGES

24

5. RECOMMENDATIONS

26

6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

27

7. APPENDIX

28

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

Sense was a pilot project run by Grow Big, across six early years settings in Calderdale. It was funded by Calderdale Council and Big Lottery Awards for All. The project aimed to increase the personal, social and emotional development of children aged three and four, and their attitude and aptitude to learning. The project worked with children from areas of deprivation, over six sessions of 40 minutes each, inside a specially created inflatable pod, and incorporating a variety of experiences making use of

a

wide range of sensory materials, treasure baskets and storytelling.

 

The project took place in the following early years settings:

Todmorden Children’s Centre Kevin Pearce Children’s Centre Innovations Children’s Centre

Ash Green Children’s Centre Jubilee Children’s Centre Elland Children’s Centre

It involved

96 children

29 parents

11 Children’s Centre Practitioners

6 volunteers

EVALUATION METHODOLOGIES

 

Rachel Stewart, Chair of Grow Big’s Trustee Board, commissioned Earlyarts to carry out an independent cultural evaluation. The evaluation was carried out by Earlyarts Research & Evaluation Associate, Sally Fort. Methodologies included feedback forms at the training session; three types of observations to provide

an understanding of how the project affects children individually and in a group; feedback forms from parents or carers; and end of project questionnaires for lead practitioners at each of the settings and the project’s volunteers.

 

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OUTCOMES

All intended outcomes were achieved and for children, volunteers and practitioners, were exceeded.

1. Increase in knowledge, interest and skills of volunteers, students and early years practitioners (sensory play) All volunteers and practitioners increased their knowledge, interest and skills; with the majority of people rating all their levels as either good or excellent by the end of the training and project. In training, 79% of participants increased their knowledge in ‘better understanding of the importance of sensory play’ and ‘understanding the value and benefits of this type of play’ and 42% thought finding out about the theory and benefits of sensory play was the most useful inclusion.

Professional development also occurred throughout the project. At the end of the project, volunteers and practitioners were asked to rate their knowledge, skills and understanding before and after their involvement.

40% of volunteers said they had little knowledge, skills or confidence regarding sensory play. By the end 100% said their knowledge, skills and confidence were either good or excellent

Every volunteer felt an increase across their knowledge, skills and / or confidence. The more experienced volunteers tended to increase from good to excellent in the one element they felt least assured of at the outset. Those with less experience increased across all three elements

Understandably, the practitioners rated their knowledge, skills and confidence higher across the board at the outset than the volunteers had done. Like the volunteers though, all practitioners rated an increase, and most reported increases across all three elements

100% of practitioners rated their knowledge, skills and confidence as good or excellent by the end of the project; compared to 63% at the start

75% of practitioners said their knowledge moved from good to excellent by the end of the project

63% said their confidence had increased from good to excellent

50% said their skills had moved from good to excellent

2.

Improve the provision of sensory related play in all aspects of the Children’s Centre activities

Outcomes which practitioners said were new and most likely to have a good or excellent likelihood of being continued were:

Sensory play theory regarding treasure baskets (88% of practitioners rated as new with an excellent or good likelihood of being continued)

Sensory play or treasure basket structured activities (88%)

Using treasure baskets (75%)

Using treasure baskets / sensory play with story-telling (75%)

Increased confidence in sensory play (75%)

Integrating treasure baskets into free play opportunities (75%)

Practitioners were particularly interested in the potential for using treasure baskets in structured ways and not solely free play; and with older children than would normally access them.

 

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3. Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem)

At the start, children tended to be more hesitant, sometimes needing more adult support and reassurance. One or two children in each group found it more difficult to take part due to low social and emotional confidence or limited speech or English language, while others were much more exuberant. Some children warmed up during the first session after their initial hesitation passed. Sorting, collecting, counting and exploring the properties of objects and materials were common activities, exploring objects for their own sake.

In the final session (session 6), it was noticeable that all the groups had become more confident. Objects had become tools for role play, sharing, conversation, negotiation and collaboration even for the more reluctant children. Those who didn’t speak in the first session were sharing more communication and sometimes speaking by session 6. There was a sense that in session 6 children had just started to feel assured enough to engage to their full potential and even the more anxious children were starting to hit their stride with the activities and resources they’d gained confidence in throughout the project. The presence of personal, social and emotional development was consistently high throughout all sessions, and this increased slightly from start to end. In addition, it was noticeable that communication and language was present to almost the same high level.

Parents also noticed the changes in their children.

4. Children will display a greater attitude and aptitude to learning

All centres reported an increased sense of calmness when children were in the pod

Using treasure baskets to engage older children worked well, to the surprise of some practitioners

Using sensory resources with storytelling helped keep children’s attention, though more so when the children were already familiar with the story, the story was told orally and / or with puppets rather than books, and the basket was used to support the picking out of specific characters or actions

Sounds playing in the pod were calming and helped children settle. This included the singing, though particularly singing in person, less so when playing the pre-recorded song

Having only small groups in the pod was another factor which helped children focus

In one children’s centre, staff reported that one child became engaged with the project despite not engaging with other activities, and they felt this was, at least in part, due to the ambience of being inside the pod

One parent commented that her daughter had become more patient as a result of the project

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5. Improvement of parental confidence / ability to provide regular sensory play activities at home

74% of parents now feel more confident about setting up play activities at home that will encourage their child to explore the different senses

69% are now more likely to provide sense based play opportunities at home

47% are more confident about making a treasure basket at home with their child

Parents who rated their knowledge as excellent increased by 20% (to 27%)

Parents who rated their practical experience as good or excellent increased by 16% (to 39%)

