Transform was designed with backing from and through collaboration with Determined to Succeed, Scottish Power Learning, local authorities and schools, as a creative and immersive means of connecting with the new curriculum.
Bringing together schools and communities with theatre professionals, the partnerships produced high impact theatre events that used the local environment as a backdrop to tell compelling stories. The development process as well as the final theatre events, made links across the curriculum and developed skills in all participants.
The National Theatre of Scotland placed a creative team into each of the schools and their communities, and together they created the vision and programme for their own Transform project. Working through a collaborative process with a wide range of partners and stakeholders, high quality theatre events were developed and performed. Each Transform had a dedicated budget with support from the National Theatre in the form of production, marketing and management resources. Each project was managed by a Steering Group comprising representatives from the school (usually the Head Teacher), the local authority and voluntary arts organisations in the local area.
On average, each Transform delivered approximately 230 two-hour workshop sessions (there were 2,292 workshops in total). The total audience at Transform performances was 5,999. There were 39 performances across the ten local authority areas.
Over the course of 2 years, TRANSFORM performances involved:
- – 935 individual pupils
- – 201 community members
This underestimates the extent of pupil, teacher and community involvement as many more were involved in the processes that lead to the performances.
Transform projects took place in Aberdeen, Caithness, Dumfries, East Ayrshire, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Moray and Orkney.
Transform had four main objectives:
- – artistic: to create the best possible theatre experience for audience and participants
- – learning: to introduce theatre and creative industry practice as enterprise learning tool in schools and communities
- – partnership: to create effective partnerships across the public and private sectors
- – legacy: to ensure longer term benefits for partners and participants
Transform was developed to contribute to and inform the future implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, and to assist in developing a sense of community pride. The fact that the Transform projects were about theatre and not simply drama was significant. Performing on stage was not the only way in which pupils could get involved. The projects addressed every stage in the process of producing a work of theatre from writing, staging and production, costume and production design, marketing and promotion. Through these activities, Transform projects aimed to develop a range of skills in participants.
The process, (working with professional creative teams) sought to achieve the following for young people:
- – the development of a range of skills for learning, life and work
- – an awareness of and participation in a creative and artistic process
- – improved relationships – with peers, school, community
- – increased confidence in planning and presenting their thoughts, opinions and the results of their efforts
Transform was evaluated by Ekos Ltd. and in seeking to provide an account of the impacts, Ekos focussed their research on the four main participant groups:
- – pupils
- – teachers
- – schools
- – communities
Impacts on Pupils:
The projects were universally reported to have had a positive impact on the pupils:
- – self confidence
- – belief in their own abilities
- – self esteem
- – learning in that they developed new skills
- – interest in the arts and creative activity
- – attitudes towards learning
The range of choices offered engaged pupils who might not otherwise take part in drama activities and broadened their understanding of theatre and the professional opportunities within the industry.
“By the time the performance came I was confident enough to operate a pretty scary sound desk. I’ve now thought about a whole new range of careers because of Transform.” (pupil)
All teachers questioned reported that the year groups that had participated had become more cohesive, many citing specific instances in which barriers between groups of pupils had been broken down by the shared experience of working together on the production. This translated into more productive work in the classroom thereafter.
“Before the project we all had little groups which we were always in but by the end we had become close friends. I worked with people I wouldn’t have before.” (pupil)
The attitudinal impacts are perhaps the most significant. Teachers reported that following the Transform experience pupils were more settled and more positive about school, and that they appeared more motivated to learn. Many teachers also reported that pupils had developed a greater sense of responsibility for their own learning and in many case the pupils were required to take on extra work to catch up on lost classroom time which they did willingly.
These impacts were often most visible evident amongst pupils typically regarded as either having behavioural issues of lacking in confidence. Many teachers described the impacts on these pupils in transformational terms, such as:
- – pupils working on the project in their own time
- – unexpectedly choosing to stay on at school
- – making new or unexpected subject choices as a result of Transform
In terms of impact on attainment, at the time of the Ekos evaluation, it was considered by most schools to be too early to say. However, expectations were broadly positive.
In one school, the year group that participated in Transform had achieved the highest aggregate Year 4 results for some years, and none of the Transform participants had performed worse than expected, with many exceeding expectations. This was attributed to Transform.
Some teachers were concerned that the loss of class time may affect exam results. In one case a teacher reported a drop in attainment in prelim exams attributing this to time lost to Transform. Interestingly, the teachers expressing this concern talked very positively about personal, behavioural and learning benefits of the Transform process, suggesting the link between these and attainment in exams is not well established.
Impacts on teachers
Transform was met with a full spectrum of different attitudes ranging from complete commitment and enthusiasm to outright scepticism and even hostility. There was however consistent feedback that many of those that were initially sceptical about the value of Transform, were at least partly converted by the end of the process, particularly when they observed the quality of the end performances and the impacts on pupils.
Impacts on teachers can be summarised as follows:
- – raised awareness of the ways that learning can take place in differenent contexts
- – raised profile and status of arts activities as a valuable learning context
- – some individual learning benefits and skills development through involvement
- – more encouraged to take risks
- – developed trust in other professionals, even when there were initial doubts
- – level of input from staff exceeded initial expectations
- – some teachers would like to have been more involved in the projects
- – 2 head teachers reported that the school as a whole might have benefited with wider staff involvement
- – significant demand on teaching staff with some head teachers having to devote time and energy keeping teaching staff on board
“The experience was also transforming for the school staff. Watching the pupils develop throughout the rehearsal period was, personally and professionally, inspirational.” (Deputy Head Teacher)
CHALLENGES and LEARNING
Working within curriculum time:
- – managing school timetables and space requirements
- – accommodating a flexible, creative process within highly structured school environments
- – ensuring effective communications between creative teams, school staff and other partners
The creative process at the heart of the Transform model is inherently risky – the creative teams do not arrive with an idea in place. While many schools recognised the need to take risks to advance teaching practice, risk is not always as readily accommodated in educational contexts as it is in the arts. Again, it is important that all sides recognise the risks and understand how they can be managed. The successful track record of Transform should help in this respect.
Transform was a well resourced programme, both in financial terms and in relation to the more hidden costs of staff time, school resources and the support provided by the National Theatre of Scotland. This was a significant factor in its success and in its ability to deliver large scale projects that engaged entire school years (a unique benefit of the model). It does, however, limit the potential for replication without significant input of resources.
The evaluation identified a number of characteristics or features of the Transform model that appear to have been particularly important in its success. These are:
- – the importance of artistic ambition and leadership, placing artistic quality centre stage in the process
- – the crucial role of head teachers in committing schools and teachers to the projects
- – the role of local authority partners in facilitating access to the wider community
- – the scale and ambition of the projects
- – the fact that the projects were about theatre production and not just drama
- – working with pupils in curriculum time, reinforcing the link with school and mainstream learning
- – the participant centred process helped build participant engagement and sense of achievement
- – schools applied to the National Theatre of Scotland ensuring schools’ commitment
- – nature and quality of interpersonal relationships between the creative teams and participants
- – the prestige associated with being involved in a National Theatre of Scotland production
- – National Theatre of Scotland
- – 10 local authorities and 16 schools
- – Determined to Succeed
- – Scottish Power Learning
Levels and Stages:
- – Third and fourth levels
- – Senior phase
- – S1 – S6
- – Determined to Succeed
- – Scottish Power Learning
- – National Theatre of Scotland
- – Local authority contribution
For more information contact:
Simon Sharkey, Associate Director (Education) on 0141 227 9006 or email email@example.com