Awareness campaign to promote the role of parents in developing their children’s language and communication skills

For the last four months, we at SBW have been working on a project which has captured the hearts and minds of the whole team. Launched today (Thursday 18th January) by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, we are now very proud to be able to share this most important campaign.

The ’Take time’ campaign is part of a wider Welsh Government approach that includes extra funding and support to schools in 2018-19, through regional consortia to help improve the language skills amongst young learners.

How we got there
Our journey started in August 2017 with a tender submission to the Welsh Government, for a project to promote oracy under the umbrella of the ‘Education Begins at Home’ initiative – a public initiative we’ve been working hard to develop over the last three years. We partnered on the tender with the PR agency Equinox and were delighted to be awarded the contract in early September.

The research
The dictionary definition of the word oracy is as follows: The ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech: ‘infant teachers will be urged to concentrate on reading, writing, oracy and numeracy’. There have been many research projects around the world that show us how quickly the brain develops in the early years of childhood, and just how important these years are for a child’s long-term intellectual and social development. It was highlighted that many pre-school children aren’t being encouraged enough to talk, listen and collaborate in their home environment. This failing impacts greatly on a child’s listening, speaking and collaborating skills, often meaning that they enter the education system unprepared.

Head of Wales Office for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Alison Stroud, supports these findings: “The ability to communicate effectively is an essential life skill for all children because it underpins a child’s social and emotional development. In particular, the first three years of a child’s life are crucial in developing all of a young child’s growing need to communicate. Poor speech, language and communication skills can impact their behaviour, mental health, ‘school readiness’ and even their employability as adults.”

The challenge
Our challenge was to promote the importance of oracy, and encourage parents, carers and relatives, to think about how they interact with young children, providing tips and advice to help them take a more proactive approach. This was a sensitive task. We know there are many different pressures when you’re raising children, sometimes just finding the time can be a challenge. We had to find a way of communicating our message in a non-patronising way, that didn’t preach, and showed empathy with parents. However, we were also keen to develop a memorable campaign that would be talked about and shared on social channels. How to deliver the messages was certainly the first hurdle. The tone of voice and language was also important. Oracy is not a commonly used term amongst parents when talking about their children development, so our approach was to use a language that was more familiar to parents – so we refer to oracy as talking, listening and playing which resonates better with our audiences. After much deliberation, our Creative Director, the mother of a young child herself, settled on the use of poetry and an illustrative film style which allowed us the opportunity to introduce some fun, while keeping the tone of voice light and encouraging. This creative approach and key messages were tested in focus groups with very positive feedback.

Our creative approach
Our hero film which launches the campaign and sits at the heart of the communications plan is an engaging reminder of the importance of ‘taking time’ to talk, listen and play with your child, and to ignite their imagination and love of words, reading and doing things together to encourage oracy. In order to highlight the importance of parents in developing their communication skills by interacting during day to day activities, the idea was that the parent would read the poem and their child would read the last rhyming line of each couplet. The end result was a playful combination of poetry, stop motion and traditionally illustrated animation, which we were lucky enough to write, illustrate and storyboard in house.

The campaign follows the core principle of Education Begins at Home – that every little thing you do as a parent will have a huge impact in your children’s education. And true to this, the key call to action for parents is to do small things you can do everyday, such as reading stories at night, play eye-spy during car journeys and talking at mealtimes. We wanted to make it easy and fun – still making a big positive impact for parents and their children.

So, we also developed a series of ‘hub’ films with short and easy helpful hints, tips and practical advice for parents, carers and guardians to help develop their children’s language and communication skills while still having fun! The ‘hero’ animation, as well as the short stop motion 30sec hub films, will be promoted on Facebook targeted to parents in Wales.

To increase the profile of the project, Equinox suggested we engage with Anni Llyn, the former Children’s Poet Laureate for Wales and she kindly agreed to provide the voice-over for the film and the radio commercials that form part of the media campaign, as well as offering creative input on the English and Welsh versions of the poem used in the films and on the radio. We also enlisted the help of two talented young children to help Anni read the poem.

To produce the hero film, we worked with the very talented team at Sun and Moon Studios, who used stop motion technics to deliver this beautiful animation. The ten hub films were created by the equally talented team at Rockadove, a film company we have worked successfully with on a number of occasions.

The film has been produced in both English and Welsh, and the script adapted to ensure it resonates equally. At SBW, we don’t just do direct translations, for us it is crucial that the film has just as much impact, whatever the language. We are very proud of the work we have done here and have been delighted to be involved in such a pertinent project that will hopefully prove to have an impact on the lives of many young children and their parents.

Delivering the campaign
The delivery of the campaign has been highly targeted utilizing multiple media channels, including Press (PR), OnDemand (ITV Hub, 4OD), S4C, Radio, Facebook and Instagram.

Mae ‘na amser i siarad, gwrando a chwarae from studio on Vimeo.