Parents who rated their confidence as good or excellent also increased by 16% (to 39%)

Parents who had little to no knowledge of using treasure baskets and sensory play dropped by 27%

(33%)

Parents who had little to no experience of using treasure baskets and sensory play dropped by 14% (to 48%)

BARRIERS / CHALLENGES

Training: Training was felt to be effective, though it could be improved with a more comfortable venue, more activities to break up presentations, and more training about observing the children

Parental engagement: Most settings struggled to get parents engaged face to face in the project, though those who did reported very positive feedback from the parents. However, parents who engaged more remotely through conversations with children, flyers, postcards, goody bags, and displays also reported a good quality of experience and learning

Engagement, Confidence & Ability: Children’s confidence and engagement grew as the weeks went on. However, 40 minutes was not enough for some children (particularly those with additional language, social, emotional or behavioral needs) to become fully acclimtatised and immersed and they had only just started to show what they could achieve by session six

Knowing the children: Volunteers would have liked to have known more about the children in advance of the sessions so that activities could be more tailored, particularly children with special or additional needs

Group sizes: Part of the project’s success comes from working with small groups of children at a time. However, some practitioners would have liked to be able to involve more children, and there are ethical considerations to including some children and not others

Adult ratios: Having the right number of adults also took some time to establish. It was apparent that too many adults in the pod (be it parents or supervising staff) distracted the children from being as fully immersed in the experience as they could be

Activities: Understandably as a pilot project, some activities were less successful than others, and where possible these were adapted along the way. This included using oral rather than book based stories, and selecting particular highlights; including live rather than recorded singing; creating woodland ‘collections’ to mirror the treasure basket activities; and improving how the tunnel and water are used in the Seaside session.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

Overall the project was very successful and met all its outcomes. Only a few recommendations are evident from the feedback provided, as follows.

1. More time needs to be built into the programme model, whether this be longer sessions, or more sessions. This is to help children’s confidence and achievements grow even further, given they had only just started to show what might be possible after six 40 minute sessions.

2. Creating guidelines about the optimum number of children and adults in the pod during a session would help everyone understand how to get the best possible experience from the resource.

3. Several adaptations have been made to the activities and resources for the pod sessions which now need formalizing by writing up in a revised menu of activity. The team already plan to add to the range, and some ideas from the practitioners and volunteers involved such as the seasonal options should be added to the options being explored.

4. The project successfully met its personal, social and emotional development aims. However, communication and language was achieved at almost equal levels, and this too should become part of the language used to promote the programme for the future.

5. More robust tracking of children’s progress, and deeper understanding of how and why some activities worked more than others, could be achieved with greater investment in evaluation, and an independently designed framework. Training of how to use and embed Experiential Education (EXE) observations and monitoring would be particularly useful to complement this.

ENDS

7 SENSE: EVALUATION REPORT
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SENSE: EVALUATION REPORT

EVALUATION BRIEF & METHODOLOGY

EVALUATION BRIEF

Rachel Stewart, Chair of Grow Big’s Trustee Board, commissioned Earlyarts to carry out an independent evaluation. The evaluation was carried out by Earlyarts Research & Evaluation Associate, Sally Fort.

The purpose of the evaluation is to:

Inform future practice for the Grow Big team, early years practitioners, and early years commissioners Act as a summative record of learning and become part of the institutional memory for the Grow Big team and project partners

Report to funders on the extent to which their investment has fulfilled its aims

Earlyarts’ main role in the evaluation was to advise Grow Big on the evaluation methodology, offer formative feedback particularly in the early stages of the project based on previous experience of similar projects, and independently analyse the data at the end of the project. The Grow Big team designed the evaluation framework and questionnaires, and administrated the data collection.

The focus of the evaluation is to reflect on the qualitative outcomes for the children and adults involved, agreed between Grow Big and their commissioners at Calderdale Council (Child Poverty Taskforce), as follows:

Increase in knowledge, interest and skills of volunteers, students and early years practitioners (sensory play): Target = Knowledge - 80% / Skills - 80% / Interest - 75%

Improve the provision of sensory related play in all aspects of the Children’s Centre activities

Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem)

Children will display a greater attitude and aptitude to learning

Improvement of parental confidence and ability to provide regular sensory play activities at home

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EVALUATION METHODOLOGY

A framework was created by Rachel Stewart, Chair of Grow Big, with advisory input from Sally Fort, comprising

Training session feedback forms collecting quantitative and qualitative data

Three types of observation sheets to capture the breadth and depth of experiences

o

A - Six children tracked throughout (the start and end sessions and 1 or 2 sessions in- between) providing in-depth case study material, from two settings

o

B - First and last sessions are formally observed (observing the whole group, and specifically to look for any notable difference between starting and completing) to provide a snapshot of developments across a group, at two settings

o

C - Every session is observed (observing any notable responses, reactions, developments across the whole group) providing small details, to represent the whole programme, at two settings

Quantitative and qualitative end point questionnaires for lead practitioners at each setting

Quantitative and qualitative end point questionnaires for volunteers helping deliver the project

Quantitative and qualitative end point surveys for parents / carers about their own learning and the legacies of the project

All staff were asked to submit their data anonymously in order to encourage full and honest reflections, therefore it is not possible to specify outcomes setting by setting, but only as a representation of the project overall (with the exception of parental feedback)

Summary of data available:

Activity

Returns

Training feedback forms

19 (out of 19)

Returns Training feedback forms 19 (out of 19) 9 Observation sheets: type A 6 children x

9

Observation sheets: type A

6 children x 3 observations each

Observation sheets: type B

2 groups (of 8 children) across 2 centres x 2 observations per group

Observation sheets: type C

2 centres x 5-6 observations each

Parent / carer / family surveys

16 (out of 29)

Practitioner feedback forms

8 (out of 11)

Volunteer setting feedback forms

5 (out of 6)

Volunteer professional development feedback forms

5 (out of 6)

Team debrief meeting notes

2

sets of notes

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PROGRAMME DESCRIPTION

Full details of the programme are provided in the Appendix. Sense is a new project about sensory play, aimed at 3-4 year olds. It was developed and run by Grow Big. The Phase One programme referred to in this evaluation was funded by Calderdale Council and Big Lottery Awards for All.

