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Speech Bubbles, delivered by London Bubble Theatre Company, is a primary school drama intervention provided by trained practitioners in disadvantaged areas in London and Greater Manchester. It aims to support children by developing their communication skills, confidence and wellbeing.  An organisation committed to developing evidence for its interventions, London Bubble Theatre Company approached Pro Bono Economics to carry out a value for money assessment of this programme.


Volunteers from professional services firm EY - Nick Catton and Colin Edwards - were matched with this project, and authored the report with support from Luke Miller, Andrew Jones and Steve Hook. Quality review was carried out by Matt Corkery. The volunteer team applied cost-benefit appraisal methods used by government and other funding bodies to quantify the economic benefits of the programme. This from the perspective of potentially increased lifetime earnings because of participating in Speech Bubbles.


The analysis assesses improvements in speech, language and the communication skills of 291 children aged between 5 and 7, who participated in the programme in 2016/17. Considering evidence that shows the programme has a positive effect on academic attainment, the associated increased lifetime earnings here resulted in a £1.77 benefit for each £1 invested in the programme. This is an average value of £9,800 per child.


This report was part of London Bubble Theatre Company’s research journey of Speech Bubbles; beginning with qualitative data collection and moving through to this economic analysis, the charity went on to partake in a Randomised Controlled Trial. This was one of five funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and the Royal Society of the Arts, which aims to examine whether cultural e-learning approaches can help boost primary pupils’ achievements. Adam Annand, Associate Director at London Bubble Theatre Company, has written about the evaluation of the programme in a Research in Drama Education Journal.

Lord Gus O’Donnell, Chair of Trustees at Pro Bono Economics, stated:

“This study provides evidence that Speech Bubbles’ innovative programme succeeds in improving children’s wellbeing and life chances, while providing good value for money for the tax payer. What a stark contrast the programme presents to the endless testing of children that is currently favoured in schools, and which only serves to compare one classroom’s achievements against another while endangering children’s overall wellbeing and happiness.  By providing a persuasive economic argument, this report should encourage funders to invest in Speech Bubbles and give young people with SLCN’s the life chances they deserve.”

Sir Mark Rylance, Patron of Speech Bubbles, commented:

“One of the reasons I feel so strongly about Speech Bubbles is that I didn’t speak until I was six years old, and it was through acting and playing with other people that I found my voice. Drama and storytelling gives children more than a voice, it gives them a future.”