Farnborough Sixth Form College is a specialist college which concentrates all its resources and expertise on teaching 16 to 19 year old students. The majority come from North East Hampshire and Surrey with most taking GCE A-Level and Vocational A-Level qualifications.
The Citizenship Project
The college has for many years maintained a link with Henry Tyndale School for pupils with severe learning difficulties such as Down’s Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. This has been in the form of a weekly lunch club called ‘Coppers’ whereby Henry Tyndale students come to the college to jointly work with volunteers from Farnborough in a variety of craft related activities. Arising from this, a group of sixth formers wanted to expand on what had taken place so far in order to strengthen the link and provide a more challenging interactive environment. Thus the project based on a dance drama was born which had the following features: An opportunity for students to actively engage with their peers The fostering of fun and friendship through the learning of new skills Raising awareness within the larger College with regard to an often marginalised group of young people. The development of a volunteering culture. Linking various college departments such as Media, English, and Performing Arts. Demonstrating to other schools and the community what can be achieved.
A core group of some 20 sixth formers volunteered for the project despite the pressures of academic study, all with a desire to make a contribution to others. They divided themselves into a management team and a production team. The management team looks after finance, fund raising, publicity, College links, inter school liaison, and bookings. The production team is involved in rehearsals, technical requirements, back stage, music, front of house, and the final performance itself. With considerable nervousness, the teams jointly decided on a dance drama based on Macbeth with the Coppers pupils taking the main roles and the Farnborough students acting as mentors in the form of shadow performers. Initially, the idea was to buy in expertise from “Stopgap”, a dancing with the disabled company. However, this did not materialise, so the students cajoled one of their own Performing Arts friends and an ex-student to take charge of rehearsals. These took place over two terms utilising an extended lunch break. It really was amazing to see a group with a wide range of disabilities develop into a team of actors and dancers, some of whom initially refused to co-operate until the patient efforts of the sixth formers won them round. Whilst this was happening, the management team booked the college theatre, set about raising money from the local community, publicised the event within the college, monitored expenditure, printed tee shirts, and generally acted as a buffer to the various stresses that inevitably occurred.
It says much for the sixth form students that despite a heavy workload they were willing to give up lunch breaks and non-contact time because of their belief and commitment in the project. Holidays and half terms were also used, particularly with regard to the production and technical demands of the performance. There was an obvious desire to be as professional as possible. The college was supportive in offering some timetable release for dress rehearsals with various departments providing technical support, but it was far from easy to obtain the flexibility that would have made the progress of the project easier. This is, perhaps, a sad reflection on the external pressures and time constraints imposed by the dominance of examinations at Post 16. The staff from Coppers played an important role in ferrying their pupils to the college and acting as emotion and physical support when appropriate. Staff at Farnborough acted as facilitators when required, especially in dealing with college administration matters and risk assessment issues.
The long established links with Coppers had been financed in part from the college budget and local fund raising initiatives. The opportunity for expansion had been helped by the acquisition of an external grant, though costs were also to be met from performance charges and an auction of promises. Though the external funding has now come to an end, the project has not, with the college and the community offering support for the future due to the outstanding success of the venture.
‘The dance drama based on Macbeth was one of the most successful and moving community related projects that I have witnessed’
Education Adviser for CSV. The maxim ‘it will be alright on the night’ was truly achieved. The performance lasted an hour with the Coppers pupils involved in a variety of complex dances, and the Farnborough students acting as supporters and guides. Macbeth was played by Tom who has Down’s Syndrome and Lady Macbeth by Naomi who has Cerebral Palsy. The performance was played to a packed auditorium of over two hundred parents, students, and friends who rose at the end to give a justifiable standing ovation. The pleasure on the faces of the Coppers pupils was a joy to see and the pride exhibited by the Farnborough team absolutely merited. The father of Robert who played one of the murderers stated ‘ I’m absolutely amazed and delighted to see my son performing on stage, it’s been an exhilarating adventure for us all’
Evaluation and Accreditation
The involvement of sixth formers in the project is on a voluntary basis and as such there is no formal evaluation process. Reflection and evaluation is generic, evolving naturally and continually through the programme, either after each session or at subsequent planning meetings. The student’s value this freedom from a formal process though are well aware of the necessity to continually appraise what they are aiming to achieve. Perhaps the most significant evaluation arose from the audiences response at the end of the performance.
The students were well aware that the acquisition of some form of accreditation was not going to result from undertaking the project. Their motives were purely altruistic and great credit is due to them for this. This is especially true when considering the ‘spare’ time involved and the heavy pressures that each had with regard to their A-Level commitments. Recognition of their involvement was given through their UCAS applications, CV’s, references and in-house certification.
The key conclusions are that given commitment, constraints can be overcome and such community projects can happen, while management awareness and support make sustainability possible through institution funding. Empathetic staff, meanwhile, play a key role, especially in the role of facilitator rather than teacher.
ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION
1. Look at the QCA
Framework for Post-16
(a) How can the activities in this case study be related to the framework? (b) How could the activities be further developed in relation to the framework? 2. Consider the level of student involvement within this case study. (a) What are the main features of the student involvement? (b) To what extent is this mediated by staff? (c) Are there ways in which the level of student involvement could be developed in order to achieve the goals of citizenship education? 3. Consider the methods through which the activities are evaluated, assessed and / or accredited (the QCA site may be of help - http://www.qca.org.uk/7011_7026.html
). (a) How are evaluation, assessment and accreditation differentiated? (b) In what ways could the evaluation, assessment and accreditation of the activities in the case study be developed to reflect the nature and purposes of citizenship education? 4. What are the possible implications of your responses to 1, 2 and 3 for staff working on Post-16 Citizenship-related activities?