The project included

96

children

29

parents

11 Children’s Centre Practitioners

6 volunteers

This first phase of Sense took the form of a sensory-rich pod. The pod an inflatable illuminated dome provided the space to deliver a sensory play session per week for six weeks. Each session aimed to engage with eight children over 40 minutes, attending free early years provision at six children’s centres. They experienced stories through their senses seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting them and acting them out. The sessions wove in elements of art, music, physical exercise and role-play. Objects were used creatively and where possible materials included unused, upcycled and repurposed items and objects. Each child was given a guide, activity cards and sensory materials to encourage sensory play at home. Parents were invited to meet the team, attend workshops and enter a photographic competition of their child taking part in sensory activities at home.

of their child taking part in sensory activities a t h o m e . Image:

Image: Description of project for parents

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The initial vision was set out in a Project Brief for Partners document, summarized as follows:

Aims: Sense will use sensory play through storytelling to develop the skills that children need to improve their life chances. A programme of sensory play will be delivered in Children’s Centre settings providing free early education for 3-4 year olds living in areas of deprivation in Calderdale.

Objectives: We will focus on measuring the development of personal, social and emotional skills for this project a prime area of learning in the Early Years Foundation Framework. Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children will display a greater attitude and aptitude to learning

Although our project will focus on personal, social and emotional skills, we will still be mindful of other benefits including communication, physical development, literacy and numeracy. We will closely align our activities to the prime areas and specific areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Delivery: A multi-agency team of Grow Big volunteers, students and early years staff will deliver the sessions. All team members will receive specialist sensory training. The first phase of Sense will take the form of a sensory-rich pod The pod, an inflatable illuminated dome, will provide the space to deliver the sessions. The project will involve 6 weekly sessions. Each session lasts 40 minutes and aims to engage with 8 children Phase one will involve over 100 children attending free early years provision at 6 children’s centres Children will experience stories through their senses they will see them, hear them, feel them, smell them, taste them and act them out. The sessions will weave in elements of art, music, physical exercise and role-play. Generally, the pod will be set up indoors, however, in warmer weather it may be possible to use the pod outdoors We will use objects creatively. Set materials where possible will be unused items and objects (essentially rubbish) that will be recycled, upcycled and repurposed Each child will be given a guide, activity cards and sensory materials to encourage sensory play at home A workshop for parents will be held before the first session

The project takes place at:

Todmorden Children’s Centre Kevin Pearce Children’s Centre Innovations Children’s Centre

Ash Green Children’s Centre Jubilee Children’s Centre Elland Children’s Centre

OUTCOMES

1.Increase in knowledge, interest and skills of volunteers, students and early years practitioners (sensory play)

Target: Knowledge - 80%

Skills - 80%

Interest - 75%

This outcome has been largely exceeded, with 100% of the practitioners and volunteers increasing knowledge, skills and interest, via the pre-delivery training, and the professional development occurring through delivery of the project. However, the students initially envisaged as being part of the project did not participate, due mainly to timetable clashes.

Training 19 Grow Big volunteers, practitioners from the settings and a member of staff from Huddersfield University took part in the half day training session, focusing on sensory play theory and putting it into practice using treasure baskets as a source of exploration. The training was successfully received with participants understanding more about the delivery of the project, theory and benefits of sensory play, usage and benefits of treasure baskets with older early years children, and increased confidence as professionals and practitioners.

The majority of participants rated the presentations, practicalities and session overall as very good 95% said everything about the session was useful 95% said their own objectives had been met fully or in part 74% absorbed more than half the positive learning outcomes 53% said there were no improvements to be made to the session

All participants developed their learning.

 

Participants rated their knowledge, skills and confidence in treasure baskets and sensory play before and after the training. Overall all the group moved from little- good, up to good-excellent by the end. Just one participant showed no change starting and ending at good, though their comments showed they had still learned from the day.

showed no change starting and ending at good, though their comments showed they had still learned
 

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The learning outcomes below show a more meaningful illustration of how successful the training was. The graph demonstrates a wide range of new and improved skills, as well as positive changes in attitude. Participants were also invited to add any other outcomes of their own, though none were added.

changes in attitude. Participants were also invited to add any other outcomes of their own, though

Some participants rated their subject understanding as good at the outset, so lower scores may be in part just a reflection of the existing knowledge participants came to the session with already. Others came with little or some knowledge and absorbed five or less of the outcomes which is at the lower end of the scale. It may be that the training delivery didn’t reach them, or that so much of the subject was new to them there was a limit to how much they could take on board in one session. Feedback about the trainer and training overall was very positive, so it is more likely that they had simply reached their learning capacity for that session.

Participants enjoyed getting hands-on experience. Learning about the practical resources and getting to know the pod were reported to be the most enjoyable aspects of the training. Feedback about improvements suggested more opportunities for interactive experiences.

Learning about the theory of sensory play was also high. 79% of participants increased their knowledge in ‘better understanding of the importance of sensory play’ and ‘understanding the value and benefits of this type of play’. 42% felt that finding out about the theory and benefits of sensory play was the most useful aspect of the training.

