Celebration time for DMU's youngest graduates

A graduation ceremony with a difference saw scores of babies and toddlers collect certificates for taking part in De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)’s Talent 25 programme.

Talent 25, run in partnership with Arts Council England, aims to study what difference regular exposure to arts, crafts, music and creative activities can make to a child’s overall development including educational outcomes, following children over a period of 25 years.

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Families and parents whose youngsters were part of the latest cohort were invited to DMU for a celebration event run like a “mini graduation”, presided over by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Greene.

Professor Bertha Ochieng, Principal Investigator for Talent 25, said: “It has been inspiring to see the growth and development of the babies involved in Talent 25 and this mini graduation was a wonderful celebration of their progress.

“The positive feed back from families speaks volumes about the transformative nature of this programme, with parents highlighting the development of confidence, social skills and new friendships. We look forward to seeing them again regularly as we track their journeys over the next 25 years.”

The team works with babies from the ages of three months and their families, providing a series of free arts and creative activities led by professional artists and run in different parts of Leicester. Every session has different activities and is co-created with participants.

After taking part in the initial six-month programme of sessions, the research team keeps in touch with families, tracking their progress.

Families at the ceremony told how much their children had enjoyed it. Jess Watson and her daughter River Rose, who is six months, took part in Talent 25 sessions held at Beaumont Leys Library. She said: “She did enjoy it. There was something different every time and from arts and crafts to sensory activities. I think it was really good for me as a mum too, the social side was almost just as important.”

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Jennie Todd took her son Alex Todd-Wright (12 months old) to sessions at Braunstone Family Centre. “It was so creative, there have been so much they can do and some of the creative activities he would never had done before. He has his first experience in messy play which we don’t do at home and I have noticed that he has become more confident.”

“I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for my son,” said Emma Fairall whose six-month-old son Alex John Fairall went to Beaumont Leys sessions. “He’s loved the sensory movements, the lights and Talent 25 has just been fantastic experience because we all get photos after every session, so we can make a collage. You get to meet other mums and my son has made friends with children his age. I also wanted to take part because it is a DMU project, and my dad worked at DMU for years and I wanted to keep that link with him.”

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Zinneerah Hafejee who takes her daughter Sadiyah to Talent 25, said: “She’s loved it. We got gifted a ball pit when I first put it out at home she wasn’t too sure and didn’t use it. But when we went to a session at Talent 25, they had a ball pit and she was able to watch other children use it, and she used it herself and you could see her working out that it was a fun thing. Now she’s never out of it at home!”

Anisah Shaikh was there with her 15-month-old son Ubaidullah. She said: “He’s loved it and for me, I have come from London to Leicester and this has been a great way to get to know people and the community – the staff were amazing and the support and activities that we did were well thought out.”

More than 400 children and their families who all live in Leicester participate in the Talent 25 study, and to date the findings from the Talent 25 families, indicate a prevailing belief among parents about the significance of arts, cultural, and creative activities for the development of their children. They perceive these activities as instrumental in contributing to our collective identity, fostering positive outcomes in terms of physical and mental health, as well as social well-being. The consensus among parents/carers is that engagement in arts and cultural pursuits enriches their children's lives in many ways, emphasizing the all-round benefits of such experiences.

Posted on Thursday 1 February 2024

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