The Belgrade Theatre is preparing to tour to over 20 local Primary Schools across Coventry and Warwickshire with its Theatre-in-Education show, Big School – Room to Grow, which is aiming to reach over 1,500 Year 6 pupils making the transition to Secondary School.
This original piece combines live theatre and participatory activities to explore children’s feelings about the move to secondary school and equip them with useful strategies for dealing with issues of transition.
Big School has been devised by the Community & Education Company at the Belgrade, to specifically engage pupils through the broader theme of change, exploring both the move from primary to secondary school and the child’s journey towards adulthood.
The show was originally written and directed by the Belgrade’s Associate Director, Justine Themen, and is this year being remounted by Education Officer Claire Procter, a veteran Theatre-in-Education practitioner. It will be performed by Leon Phillips and Kim Hackleman who have both have extensive experience in working with young people through drama.
Room to Grow tells the story of best friends Mo and Ash. With Mo about to make the move to big school, the pair play out their fears surrounding making new friends, facing bullies and navigating the corridors of secondary school, in the safety of their secret den. Their friendship is tested as they also deal with changes to their family lives, with Mo’s father working abroad and Ash worried about the arrival of a new baby.
Claire Procter said, “Theatre in Education is a powerful and collaborative tool for learning. It engages pupils in meaningful interactions through drama, which are designed to give voice to their feelings and experiences. Big School provides children on the threshold of moving to secondary school with the opportunity to explore some of the challenges of change and empowers them to be active in seeking ways to overcome these challenges.”
Originally delivered in partnership with the local education authority, the Big School programme has been touring local primary schools in Coventry since 1998, and last year played to 1,869 school children across the region. This year’s Big School is supported by The 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust.
The theme of ‘responsibility’ is one that has run throughout the Belgrade’s Theatre-in-Education programme over many years, beginning in September 1965, when the original company toured an infant-level piece called The Balloon Man and the Runaway Balloons, a primary-level piece called The Secret of the Stone and a secondary-level piece called The High Girders.
Big School continues the Belgrade Theatre’s legacy as a pioneer of Theatre-in-Education during the 1960s. The Theatre-in-Education movement spread to theatres across the UK and then to broader contexts across the globe, inspiring a wide range of participatory theatre with children and young people.
2015 marked 50 years since the Belgrade’s Theatre-in-Education Company was established which was celebrated through a year-long programme of events called Inspiring Curiosity. This included two Festivals of Theatre created by and for young people, as well as a two day conference exploring the relationship between theatre and learning.
As a registered charity, the Belgrade Theatre relies on the support of audiences, funders, members, corporate partners and donors to continue projects like Big School and its work within the community. To make a donation, visit www.belgrade.co.uk/donate.