Students from a Bradford secondary school received hands on learning about diversity and discrimination last week, as the country’s largest disability theatre company hosted a day of activities.
Year 7 pupils from Belle Vue Boys' School worked with the ‘Mind the Gap Studios’ team based in the historic Lister Mills in Manningham, Bradford.
LEARNING: Pupils from Belle Vue Boys’ school worked with the ‘Mind the Gap Studios’ team as part of their PSHCE class
As part of the school’s Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE) programme, Ms Asma Khan, the Curriculum Leader at Belle Vue Boys', has incorporated a module of learning entitled 'Diversity and Difference'.
The module focus led to the school and ‘Mind the Gap’ collaborating in the workshop 'Real Lives, Real Voices' – an interactive theatre workshop that explores disability harassment, including 'mate crime', 'hate crime' and violence.
The workshop is led by professional actors who suffer from certain disabilities themselves and aims to allow students to engage and experience real life situations where disabled people were victims of hate crime.
Ms Khan explained: “The workshop was fantastic at allowing students to actively empathise and experience hate crimes and its effects.
“It most definitely raised awareness of the discrimination people with a disability may suffer in reality.
“Working with Mind the Gap was an amazing experience for the students as Belle Vue is a community school and feels it is vital to support the sterling work of local organisations such as Mind the Gap.”
Year 7 student, Kamran Serrant, took part in the day long activities and enjoyed the chance to learn about different disabilities. He added: “The workshop made me realise the different types of hate crimes and think about the victims of hate crime. It was helpful and fun.”
A team of seven students at a local secondary school are paving the way for a new style of teaching, and results already show the programme is working.
Belle Vue Boys’ school, on Thorn Lane, launched the Junior Leadership Team (JLT) three years ago and with the school continuing to show improvement year on year, it seems the future is bright for the Bradford establishment.
The JLT was set up to give the student body a voice and are a mirror image of the senior leadership team. They discuss the same issues as their seniors and have regular meetings with the head of each subject to discuss different ways lessons can be improved to benefit the pupils. More than 550 young people attend the school and sixth form, yet it is a team of just seven, made up from pupils in Years 8 to 11, which make up the JLT.
Covering subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science, Music and P.E, plus many more, the team are a self-titled ‘strategic organisation’ whose aim is to, as their slogan says, ‘Expand Excellence’.
Chairman and Year 10 pupil, Hamidur Rahman Chowdhury, explained how he became head of the student body and changes, which have already been made under the current team’s tenure. He said: “It was Mr Wrightson (assistant head teacher) who actually approached all of us to join the JLT and we all jumped at the opportunity.
“Our slogan basically sums up what we are trying to achieve, in that we are expanding excellence from one subject or department to another one. We take good things which may be happening in English and do it in other lessons so we explode all these positives things across the school.
“Each student has been assigned a role for a department, whereby we have a meeting with that subjects head and discuss we can take Hamidur, who is also Subject leader for English, added: “So far we’ve changed our uniforms; they’re completely different from normal ones, as we are the student voice and we feel we need to stand out.
“All the feedback has been really good and there is a positive buzz going around the school because of people wanting to join the JLT.
“We are currently working on a teaching and learning prospectus a booklet to show other schools what the JLT is and what the good things about this school are.”
The team may only make up a small percentage of the school’s population yet there are now plans to hopefully expand the project to involve almost 50 students.
A wider committee could be setup to allow more pupils to get involved with how the school is run and according to head teacher, Mr Colin Willsher, this is something which would only enhance the current programme.
He said: “I have been really impressed with the team and their commitment to it all. How serious they take it is fantastic but most of all there clear sense of what they want to be done differently in the school is very reassuring.
“Gone are the days when this school was run by adults for adults. I think this is now a school which is increasingly not only run for young people but also by them as well with them having their decisive say in the way things are run here.”
Assistant head teacher, Mr Graeme Wrightson, has been at the school for five years and commutes every day from York. He has played an important part in running the JLT for the past three years and spoke of how the group’s progress is reflective of that of the schools.
“Belle Vue has been progressing every year that I have been here,” he explains.
“Validated data from three year average, show that we have gone from 29 per cent attaining A*-C grades in GCSE to 44 per cent.
“Having the student voice is absolutely paramount for us. If we put the students at the heart of everything we do we look at the school from their eyes and see what they experience meaning we can then look to progress in the areas which require improvement.
“Their work is absolutely crucial in the future success for this school.”
He added: “We’ve had other head teachers from other schools visit as part of the Bradford Partnership Review, which is an authority inspection framework.
“Everyone who has come in contact with our JLT have said they would like to do some work with them as well so I do see it even catching on in other schools.”