Professional Development

Volunteers and practitioners were also asked about the development they experienced by taking part in the project.

They were asked to rate their knowledge, skills or confidence regarding sensory play as none - little - some - good - excellent before the project, and again at the end:

40% of volunteers said they had little knowledge, skills or confidence regarding sensory play. By the end 100% said their knowledge, skills and confidence were either good or excellent

Every volunteer felt an increase across their knowledge, skills and / or confidence. The more

experienced volunteers tended to increase from good to excellent in the one element they felt least assured of at the outset. Those with less experience increased across all three elements

Understandably, the practitioners rated their knowledge, skills and confidence higher across the board at the outset than the volunteers had done. Like the volunteers though, all practitioners rated an increase, and most reported increases across all three elements

100% of practitioners rated their knowledge, skills and confidence as good or excellent by the end of the project; compared to 63% at the start

75% of practitioners said their knowledge moved from good to excellent by the end of the project

63% said their confidence had increased from good to excellent

50% said their skills had moved from good to excellent

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In addition, volunteers added

“As the sessions are child-led, I have learnt to adapt quickly to the differences between sessions and lead groups without intervening too much, allowing children to become fully absorbed. I have developed my skills in working with younger children and now have a deeper understanding of the EYFS strands.”

“I have gained greater knowledge of the Early Years framework and understanding of child development. I have improved my skills in recording observations of children's learning and facilitating child-led activities.”

“Has been great to develop knowledge of child-led play and sensory play and fascinating to see how children have interacted with the materials.”

“Developed some skills around reflecting on children's play. Greater insight into the very great differences in approaches to EY by different providers.”

“Taking part in the project has increased my confidence and refreshed my skills in preparation for a return to work after a period of being out of work.

The practitioners were also invited to add further comments, though their feedback related more to the children and the activities than their own learning.

to add further comments, though their feedback related more to the children and the activities than

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2. Improve the provision of sensory related play in all aspects of the Children’s Centre activities

Target: All centres involved in project to report increased opportunities following end of project

This outcome was achieved. All the practitioners reported new learning and sustainable legacies for their centres. Feedback shows that the sensory play related provision at the centres has indeed improved and left a sustainable legacy. Only one practitioner stated that there was nothing new from the project that would be likely to be continued; however, the same practitioner did show an increase in their own expertise and professional development, which itself is likely to impact on the sustainability of the work in that centre (assuming they remain in employment there and have not moved on).

“Treasure baskets were used in our centre [before] but not with the older children.” …“I am planning to incorporate treasure baskets in to our daily routine, I have already been putting treasure baskets together so they are available for the children to explore in small groups, these will also be focused activities where we are hoping to get more communication and language from the children.” … “The treasure baskets will definitely be continued. We already used them in the baby room but have been using them with other age groups.” … “We will develop the treasure basket theme alongside stories. Adult led and left out for children to explore independently” … “We will be continuing the theme of the sense project in our hobbit house.”

the theme of the sense project in our h obbit house.” Outcomes which practitioners said were

Outcomes which practitioners said were new and most likely to have a good or excellent likelihood of being continued were:

Sensory play theory regarding treasure baskets (88% of practitioners rated as new with an excellent or good likelihood of being continued)

Sensory play or treasure basket structured activities (88%)

Using treasure baskets (75%)

Using treasure baskets / sensory play with story-telling (75%)

Increased confidence in sensory play (75%)

Integrating treasure baskets into free play opportunities (75%)

As illustrated in the quotes above, practitioners were particularly interested in the potential for using treasure baskets in structured ways not just free play; and with older children than would normally access them. This feedback was echoed both in the end-point surveys and the debrief meetings at the end of the project, demonstrating the strength of feeling about this outcome.

3. Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem)

The project was successful in enabling children to demonstrate an improvement in personal, social and emotional skills with confidence, resilience and communication all increasing throughout the project. Parents commented… “My son was more happy to go to the nursery on that day, when I said to him there will be a tent to play in. He really enjoyed it.” “My child is more interested in doing things like this at home now, and she is more patient.” “She loved the games and treasure baskets and was very excited every Wednesday when going to nursery as she knew that the tent will be there. It is a shame that we can't have it for longer.”

Mapping the project to the Early Years Foundation Stage The Grow Big team collected 35 observations of the Sense sessions. At each observation they gave a score to show how much the activities had contributed to each of the seven areas of learning and development of the Early Years Foundation Stage. All Grow Big volunteers and practitioners received training in how to carry out the observations. Accompanying notes were made alongside each score, to give examples and explain how the score had been reached, and two to three volunteers and practitioners often agreed on the scores together, to substantiate the system as much as possible. The maximum score for each area at each session was 5, so across 35 observations a maximum score of 175 could be given per EYFS area over the whole project. This provides a useful at-a-glance indication of which aspects of the EYFS the project most useful contributes to. The project particularly aims to support personal, social and emotional development. The scores are as follows:

160

140

120

140

137

128

Observation scores

Observation scores

17

100

104

80

60

40

20

0

 

PSED

CL

EAD

PD

101

M

79

UW

39

L

Early Years Foundation Stage Areas

Clearly personal, social and emotional development emerged strongly throughout the sessions, as did communication and language, and expressive arts and design. To a lesser but still strong extent physical development and mathematics also showed a consistent presence.

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A very brief summary of how children developed has been taken from the observation reports:

Start: At the start, children tended to be more hesitant, sometimes needing more adult support and reassurance. One or two children in each group found it more difficult to take part due to low social and emotional confidence or limited speech or English language, while others were much more exuberant. Some children warmed up during the first session after their initial hesitation passed. Sorting, collecting, counting and exploring the properties of objects and materials were common activities, exploring objects for their own sake.

