Rethinking #SMSC in Primary Schools through Participatory Theatre

Rethinking #SMSC in Primary Schools through Participatory Theatre

Theatre Company Blah Blah Blah are inviting Leeds primary schools to get involved in an exciting research project, exploring how our unique brand of participatory theatre can help schools meet their SMSC requirements. Artistic Director Deborah Pakkar Hull explains what it’s all about:

How did the idea for this research project first come about Deborah?

We know from ongoing conversations with primary teachers that SMSC learning is a complex area. Teachers recognise its importance and potential, but often struggle to provide it to their satisfaction within the requirements of the Ofsted inspection framework.

At the same time, we’ve also identified that schools need a wider range of options than the single-class touring production that’s typical of a ‘theatre in education’ company. Teachers really value the benefits of bringing in a live performance, but schools are finding it increasingly difficult to find the budget or space in the timetable for these kind of activities.

We realised that this problem was actually an opportunity. We already know that the Blahs’ participatory approach to theatre and exploring stories can help with exactly the kind of social and emotional learning which key to SMSC. Our research project will explore and test how working with the Blahs can help schools to achieve their SMSC objectives – and we’re looking for Leeds primary schools to get involved.

It sounds fascinating – what are you actually looking for schools to do?

We’re looking for up to eight Leeds primary schools to take part in our research cohort: this will involve a small regular commitment of time over several months from a designated teacher from each school. We want to bring together a group of teachers, to identify the key challenges of delivering SMSC in their school/ class, and establish a shared aim for collective change. The project will explore how we can use the Blahs’ new touring theatre production, The Vultures’ Song, along with interactive digital resources, to best meet schools’ SMSC needs.

The schools will be involved between January – July 2018, working together to establish their SMSC needs. They’ll develop an evaluation method and framework, receive training and test out the interactive digital resources, and explore how The Vultures’ Song script can be used in the classroom with coaching and CPD support.

Tell us more about The Vultures’ Song – what’s the production about?

It’s a project that the Blahs have been developing for quite some time. We’ve worked with Yellowcat Theatre in Delhi to research stories of the Partition of India in 1947, and script writer Mike Kenny, who has a long history of engaging, thought-provoking childrens’ theatre.

The story told by The Vultures’ Song revisits the events of that time, exploring and developing narratives from the perspective of young people. It will give young audiences a real insight into how children were affected by – and coped with – the trauma of displacement and conflict caused by Partition 70 years ago. It’s a story that’s still relevant today – it could just as easily be set in Eritrea or Syria – and will give children and teachers lots of material to engage with.

You mentioned digital resources for schools – tell us more about what’s on offer?

We’ll be working with C&T, a technology provider who specialise in bringing together creativity, drama and digital resources. They’ll be helping us to create a bespoke version of Prospero – an exciting application which enables the building of online interactive dramas. We’re thrilled to have C&T on board for this project, helping to bring our brand of participatory theatre into the online arena. We’ve always offered follow-up resources with our touring theatre productions but Prospero will move this onto the next level, helping teachers maximise the learning opportunities for longer.

So how will schools benefit from getting involved?

We want schools and teachers to get as much out of this project as possible, and to shape the research to their own needs. As well as giving pupils a thought-provoking piece of live theatre, it’s also a chance for teachers to develop enhanced skills, resources and confidence to deliver SMSC themes to their full potential. Working with resources like The Vultures’ Song and the Prospero application will increase teachers’ knowledge and confidence in using participatory theatre as a teaching tool, and their understanding of arts-based learning.

If schools or teachers are interested in taking part, what should they do?

Get in touch! We’ll be sending out invitations to get involved to local schools over the autumn/winter period with a view to starting work with the research cohort in January 2018. If you’re interested in finding out more, we’d love to hear from you. You can email or call the Blahs office on 0113 426 1394.