Cultural Learning Alliance

When you live with degradation depleting your resources, the magical artistic experience becomes a source of hope; a vision beyond the despair, an indication of how bad could be transformed into better

Camila Batmangelidjh
Founder and Director, Kids Company

Practice

Off the Wall

Off the Wall was a project for 25 Year 10 and 11 students following the Alternative Curriculum in Bognor Community College’s Focus Unit.

These are students who find it difficult to thrive in the mainstream National Curriculum and who need to find other ways to re-engage with learning.

"The day waz gr8. Fletch [Mr Fletcher, head of Focus Unit] waz a legand it was definitely worth the time and effort people put in. it will be a gr8 thing to remember our m8s by an 1 gr8 teacher who is Fletch." A student who took part

Off the Wall was conceived by comedian Gerry Maguire Thompson and digital artist Malcolm Buchanan Dick, in discussion with the head of the Focus Unit and West Sussex County Council’s Arts Service (which also helped to fund the project). Its objectives were:

  • to put on a programme of live and recorded performance and digital art, for parents, carers and the community, as part of a one-day event at the College, called Stop the World;
  • to raise the profile of the Focus Unit within the College; and
  • to increase students’ confidence and self-esteem.

The students took part in two 90-minute comedy workshops per week, for 11 weeks, filmed themselves in performance and prepared for the Stop the World Day. With the support of Malcolm Buchanan Dick they made five digital art works (videos, projections and stop-frame animations) to be installed in different locations around the College. They also made posters and noticeboards of still images, all inspired by the work they had done in the comedy workshops. On Stop the World Day, students from the Focus Unit  set up a temporary performance space and studio where they helped other students from the College to make their own pop videos complete with projections, costumes and props, shadow plays and digital designs for projection. Staff ended the session by interviewing participants on camera.

"The day was fun and enjoyable and I'm glad I did it even if I did look stupid. It was worth it and I have to thank the team that put it all together and thanks for letting me do it". A student who took part

An independent evaluation of the project concluded that the performance day had been a success, with many of the students and staff commenting positively on the ‘buzz’ that the event, the five installations, and some 40 posters and noticeboards made by the students had created. During the term in which this project took place, eight of the participants had fewer unauthorised absences, and two had more. Twelve of the participants were more punctual than usual, while seven were less so. Fourteen had fewer reports triggered by negative behaviour, while five had more.

"The hands-on approach by all staff contributed significantly to the success of the sessions observed. The sessions were engaging and productive. One practitioner cited the participants’ 'sparks of genius and wonderful performances on camera'" Chris Moore, Evaluator

The project visibly increased students’ confidence and raised the profile of the Focus Unit and the students who use it. It also increased the skills and confidence of staff in using digital technology as part of their teaching. The only disappointment was that the Stop the World Day did not involve families and the wider community in the way that originally been planned.

"I thought the project was excellent. It was ambitious and managed to affect a great number of people within the school … these were students who rarely buy in to school work actually leading sessions … the school and I will always welcome projects of this nature. They add a very positive dynamic to students’ experience of education and school." Deputy Head, Bognor Regis Community College

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Bare Toed Dance Company's 'Bare Toed in the Garden' show at Dance City
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