End: In the final session it was noticeable that all the groups had become more confident. Objects had become tools for role play, sharing, conversation, negotiation and collaboration even for the more reluctant children. Those who didn’t speak in the first session were sharing more communication and sometimes speaking by session 6. There was a sense that in session 6 children had just started to feel assured enough to engage to their full potential and even the more anxious children were starting to hit their stride with the activities and resources they’d gained confidence in throughout the project.

This was backed up by the scores allocated to the sessions, which showed every group’s score had increased from the starting session to the end session, and scores for communication & language and understanding the world had increased noticeably. Scores for personal, social and emotional development were consistently high across the groups, and increased slightly from start to end points. In addition, in their observations, volunteers noticed… “M seemed much more settled this session and chatted a lot… explored the pod without Sarah [practitioner]’s support and asked lots of questions” Session 6 “L was much calmer than previous weeks, still no speech but mouthed ‘hooray’ during the goodbye song. Played next to another child and was keen to engage with her in play.” Session 6 “By far F’s most relaxed week. Was even able to give up one item to R having struggled to share in previous weeks” Session 6

“A child who has stayed on the outside of the pod throughout has entered the pod today. He is happy, engaged and comfortable” Session 6

At the end of the project, practitioners commented that, The children were all joining in and sharing the objects with each other, they were also sharing ideas and their findings with their peers.” “Across the six weeks some of the children's confidence increased to engage with the provided activities. seeing the same faces each week making social connections added to their increased confidence with one or two pairs of children carrying out role-play scenarios.” “Some of the children really surprised me and really enjoyed taking part in the sense project. Certain children engaged and responded to the activities and I could see their self-esteem improving as the weeks went on.

4. Children will display a greater attitude and aptitude to learning

 

Children were more focused, immersed and engaged in their activities during these sessions, which practitioners felt was the result of the special soothing environment of the pod, as well as the capabilities of sensory play to capture and sustain the children’s interests and attention.

Practitioners recognized the changes in children, reporting:

All children were engaged and stayed focused throughout each session. It was good to see how the children engaged for the whole session and became engrossed in their activities. The Pod provided a space which was calm and secure where children were given uninterrupted time to explore and investigate using their senses. Able to interact and submerge without any distractions, which enabled the children to stretch their imagination. Children who struggle to focus on activities appeared more focused during sensory play.

their imagination ” . “ Children who struggle to focus on activities appeared more focused during

At the two team debriefs, held at the end of the project between the Grow Big team, volunteers and a mix of practitioners from across the different settings, the group identified that:

All centres reported an increased sense of calmness when children were in the pod

 

Using treasure baskets to engage older children worked well, to the surprise of the practitioners in the settings

Using sensory resources with storytelling helped keep children’s attention, though more so when the children were already familiar with the story, the story was told orally and / or with puppets rather than books, and the basket was used to support the picking out of specific characters or actions

Sounds playing in the pod were calming and helped children settle. This included the singing, though particularly singing in person, less so when playing the pre-recorded song

Having only small groups in the pod was another factor which helped children focus

In one children’s centre, staff reported that one child became engaged with the project despite not engaging with other activities, and they felt this was, at least in part, due to the ambience of being inside the pod

 

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Case Study

20 Case Study Observation extracts: “In week one, when entering the tent G sits next to

Observation extracts:

“In week one, when entering the tent G sits next to a basket facing away from the other children. Not long after, G moves over to another basket. There he takes out a post box tin and a wooden hoop, which he tries to fit into the tin. ‘This is too big to go in’. He then holds up two tins and starts to bang them together. G drops one of the tins and attempts to take the lid off the one still in his hand. ‘Oh it come off’ he says, when successful. G continues in solitary play with little / no interaction with other children, only adults. G holds up a basket above his head and tips it out. An adult intervenes as G begins to throw items in the air. G picks up a pompom and rolls it out of the tent. He puts the pompom on a car and pushes the car backwards and forwards. An adult coaxes G back into the tent, asking him to choose an item from the basket to play with. G holds open a tin in one hand and tries to put a stone ring inside it. ‘This is too big to fit in’. He puts a feather inside the tin, then lifts it up to eye level to tip the feather out, watching as it floats to the floor. He tries to throw it even higher and watches it carefully. G finds a wooden egg and shouts ‘Look! A egg!’. He holds up his arm to shoulder level and drops the egg. He says ‘let’s bounce it higher’ and throws it up above his head. It hits the side of the pod and drops to the floor. He throws the wooden egg and starts to throw other objects. An adult reminds him to be gentle, and he stops. Later, in the group activity, G listens to an adult leading the game. He stands, waiting his turn and observing other children participating. He joins in the songs at the right time and when the children asked who can help tidy up, G puts up his hand and says ‘I can’. In week two G was noticeably more engaged, though again he ventured out of the pod for a short period. Later, he used the trowel to dig. Though he could find nothing at first, he persisted and eventually discovered a ladybird and a caterpillar. By week six when G entered the tent he said ‘Wow’ and settled straight away. Though he preferred to interact with the adults, he also played with the children in this session.”

