The problem

Bradford is Europe’s youngest City with 25,000 children aged from 0-5 years old. This is particularly the case in the area of speech, language and communication–skills are too often not prioritised in schools and nurseries.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds hear 30 million fewer words than their wealthier peers by the time they enter school.

A recent study from the National Literacy Trust and Experian found that Bradford is at high risk of literacy issues. Bradford East is ranked 36 out of 533 constituencies in England for literacy vulnerability, where one is the most in need of literacy including oracy.

Early and effective intervention at this age for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and for those with Special Needs has a profound, positive impact on their future health, happiness, employability and feelings of social inclusion.

The solution

Research from the Department of Education, the Education Foundation and Public Health England shows that early intervention to support the development of language, literacy and communication skills for children under five has a profound impact on achievement in primary and secondary age phases.

This is particularly the case for disadvantaged learners.

The 50 Things to do Before You’re Five campaign has been designed to promote [oracy] and communication skills through getting parents and children talking and doing things together. It is backed up with training from brilliant early years professionals who also lead a change in culture around oracy practice in [early years].

The campaign is based on the simple notion that access to life-changing, fun, low-cost or no-cost experiences with your family is a great way to support and develop young children’s oracy skills and confidence, so that they enter primary school much more ready to learn.

Bradford East is ranked 36 out of 533 constituencies in England for literacy vulnerability

Work in action

The ’50 Things’ were chosen following extensive community consultation with specialist practitioners to cove the age and ability spectrum.

They include Oracy Resource Cards and Oracy App, and Video-based Oracy Training Materials to improve professional practice.

Oracy champions were recruited and trained:

Teachers, leading a change in school oracy practice across the District.
Parents, acting as advocates for ‘talking families’ taking the message out to their peers.
Professions, championing oracy in the private, voluntary, independent day-care and healthcare sectors.

The Big Changers

Christian Bunting – Director of Bradford Birth to 19

Christian Bunting is the Director of Bradford Birth to 19. After working in Leadership positions in Secondary Schools in London & Bradford, Christian moved to work in initial teacher training. Christian has been Teaching School Director for the last five years. He sits on the Bradford Opportunity Area Partnership Board and says the goal of positive social mobility through school improvement is at the heart of what drives him forward in his role.


We’re proud to have backed Voice Bradford, formerly one of Voice 21’s ora-cities, to do a campaign to engage parents and practitioners to work together in supporting children’s oracy and speaking skills. This campaign became the highly successful parental engagement app, 50 Things To Do Before You’re Five. Since being funded by Big Change, they have seen:

  • Over 50% of children making more than their expected levels of progress
  • Over 70% of schools reporting significant improvements in parents’ engagement with school and their child’s learning 
  • 60% of schools reporting that 50 Things has significantly improved parents’ knowledge of the value of shared activities 

50 Things To Do Before You’re Five has also become a national program working with over 17 Local Authorities across the country.

While the data speaks for itself, parents and schools have confirmed the transformative impact of Voice Bradford’s work: 

Amanda, a parent, told the Voice Bradford team:

 “Be there for them, do it two to three times with them. Just be there and have that presence.” They all agree that to really shift things you have to stay with an area and have to make it something that belongs.

Amanda says many parents love to do the activities in groups, so she takes up to eleven families out to the woods on a weekend where they can do 4 or 5 activities in one day. What they would love to see though is parents viewing 50 Things as something they can do on the walk home from nursery with their children rather than just activities for weekends and school holidays.

Amanda has gone ahead and bought her granddaughter a full set of waterproofs for the opportunity, but she understands the reluctance of busy parents due to worry about wet children!

One school said:

“Our 50 Things team has also developed strong links with the Library services through the city-wide Year of Reading initiative. 50 Things is an integral part of story time and rhyme time sessions run through the libraries and will be promoted further through the new Story Buses. These buses are designed specifically for Under-5’s and will visit communities across the city.”