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Helicopter Starter Training: In London and Kent

Working in Early Years? Interested in becoming a Helicopter Starter? On Wednesday 12th February 2014, MakeBelieve Arts are running a day of Helicopter Technique of Storytelling and Story Acting Starter Training in two locations!

Where: Beecroft Garden Primary School, London

or Kemsley Primary Academy, Kent

When: Wednesday 12th February 2014, 9.30am—3.00pm


The Helicopter Technique…

  • Develops confidence, curiosity, concentration and communication skills in all children regardless of ability
  • Increases turn taking, attention span, speaking and listening skills and awareness of written language
  • Demonstrates spectacular and measurable gains in spoken narrative and language development skills even for pupils with SEN or EAL
  • Provides practitioners with evidence of children’s progress in language and communication

Helicopter Starter Training includes an introduction to Storytelling and Story Acting and the practical application.

Helicopter Starter Training is suitable for anyone engaged with working with children between the ages of 18 months-7 years old, including Early Years and Foundation Stage practitioners, speech and language specialists, SENCO’s, Childminders, teaching assistants, playgroup staff and students.

‘The course was perfect, I loved it. I would love to do more training on this project … It has really made me feel that I want to take it back and do this in my setting.’
Teacher at Old Church Nursery School

Full day training: ONLY £35 pp.

Full day training + Resource Pack: £45 pp.

Full day training + Resource Pack + Women Who Cooked Everything Book: £50 pp.

For more information and to book call MakeBelieve Arts on 020 8691 3803

or email


CLICK HERE for more information on the Helcopter Technique.

MakeBelieve Arts Kent is 1!

Officially MakeBelieve Arts Kent was one on 9th September 2013, but our story starts on a cold dark February day in 2012 when Trish and I first spoke the words MakeBelieve Arts, Kent, Satellite…
First came the Open University Evaluation in the Summer term, Trish wanted to give the evaluation breadth and asked if I had a Kent school that would be happy to be part of the OU Evaluation, and so little by little MakeBelieve Arts Kent began to grow.


After a fantastic meeting with Early Years advisor and ECAT (Every Child a Talker) Consultant Julie Simmons, MakeBelieve Arts Kent was awarded its first funding pot to deliver a conference for all Early Years Practitioners in maintained nursery settings across Kent including 6 weeks of follow up sessions in 18 of those settings.
Then came Phase Two of the project which was the Royal Opera House (ROH) Bridge fund a ‘Helicopter at Home’ pilot where parents could be trained to use the technique at home, encouraging their children to tell stories with them as well as at nursery.  This took place in seven of the 18 settings worked with previously in the ECAT funding.

© ROH Paul Starr (1)
Part of the ROH Bridge funding paid for a conference for Early Years practitioners in maintained settings in the borough of Thurrock. After an enthusiastic response on the phone, Thurrock Borough Council sat round the table with ROH Bridge and MakeBelieve Arts.  Following the conference MakeBelieve Arts will deliver the Helicopter Project to 19 Early Years Settings across Thurrock during the Autumn and Spring Terms.

Images by MakeBelieve Arts and ROH/Paul Starr

Starting “BIG SCHOOL”

I am currently doing work experience with MakeBelieve Arts. They have given me the opportunity to shadow different on-going projects. Last week I visited an early year’s transition session at Quaggy Children’s Centre in Lewisham. Early year’s transition is a project which allows young children coming from nursery settings and parents to prepare for their new school as they start reception. This allows parents to help support their children explore their concerns and worries

There are small activities which relates to what you do before school and in school. For example we mimed getting ready for school in the morning; I think this is a good way for children to remember what to do in the morning because sometimes they tend to forget. We also became “feeling detectives” this is where everyone had to show what certain emotions looked like for example, when you are exited your mouth would be slightly open and you would be smiling. This is a useful game to play as the kids can learn about facial expressions and what someone is feeling.

Tamsin (the transition doll) is a tool used to prepare the children for primary school. Tamsin is also going to primary school this year however she is quite shy and doesn’t know many other children starting big school. By making Tamsin shy this allows the children to comfort her. This process teaches children to become friends and to be nice to other people who don’t feel as comfortable as they do. Tamsin is also a role model because she is already prepared for “Big school” she has her bag ready with all the things she needs, pencil, rubber, lunchbox, book, etc. she also has her uniform on. We are asked to help pack Tamsin’s lunchbox, everyone had to put something in it even though there where quite a bit of ice-cream from the kids, the parents put in the more healthy and realistic type of foods. This lets the kids know more or less what to expect in their lunch box. By the end Tamsin starts to become more confident and excited about “big school” whilst her doubts disappear. This boots the children’s confidence on a subconscious level, and if they were shy they no longer will be.

