1. Young Theatre Makers
A ‘school refuser’ at St Saviour’s Primary School started attending school again. As part of our Young Theatre Makers project, we worked with a Year 3 and a Year 5 class at St Saviour’s. Before our first session with the Year 5 class, we were informed that in attendance would be a pupil who had been refusing to come to school. The class teacher had persuaded the pupil to come in by telling her about our visit.
This shy, introverted and very insecure pupil found her voice in our drama sessions. By playing other characters she was able to share her worries and fears - which gave her teachers and classmates more understanding of her internal struggles. For example, during an exercise about overcoming obstacles, the pupils worked in pairs. One person was to be the protagonist of our book - filled with self doubt - and the other person, their reflection. The reflection’s role was to fill their partner with praise and support - externalising the voice inside us that helps us overcome obstacles.
When the school refuser and her partner performed, the school refuser was in-role as the protagonist and shared her feelings of inadequacy and fear of being seen as different. Her partner, as the mirror, then reassured her and started to list everything that was great about her and how much strength she had inside her. The class teacher and the TAs were holding back tears as they had never heard the school refuser speak so honestly about her feelings. It was an important moment for that pupil. The class teachers described it as a cathartic release for her. She attended our sessions every week, and then also enrolled on the intensive course - much to the delight of her family. The drama activities allowed her confidence to develop, she made friends and, as of February 2018, has started attending school more regularly.
“I started to think that because I was good in these Drama classes, I might be good in my other lessons too.”
— Windrush Project participant
2. Windrush Project: The Arrival
A disruptive pupil is now able to focus in lessons. A Year 5 pupil at St Jude’s C of E Primary School was in danger of being put ‘on report’ because of his disruptive and aggressive behaviour in class. The pupil would refuse to follow the instructions of his teachers and would often be ejected from the classroom and sent to sit in a corner table in another classroom.
It became clear to ABC practitioners that the pupil found it difficult to be still - he would get restless and bored and would then act out to entertain himself. His restless energy had also started to affect his classmates. Our sessions were filled with fun, unusual activities which required physical effort and abstract thinking. The structure of the sessions allowed him and his classmates to expend a lot of energy at the start and gradually become more focused as the session continued.
The disruptive pupil benefitted immensely from this format as it allowed him, and the rest of the class, to gradually come to a place of focus. Then instead of sitting at a desk and getting bored, the focus was used to create something imaginative which would then be shared with classmates and discussed. The pupil had a big imagination and, when focused, contributed great ideas to his group.
During feedback, he beamed whenever his classmates gave his group praise and he began to take pride on his work. His class teachers said that after our first two sessions, he started to make more of an effort to focus in his other classes too. They reported a vast improvement in his behaviour and, as a result, the overall behaviour of the class.
3. Creative Learning
Feedback from schools from our projects was that the structure of using performing arts activities in-school as a stimulus to engage children with subject matter was extremely effective:
“Helped children with their listening skills and ability to work together in groups”
— Class teacher, Henry Fawcett Primary School
“Inspired children. Allowed children to express themselves, explore the story, internalise the story, empathise with the characters, learn new drama techniques”
— Class teacher, St Saviour’s C of E Primary School
“Making links from the book to the drama. Making them think about characters and feelings”
— Class teacher, Archbishop Sumner School
“Very clear progress within the lessons. Group work helped to build confidence in kids. Range of activities, building on previous lessons”
— Class teacher, Sudbourne Primary School