Storytelling in the Evelina Hospital School

12 September 2018

Our young patients are being taught by a professional storyteller and actor at Evelina Hospital School, thanks to your donations.

Phil McDermott, professional storyteller and actor, at the school
Phil McDermott, professional storyteller and actor, at the school

The special oracy and storytelling lessons encourage the children to delve into their imaginations and explore with their voices, helping them to improve literacy skills and build confidence.

Support in challenging circumstances

The Evelina Hospital School caters to all children of all abilities. Pupils can be long-term patients at the hospital or children who are at Evelina London for a day procedure, and are either taught in the school rooms or at bedside if they’re not well enough to leave the ward.

The oracy and storytelling lessons work the same way. Phil McDermott, professional storyteller and actor, comes in regularly to the school. He works in the classrooms in the morning teaching creative writing to the children, and follows this in the afternoon by running a group oracy workshop in the atrium. He also visits children at the bedside to teach, so those who are too unwell or not mobile enough to leave the ward don’t miss out.

School staff have found storytelling to be useful in supporting children in areas that become challenging for them in the hospital environment.

‘The reading and writing component of language can be hampered by circumstances in hospital,’ explains Fiona Dyson, teacher at the Evelina Hospital School. ‘For example, on the dialysis unit some of the children are unable to write because they’re hooked up to their machines through their hands. Or a child may be really tired, so even reading can be quite physically exhausting. Maybe they’re recovering from surgery, so actually those gentle storytelling sessions are just perfect.’

A springboard into their own world!

Whilst the children at Evelina London are there for physical treatment and healing, Phil says it’s important for them to exercise the imagination muscle too.

‘Reverie is very important to human beings and if you’re ill your reverie is invaded by illness,’ he says. ‘When you tell an oral story to a child, it gives real impulse to the imagination and it equips them with colour and smell. But also it’s a springboard into travels in their own world and imagination. And once you can use imagination, you can imagine feeling better.’

11-year-old Milla is a patient who regularly enjoys the sessions with Phil.

‘You get to use lots of creative words and you can really express yourself,’ she says. ‘It makes you feel excited. It also really calms me down. I go into my own little world and am just thinking about what to write next.’

Confidence and escapism in collaboration

Group oracy and role play sessions allow pupils to interact with each other in ways that are not so easy on the ward. Speaking and listening to each other is encouraged, helping them to develop new skills and find their voices. Children can return to the comfort and normalcy of being pupils as they would be outside of hospital, and can put aside possible worries connected to being a patient.

‘It’s great to see the confidence that the children have to contribute with people that they may not know very well,’ says Fiona. ‘It’s important for their self-esteem at a time when a lot of things are out of control in their lives.’

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