I think this is a great and easy way for young children to become comfortable with their new school and to make new friends. The small activities help them remember what to do before they go to school such as packing their bag, getting dressed.

To find out more about early year’s transition please CLICK HERE.

Helicopter Technique Evaluation: The Launch

On Friday 14th June 2013 we launched the Helicopter Technique, Open University Evaluation at Chisenhale Primary School in Tower Hamlets.

At MakeBelieve Arts we are great believers in the importance of ritual so the event was a celebration, complete with speeches, demonstrations of the work with children and cake.

The event was a huge success and we received lots of positive feedback from the attendees.

There were speeches from Trisha Lee, MakeBelieve Arts Artistic Director; Linda Pound, MakeBelieve Arts consultant; Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy) at the Open University and Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham.

The first ‘Helicopter Technique Centre of Excellence’ plaque was presented by Teresa Cremin who led the OU team in delivering the evaluation and they were all very excited and pleased to become the first centre of excellence. As a Center of Excellence, Chisenhale will continue to deliver weekly Helicopter sessions. They will also be happy to host visits from other schools who are interested in seeing the work.

Alongside demonstrations of the technique, throughout the event, we made history by carrying out the first ever storytelling and story acting session across two continents.  We were joined by Boston, USA through a SKYPE link with a Kindergarten classroom, who are using storytelling and story acting on a regular basis. During this SKYPE session we not only demonstrated how the technique works but how it can engage and connect children, using technology, across the world at the same time. Children from both Chisenhale and Boston acted out stories and one story was read which crossed continents as one of the characters, at Chisenhale, acted out passing treasure to another, in Boston, through the screen…


Once upon a time there was Spiderman and there was Hulk and then Superman came.

And then they found a treasure. Then they put it in the bat cave and then Superman

took the treasure out of the bat cave and gave it to Batman. Batman was taking it

in to the Master. Then the Master gave it to the Queen who

put it in the locker so no-one can get it.

The photo below is from Boston, capturing the moment when this pass was made.

There was laughter, surprise and even tears from the attendees as the cross-country demonstration took place.


The whole evaluation is now available to download here:


If you would like to see/download all of the images taken, please see our flickr page:


[slickr-flickr tag=”HelEval”]

Times of Transition begins

Our Moving On Up Project Coordinator, Lucy Foster is well and trully settled in to the role and the 3 year tranisition project: Times of Transition, funded by Paul Hamlyn, has begun.

Times of Transition is an innovative approach that uses creativity and blogging to offer sustained support for young people throughout their move to secondary school.  Over the duration of the project we will be working with a secondary school and their partner primaries in London, Kent and Bristol.

We are pleased to announce that we will be working with London school, Prendergast Ladywell Fields College and Kent school High Weald Academy over the 3 years. The Bristol school will be announced this time next year.

Every young person has a story to tell about starting secondary school, so we’ve set up a new Times of Transition blog where pupils from schools in London and Kent use ‘how to guides’, ‘top tips’, films, podcasts, and more to share their experiences of Year 7. CLICK HERE to have a look at what they’ve been up to and feel free to comment and share your story too!

Don’t forget, there is still time to book one our transition programmes for Early Years, Year 6’s and near intake Year 7’s. CLICK HERE to find out how we can support the big move.

Helicopter is landing!

A year and a half ago Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funded a robust evaluation of the Helicopter Technique of Storytelling and Story Acting, based on the work of Vivian Gussin Paley…

MakeBelieve Arts then commissioned a team of researchers from the Open University to deliver the evaluation. The team, led by Teresa Cremin, have been busy observing the programme, interviewing teachers and children, and reading through the MakeBelieve Arts Helicopter Archive and now finally, after all this time, the Helicopter Evaluation is ready to launch on Friday 14th June 2013!

We will be celebrating the launch in many different ways:

The 193 page evaluation will be ready to download from our website at 5.30pm on that day. If you prefer a more summarised version the 193 page Executive Summary will also be available to download from this time.

But that is not all. At MakeBelieve Arts we are great believers in the value of rituals and we plan to mark this occasion with a celebration.

In the afternoon of the 14th June we will launch this report in Chisenhale Primary school, Tower Hamlets. We will be joined at the launch with Boston, USA through a SKYPE link with a Kindergarten classroom who are using storytelling and story acting on a regular basis and are planning to deliver a live Helicopter Technique session across two continents where children from both schools will get the chance to act out stories and share their thoughts on storytelling and story acting.

The link to Boston started in January 2013, when Trisha Lee was invited to work alongside the Boston Listens programme supporting them in the development of their city wide storytelling and story acting programme. At a Boston Listens Seminar Trish shared her thoughts about a number of issues. These were then captured in several video clips. Please CLICK HERE to view them.

