The Young People’s Academy, Hillingdon

Unlock Drama recently completed our second violence reduction project with young people in a Pupil Referral Unit, working with a group of year 11 pupils from The Young People’s Academy. Facilitators Safura, Julia and student placement facilitator Carys worked with the young people from Monday-Thursday to consider the triggers and impacts of violence and how changes in behaviour might reduce violence, all through drama. We did not do a final performance with this group, as working towards this would not have been beneficial to their learning experience. However, we still had a great and productive week exploring the topic in a playful way. 

The week was an excellent adventure for Unlock Drama as we worked to design a project that best engaged the young people in the consequential thinking process. Facilitators decided the best way to do this would be to gamify the experience as much as possible. This gamification meant first building the scenarios with the participants in a “random-generator”-style, getting them to suggest locations, characters, types of violence and triggers for violence to get the basis for the scenes. Then, once the scenes had been acted out, the facilitators framed the characters as video game characters and provided the participants with two “on-screen” options for the character, e.g. to argue or let it go, explaining that the aim of the game was to reduce the violence in the scene. The participants really enjoyed this, particularly pretending to be other characters in the video games whilst instructing the facilitator, playing the main character, on what to do next. While looking at the very serious topic of violence reduction, it helped immensely to approach the subject in a playful way to engage the young people.

The group also worked very well when given prompt cards to improvise. This meant, for most participants, improvising conversations based on the first line shown on a card, e.g. “I’m sorry I ate it”. When paired as one staff member to one young person as a ratio for this, most young people engaged in this type of exercise and enjoyed the back and forth nature of the conversations. Additionally, for one participant who struggled to engage, giving them individual words on prompt cards around the topic of violence and asking them to rap about each one engaged them in consideration of violence reduction. Unlock Drama always strive to support individual learning needs to help participant engagement. 

Feedback from staff and participants includes: 

  • “Yes, I would [recommend this to other schools] because I feel like it can get a lot of children out of their shell. Even me, I wish I’d had something like this in school. It gives them the chance to be themselves and explore their personalities a bit more.” - Teacher
  • “They had issues before, they’ve actually worked together brilliantly.” - Teacher
  • “The fact that they come back, commitment. You can normally get them to do something one time. I haven’t even had to ask some to come back. Less disruptive behaviour around the school because they’re here.” - Teacher
  • [My favourite moment from the project was…] “The scenes on the final day” - Participant
  • “Fun and enjoyable.” - Participant

Overall, Unlock Drama had a great week at The Young People’s Academy and would love to return soon.