Helen Grimsditch, Manager of the Early Years Improvement Team for Stockport.
Helen has been a huge advocate for us, supporting us right from the start of our journey! We love visiting Stockport where there are lot of super enthusiastic schools creating Tales Toolkit stories and supporting us with new ideas.
Over to you Helen….
Kate and Helen at Cale Green Primary
I discovered Twitter some years ago and was immediately hooked by the opportunity to connect with such a widespread audience. It was whilst on Twitter that I came across Kate Shelley and her fantastic story telling concept Tales Toolkit.
I was instantly drawn to the simplicity of the four picture symbols as a way of framing children’s understanding of a narrative.
My current position is the manager of Early Years Improvement Team and the early education strategic lead for the council, with my background being in teaching in primary and nursery schools for 16 years and the last 14 years working as an early years’ consultant for Stockport local authority.
As a nursery teacher I was involved in the development and publication of ‘the nursery narrative approach’ for Black Sheep Press which led to a local language development programme called LEAP delivered in our maintained nursery schools. Having also trained in the use of Makaton and visual symbols to support young children’s conceptual and linguistic development, Kate’s innovative, yet simple approach grabbed me from the start. I just knew it would work and I have been a huge fan from the beginning of Kate’s story.
Around the time Kate won the Teach First Innovation Fund in 2015, I started on a mission to share her idea with as many early years practitioners in Stockport as I possibly could. Kate came and delivered a day’s training for myself, the team and a number of our leading practitioners and teachers in our local Early Years Partnership. It was fantastic, and the best day’s training we’d had in a long time!
I even featured in one of Kate’s stories! This day reinforced for me just how strong the Tales Toolkit approach was connected to the principles and pedagogy of the EYFS curriculum and a holistic approach to teaching, beginning with the imaginative potential within each individual child to tell a story.
Kate delivered a workshop at our annual EY conference in 2016, which helped to spread the word even further. I then started to see the potential of Tales Toolkit as a really effective teaching approach that would improve children’s outcomes in Communication and Language and Literacy.
Being responsible for the end of EYFS outcomes for the borough and challenged to ‘diminish the difference’ I championed the approach.
Take a look at the video below showing Cale Green School using TTK.
Liz Adie, the nursery teacher at Cale Green Primary School piloted the online Tales Toolkit training programme and was one of the first school in the ‘North’ to be Tales Toolkit accredited.
Liz shared her practice with other local teachers offering a ‘Learning walk’ in her school. Once teacher’s saw first-hand the impact the approach had on improving the language and writing skills of the children, the majority of whom had EAL and very low starting points on entry to the nursery and reception class, more and more Stockport teachers became interested. We also saw the impact on children’s imaginative play and creativity, their stories were amazing!
Progress and Success
The success of the approach at Cale Green led to the two reception teachers at Adswood primary school subscribing and following the success they also experienced they showcased the approach at our school EY leaders’ termly network meetings and Childminder network meetings. These meetings are particularly well attended and hearing from the teacher’s themselves, seeing examples of how the Tales Toolkit approach was used in practice and hearing children’s stories got more and more teachers hooked.
Teachers began to comment on the increased level of engagement of the boys in wanting to mark make, tell and write their own stories.
I was starting to see just how effective and adaptable the approach was and how it supports our current focus on restorative practice too. Many a time I have heard children say, ‘oh look, there’s a problem!’, and then coming up with the solution themselves.
Myself and team colleagues completed the online training programme, and this then led to the idea of a special promotion in partnership with Kate to offer the online training package to our local Childminders, Early Years Settings and Schools, especially with the online format being so innovative.
Kate has brilliantly put together the face-to-face training we had originally into an accessible online package with much, much more.
I particularly like how the first of the 5 modules is all about the crucial importance of children’s language skills and how adults can improve this through high quality interactions.
Wait, Watch, Wonder is now the mantra of our settings! There is also a series of supporting articles linked to each of the training sessions for further reading and research, which have proved greatly interesting and helpful.
Kate has also worked with a number of leading early years experts and trainers to provide a series of video presentations, which are great to watch, including features by Alistair Bryce Clegg and Julian Grenier.
The members Facebook group provides a place to share ideas and access further resources, and we currently have a group of our network Childminders and 15 primary schools who have or are in the process of completing the online programme.
I absolutely believe that the use of Tales Toolkit is improving the outcomes of children’s educational development in Stockport; our next step being to work with Kate in supporting the evaluation study measuring the impact of the programme. Kate is currently working with Goldsmith’s University to complete this and data from Stockport schools feature heavily in the research.
Kate came on a visit to Stockport recently and it was a real pleasure for us to share our local success! Visiting a number of our schools and seeing Tales Toolkit in action alongside the children’s progress by the end of the year was definitely highlight of my year.
I know that Kate is keen to extend the approach further by developing Tales Toolkit for children and their families at home.
I have also recently been inspired by the idea of social stories as part of our recent training on attachment and understanding children’s emotional development. Another idea I am excited to talk to you about Kate!
A recent article in the Guardian entitled, ‘Let’s move to Stockport’ highlights many of the attractions of this small town in Greater Manchester and how we are ‘arriving fashionably late to the regeneration party.’
One thing is for sure, we were the first to arrive to the Tales Toolkit party!