As part of the launch we will also be announcing Chisenhale Primary School as our first MakeBelieve Arts Helicopter Technique Centre of Excellence.  We hope to develop more Centres of Excellence over the coming year, where schools that are regularly using storytelling and story acting are able to share the benefits of the approach with neighbouring schools.

And finally all attendees at the launch will receive an evaluation pack containing case studies, links between the Helicopter Technique and the new EYFS, and an Executive Summary all contained in a beautifully designed folder.

There are limited places still available at the launch and if you would like to attend please CLICK HERE to contact us and we will do our best to fit you in.

Also if you would like to receive either the evaluation pack, a hard copy of the full report, or just the executive summary, do get in touch. We have limited numbers of these, but we will do our best to send one to you. Alternatively the executive summary and full report are available to download from HERE from 5.30pm on June 14th.

Exciting news for the Boys Project…

We started the term with a spring in our step when we heard the very exciting news that The Ironmongers’ Company, who have supported the Boys Literacy Project for the last 3 years, want to continue to fund the project into its fourth year!

We’re so thrilled to be able to further develop the project further, allowing us to explore other digital possibilities and innovative ways to engage boys in literacy.
This term the boys are working on a book by Damian Dibben called The History Keepers, which has been recommended to us by our friends at Random House Publishers who we’ve partnered with on this project. The boy’s will not only get the opportunity to investigate this brilliant time traveling tale, but they’ll be meeting Damian personally when he comes into the last session this term to celebrate the end of this year’s project!

Take a look at their stories…and why not even comment on them while you’re there?! To access the boys blog CLICK HERE.

We’d like to extend a big thank you to The Ironmongers’ Company for supporting our project, long may it continue!

Helicopter at Home

The Family Learning Project, funded by the Royal Opera House Bridge, started this term, in Kent. The project will train parents how to use the Helicopter Technique of Storytelling and Story Acting at home.

Parents listen to their children’s stories, write them down, record them on their phones…

In Phase One funded by Every Child a Talker, MakeBelieve Arts worked with 18 nurseries across Kent, training the staff how to use the technique in their settings.

Phase Two sees MakeBelieve Arts working with the parents of those children, encouraging them to try out the technique at home. Eagar parents set off from sessions pen, paper and phone in hand in search of their children’s stories.

‘Real but Uncertain Threat*’ to the English education system

February has been a rollercoaster month for the education system in England.

Peaks and troughs comprise the revision of the Government’s plan to reform the system, as their designs for the English Baccalaureate were all but abandoned, whilst proposals to introduce a new accountability system, the impact of which is yet to be determined, remain.

The English Baccalaureate or EBacc represented an overwhelmingly unpopular move which was opposed, seemingly, by anyone involved in education.

A revision of the current GCSE system, which spreads the workload over two years and across an expanse of subjects, was set to be replaced by a ‘two-tier’ scheme, which both highlighted the perceived insignificance of anything other than traditionally academic subjects and represented, potentially, a further divisive measure.

The EBacc raised immediate, widespread and well document concerns as a result of the lack of emphasis which it placed upon arts subjects; forcing creative and cultural skills even further out of the lime light.

The proposed system was also regarded as ‘an exam which would not be suitable for everyone’, according to the BBC News and which would represent, what the Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, Graham Stuart, referred to as a “badge of failure” to anyone who did not pass it, as no Foundation papers would have been on offer, as they are for GCSEs.

For further information please see

A metaphorical sigh of relief thus ensued as it was determined that GCSEs will remain.

Tension was not alleviated fully, however, as new school accountability measures or ‘League Tables’ are still to be introduced and GCSEs are yet to be reformed. The impact of these measures is uncertain as the scheme is under construction and so concern for the future of England’s cultural wealth and diversity remains strong.

Still teetering on the edge, therefore, it seems that the English education system may yet take another nose dive into chaos.  

Unsurprisingly, Michael Gove’s statement that “for the hon. Lady and for me, artistic and creative subjects are central to a broad and balanced education”, accompanied by his assertion that he will be working with the Arts Council have failed to way-lay fears for the future of arts and creative subjects. This is evidenced by Catherine Rose’s statement that “We mean real, rigorous, important and relevant knowledge and skills which result in understanding, creation and appreciation of a huge range of human endeavour, and which also offer social, intellectual, physical and personal benefits [may be obtained through arts education]’”; viewing the Education Secretary’s comments with cynicism, as she suggests there is a fundamental discrepancy in beliefs about the significance of creative and cultural studies.

Helen Musser, further, highlights this as she says ‘I have observed staff and students alike stare with open mouths as a ‘mouse’ in the core subjects turns into a maestro of movement in an improvisation situation’. Such a statement makes it clear that the journey is not yet over and the rollercoaster must spin on.

See for further information about the developments.

(*terminology taken from French terror threat measure)

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