The observations show that G was initially unsettled, agitated and challenging at times, leaving the
The observations show that G was initially unsettled, agitated and challenging at times, leaving the
The observations show that G was initially unsettled, agitated and challenging at times, leaving the
The observations show that G was initially unsettled, agitated and challenging at times, leaving the
The observations show that G was initially unsettled, agitated and challenging at times, leaving the
The observations show that G was initially unsettled, agitated and challenging at times, leaving the

The observations show that G was initially unsettled, agitated and challenging at times, leaving the pod, throwing things and not always taking care of himself or others. He preferred not to play with other children. He enjoyed exploring the objects and was very interested in sizes, textures and forces in a range of ways: fitting things in other things, finding out about different heights, using the pompom to push the car, how hard or soft to use a feather or a brush on skin, banging things together, and prising the lid off a tin. Despite a restless start, he waited for his turn and helped tidy up at the end, showing an ability to re-engage and manage his emotions with some support and intervention. As the weeks progressed, though G still chose to leave the tent at times, his time away lessened and he returned quickly with adult encouragement. He also began to play and involve himself with other children on occasion. His engagement became more sustained as he persevered in his goals and felt satisfaction from the results of his efforts, becoming immersed in his digging, and using a straw to blow a boat across some water. The volunteer observing G commented in the final session on the “huge difference to the first session 6 weeks ago.”

volunteer observing G commented in the final session on the “huge difference to the first session

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volunteer observing G commented in the final session on the “huge difference to the first session
volunteer observing G commented in the final session on the “huge difference to the first session

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5. Improvement of parental confidence and ability to provide regular sensory play activities at home

This outcome has been clearly met by those who provided feedback, although some centres were more successful than others at engaging parents in the project. Parents were offered a number of opportunities to engage with the project (including visiting the pod and making play dough at some centres). A flyer was given out to all parents explaining what children would do in each session, a display was mounted where possible to communicate the project to parents and give them a sense of the activity, and each family was given a goody bag of sensory play resources and ‘how to’ postcards.

20 parents joined an open evening at Jubilee Children’s Centre

5 took part in a play dough session at Todmorden Children’s Centre

2 parents visited the pod at Kevin Pearce Children’s Centre

2 visited the pod at Innovations Children’s Centre

1 parent visited the pod at Elland Children’s Centre

Display Boards were created at Innovations and Kevin Pearce centres

No parent engagement was documented at Ash Green Children’s Centre

4 parents (one each from Todmorden, Kevin Pearce, Jubilee and Innovations centres) took part in the photography competition.

Innovations centres) took part in the photography competition. Feedback from parents comes from the following settings:

Feedback from parents comes from the following settings:

Innovations centres) took part in the photography competition. Feedback from parents comes from the following settings:

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Of the parents who provided feedback:

23 Of the parents who provided feedback:  74% of parents now feel more confident about

74% of parents now feel more confident about setting up play activities at home that will encourage their child to explore the different senses

69% are now more likely to provide sense based play opportunities at home

47% are more confident about making a treasure basket at home with their child

Parents who rated their knowledge as excellent increased by 20% (from 7% to 27%) from the start to the end of the project

Parents who rated their practical experience as good or excellent increased by 16% (from 23% to 39%)

Parents who rated their confidence as good or excellent also increased by 16% (from 23% to 39%)

Parents who had little to no knowledge of using treasure baskets and sensory play dropped by 27% (from 60% to 33%)

Parents who had little to no experience of using treasure baskets and sensory play dropped by 14% (from 62% to 48%)

All but one parent showed positive outcomes, and the one who didn’t, left neutral (rather than negative) feedback, so it is possible they responded to the survey with no knowledge of the project at all.

to the survey with no knowledge of the project at all. It is clear from the
to the survey with no knowledge of the project at all. It is clear from the

It is clear from the results that the mix of resources and ways to engage parents did lead to the outcomes the project hoped to achieve. For many, the remote involvement via the postcards, flyer, displays and popping in to see the pod were enough to increase their knowledge, skills and confidence. Unfortunately, not enough feedback has been provided from the parents of Jubilee Children’s Centre to know if the open evening they attended in person made a substantial difference to their experience compared to those who took part in more remote or light touch engagement, though anecdotal feedback from the Grow Big team suggests the reaction was very positive from parents who visited or took part in the project face to face.

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BARRIERS / CHALLENGES

Training: There was very little feedback about how the training could be improved, though a more dynamic format to the day would be an improvement, as 37% felt the balance between sitting and watching presentations could have been more broken up with some practical activity, perhaps in small groups; which was echoed elsewhere by the 16% who felt there was too much sitting down. 16% also commented on the coldness of the room. The volunteers would also like to have had more training about how to document their observations of the children. In addition, the aspiration to involve students in the training (and ultimately as volunteers for the programme) did not come to fruition. The team had run a preliminary seminar with 80 students at Huddersfield University and offered them the opportunity to join the project in a work placement capacity. However, the hours of the project and the hours the students were needed on their course clashed, and although two students initially showed interest, they did not attend the training day or join the project. The course tutor did attend the training day however, and the Grow Big team are keen to keep that and other student groups engaged for the future.

Parental engagement: Settings struggled on the whole to actively engage with parents, although the survey response shows that parents who were engaged remotely through displays and take-home aspects of the project such as the postcards and goody bags, as well as the conversations with their children, did achieve engagement as well as the face to face attempts. Anecdotal responses from volunteers and practitioners suggest that the face to face work with parents was very positively received, though unfortunately few of these parents provided feedback for the evaluation.

Engagement, Confidence & Ability: Children’s confidence and engagement grew as the weeks went on. However, 40 minutes was not enough for some children to become fully acclimtatised or immersed and they had only just started to show what they could achieve by session six.

Knowing the children: Several volunteers suggested it would have been useful to have known more about the children in advance of the sessions so that activities could be more tailored. They emphasized that this was particularly true for children who had any special or additional needs.

