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Doncaster Awarded Major Funding

Three-year project will respond to the impact of Covid-19 on 0-5's

Young children wearing school uniforms follow dancer Alice as she leads them through their classroom. Part of a Tuneful Chatter session for 0-5 year olds run by darts in Doncaster.

A Doncaster consortium made up of darts, Cast – Doncaster’s performance venue, and Doncaster Council’s Early Years Intervention and Prevention service has been awarded £425,719 through Arts Council England’s Place Partnerships Programme and supported by Doncaster Council.  

The funding will support a three year project with Doncaster’s 0-5 year olds and their families who have been hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Dance, drama and music professionals will work collaboratively with Early Years staff to focus on young children’s communication and language, personal, social and emotional development – all of which have been delayed due to numerous lockdowns.  

The team will build on an existing creative approach that is proven to make a positive impact on very young children’s development and will refine this approach with four nurseries, four schools and four family hub settings across the borough. There will also be regular Hello Baby sessions for families at Cast and weekly Tuneful Chatter sessions for families at our accessible building The Point in central Doncaster.  

The project will respond directly to local need and is based on consultation with local families and early years practitioners:

Children generally are about a year behind I personally think. The behaviour and listening skills and personal social and emotional development. This makes their learning and development more difficult. – Member of nursery staff 

Doncaster Primary Schools told us that their younger pupils are struggling. They don’t know how to listen, sit and concentrate, focus, take turns or interact with adults. Those for whom English is an additional language haven’t spoken English at home during lockdowns and have fallen behind with English language development. Many don’t have the words to express how they are feeling or the life experiences to use their imagination:

I’ve worked in nursery 15-20 years. This year I could see a massive difference in terms of communication and language, PSED – they didn’t know how to play with each other…One woman told me that she had never taken her child to the supermarket. That really shocked me. - Teacher 

Artists will design a programme of early years provision enabling under-fives to take part with others in a safe environment. Creative play and movement will stimulate turn-taking, being kind and listening; encouraging independent choice and decision-making. Music and singing will focus on language and communication. Repetition, structure and familiarity will be used so that all children can express themselves and build self-esteem. Drama will bring stories to life and invite children to create their own alternative endings. Children will be supported to develop the skills to thrive, enabling them to catch up and be school ready.

Training for artists and early years practitioners, annual conferences, celebration events, performances at Cast and exhibitions at The Point will enhance the project and strengthen local knowledge and opportunities for families. The consortium will also work with the National Literacy Trust and Sheffield Hallam University throughout, in order to build robust evidence to share with others.   

The consortium is looking for people who are interested in joining the Consultation Hub, informing the direction of the project. Doncaster parents, early years practitioners, teachers, family hub staff and childminders are invited to get involved. Please contact Sarah Eastaff for further information – 01302 493844 or

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