Adult ratios: Having the right number of adults also took some time to establish. Occasionally parents entered the pod with children and the team noticed that this distracted the children from being as fully immersed in the experience as they could be. The same was true if too many supervising adults (practitioners and volunteers) were all in the pod. Overall the team agreed that a small number of adults works well so that children can be supported, but also have the space to develop their own engagement without needing constant intervention, which could actually reduce the effectiveness of the experience.

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Activities: Understandably as a pilot project, some activities were less successful than others, and where possible these were adapted along the way:

others, and where possible these were adapted along the way:  Trying to include the reading
others, and where possible these were adapted along the way:  Trying to include the reading
others, and where possible these were adapted along the way:  Trying to include the reading

Trying to include the reading of a full, new book to children was difficult, as they wanted to focus either on exploring the sensory resources or listening to the story, but not both. This has been adapted so that familiar stories are used which children already know, stories are told orally or with puppets rather than from the book, and specific excerpts are selected to focus on characters or actions, rather than using the full story.

The project has its own Sense Song, and it was identified that when adults sing this live and children join in, the children are more expressive and confident than when a pre-recorded version is used.

The ‘Woodland’ session was the one during which children seemed more hesitant to become fully engaged. Some worried about getting messy or dirty, others made a distinction between the ‘wild’ or natural objects and those from the treasure baskets. In future sessions, the team would like to find ways to use ‘wild’ woodland objects (like sticks) as a part of the treasure baskets by using them in similar ways to the basket contents, rather than keeping them separate.

In the ‘Seaside’ session the tunnel worked better being used as a means of crawling into the pod from outside, rather than being placed inside it. A sorting activity was felt

to be missing by some team members though this was later remedied. Water needed refreshing between sessions to ensure it was always clean, and the option to add glitter was also a well-received adaptation. The seaside session was popular, though one practitioner suggested this could be swapped out for different activities according to the season of the time.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

Overall the project was very successful and met all its outcomes. The pod and treasure baskets were particularly effective. Only a few recommendations are evident from the feedback provided, as follows.

More time needs to be built into the programme model, whether this be longer sessions, or more sessions. This is to help children’s confidence and achievements grow even further, given they had only just started to show what might be possible after six 40 minute sessions. However, six week blocks are a good model for schools and children’s centres as this tends to tie in with a half term, though this is less of an issue with private nurseries.

Having tested the pod and the activities, Grow Big can now create clear guidelines about the optimum number of children and adults in the pod during a session so that everyone involve understands how to get the best possible experience from the resource. Although it may not always be possible to stick with this exact ratio, it would mean that settings understand that a change of numbers can mean a reduction in the quality of the experience, and can make that judgement accordingly.

Several adaptations have been made to the activities and resources for the pod sessions which now need formalizing by writing up in a revised menu of activity. The team already plan to add to the range, and some ideas from the practitioners and volunteers involved such as the seasonal options should be added to the options being explored.

The project successfully met its personal, social and emotional development aims. However, communication and language was achieved at almost equal levels, and this too should become part of the language used to promote the programme for the future.

The budget for evaluation was limited and so methodology design and data collection was largely the responsibility of Grow Big and the volunteers. To further build the robustness of the evidence base for Grow Big, future evaluations would benefit from greater investment and should aim to include: independent evaluation framework and methodology design; in-depth interviews with volunteers and practitioners; comparing children’s outcomes with their otherwise anticipated progress to see how much of a difference the project has made. For example, the tracking settings might usually carry out against EYFS framework; PLODs (potential lines of development), and in particular some Experiential Education (EXE) scale baseline and end point monitoring of children’s wellbeing and engagement levels. This last point may require training for all involved, and some preliminary tracking in the weeks or months leading up to the project to embed EXE scales into common practice within the settings. It would also enhance training in observation and documentation skills.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Grow Big would like to thank:

Their first funders: Calderdale Council Child Poverty Task Force and Small Grants Programme, and Big Lottery Awards for All

 

The Grow Big volunteers for their hard work and commitment: Lucy Reilly, Linda Green, Jenny McKay, Katie Smith

Partners North Halifax Partnership and Halifax Opportunities Trust and all the children, parents and staff from the six Children’s Centres who took part in the project

The managers of the Children’s Centres who offered a lot of support to make sure the project ran smoothly across the six different sites and particular: Jill Webb, Tina Burke, Maureen Shepherdson, Kirilea Whitehead, Caren Parkinson, Gaye Colleran, June Davidson, Feaz Akhtar.

Space Cadets who created the Sense inflatable illuminated pod, which adds a unique magical element to the Sense project and the work of Grow Big

 

Sara Simpson (Design by Simm) for creating the Sense logo, and Sue Gunn for designing the sensory play post cards

Sue Gascoyne (author, researcher and educational consultant) for delivering inspiring and first class sensory play training

Huddersfield University staff Samantha McMahon and Jo McEvoy for supporting initial ideas and exploring opportunities for student involvement

 

Evaluation by Sally Fort, for Earlyarts.

Earlyarts is an award winning, international training company, helping early years leaders bring children’s creativity to life.

 

We understand what creativity does to the brain and the body, and how it makes a difference to early learning. Founded in creative pedagogies, our evidence-based training is designed to help Early Years and Primary leaders understand how to support cognitive, social, emotional and physical development, helping children to achieve their greatest potential and helping professionals to achieve the highest standards in teaching and learning.

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APPENDIX PARTNER BRIEFING INFORMATION What is Sense about? Sense is a new project all about
APPENDIX
PARTNER BRIEFING INFORMATION
What is Sense about?
Sense is a new project all about sensory play. Phase one will use
storytelling to promote sensory play in Children’s Centre settings
providing free early education for 3-4 year olds living in areas of
deprivation in Calderdale.
What issue will the
project address?
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Our project will target children and families who are living in areas of
deprivation. Deprivation data (the number of LSOAs 1 and resident
population in areas that are ranked nationally in 2010) identifies the
following five wards as the most deprived in Calderdale. The number in
brackets indicates LSOAs in most deprived 10% nationally.
Park – 8876 people (6)
Ovenden – 4279 people (3)
Illingworth & Mixenden – 2603 people (2)
Town – 1708 people (1)
Brighouse 1453 people (1)
In Calderdale there are 8485 children living in poverty. Studies show that
children growing up in poverty are four times more likely to remain in
poverty when they are adults (Stewart, T; 2009)
Evidence shows that disadvantaged children are more likely to
experience poor educational and employment outcomes affecting their
long-term health and wellbeing. 31% (726) of Key Stage 2 pupils in
Calderdale are ‘disadvantaged’ according to DfE school performance
tables.
How will the project be
delivered?
The first phase of Sense will take the form of a sensory-rich story telling
pod.
The pod – an inflatable dome – will provide the space to deliver the
sessions. The project will involve 6 weekly sessions. Each session will aim
to engage with 8 children and will last for half an hour.
Phase one will involve over 100 children attending free early years
provision at 6 children’s centres.
Children will experience stories through their senses – they will see
them, hear them, feel them, smell them, taste them and act them out.
1 Local Super Output Areas

How will the project be funded and what are the timescales?

How can sensory play help young children?

How will the children benefit from the project?

The sessions will weave in elements of art, music, physical exercise and role-play. Generally, the pod will be set up indoors, however, in warmer weather it may be possible to use the pod outdoors. We will use objects creatively. Set materials where possible will be unused items and objects (essentially rubbish) that will be recycled,

upcycled and repurposed. Each child will be given a guide, activity cards and sensory materials to encourage sensory play at home.

A workshop for parents will be held before the first session.

We have secured grant funding from Calderdale Council and the National Lottery Awards for All. The planning and design phase will take place through spring/summer 2015 and the delivery phase to run through autumn/winter 2015. A draft timetable is included below.

All learning in the brain ultimately stem[s] from sensory stimulation (Gascoyne, 2012). Providing children with the opportunity to investigate

materials with no preconceived knowledge helps them to develop their cognitive, social and emotional, physical, creative and linguistic skillsets. We will use sensory play through storytelling to develop the skills that children need to improve their life chances. We will focus on measuring the development of personal, social and emotional skills for this project

a prime area of learning in the Early Years Foundation Framework.

Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children
Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children
Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children
Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children
Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children
Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children
Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children
Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children
Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children

Children will demonstrate improved personal, social and emotional skills (including confidence and self-esteem) Children will display a greater attitude and aptitude to learning Although our project will focus on personal, social and emotional skills, we will still be mindful of other benefits including communication, physical development, literacy and numeracy. We will closely align our activities to the prime areas and specific areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

will closely align our activities to the prime areas and specific areas of learning in the
will closely align our activities to the prime areas and specific areas of learning in the

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How will you measure the difference the project has made?

Who will be involved in delivery?

We will collect and analyse data at each early years setting before, during and after the project using templates to record and track

observations

We will communicate with parents and children We will run a participative exercise with partner organisations to review the changes that have taken place and learn from the experience

A multi-agency team of Grow Big volunteers, students and early years

staff will deliver the sessions. All team members will receive specialist

 

sensory training. Safeguarding training and an enhanced DBS check will be mandatory.

What is the scope to develop the project in future?

Evaluate phase one and implement recommendations Extend to community and primary school settings Continue and scale up free provision for disadvantaged children Consider introduction of fee paid provision to ensure free provision can be sustained in the long term and to reduce reliance on grant funding

Contact for further information

Rachel Stewart rachel@growbig.co.uk Lucy Reilly lucy@growbig.co.uk

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2015 TIMETABLE Delivery will take place through two blocks the first block will involve 3 children’s centres (A, B, C) receiving weekly sessions for 6 weeks followed by the second block of children’s centres D, E and F.

DESIGN

April

Focus groups / workshops

June

Focus groups / workshops

July

Training session

August

Launch event

September

Refresher training / briefing Block One sessions

October

Block One sessions Block Two sessions

November

Block Two sessions

DELIVERY

Week Commencing

Session Number

7

September

Staff Briefing and Rehearsal

7

September

Parent’s Drop-in

14

September

Session 1

21

September

Session 2

28

September

Session 3

5

October

Session 4

12

October

Session 5

October Block One
October
Block One

Block Two

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19

Session 6

26

October

HALF TERM

2

November

Staff Briefing and Rehearsal

2

November

Parent’s Drop-in

9

November

Session 1

16

November

Session 2

23

November

Session 3

30

November

Session 4

7

December

Session 5

14

December

Session 6

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SURVEYS & DATA

A) TRAINING DATA

32 SURVEYS & DATA A) TRAINING DATA
32 SURVEYS & DATA A) TRAINING DATA

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33
33
33

34

34
34
34

35

35
35
35

36

B) VOLUNTEER DATA

36 B) VOLUNTEER DATA

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C) PRACTITIONER DATA

37 C) PRACTITIONER DATA
37 C) PRACTITIONER DATA

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38

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39 D) PARENT DATA
39 D) PARENT DATA
39 D) PARENT DATA

D)

PARENT DATA

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40 NB ‘unlikely’ and ‘very unlikely’ were also options for this question, but were not used

NB ‘unlikely’ and ‘very unlikely’ were also options for this question, but were not used by any parents