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Sussex puts ‘The Girls’ on film to help schools understand disaffection

The Girls: A new play exploring why young people disengage from school will form the basis of an education resource created by Sussex psychologists, education experts and media and film students.

A new play exploring why young people disengage from school will form the basis of an education resource created by University of Sussex psychologists, education experts and media and film students.

The Girls, which is being performed at the Brighton Dome Studio Theatre on 9 December, is based on the true stories of and acted by young people who attended a pupil referral unit in London after being permanently excluded from schools.

The production, funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, together with the University of Sussex’s Researcher-Led Initiative, involved BAFTA award-winning artistic director Ray Harrison Graham, of The Project theatre company, who trained the non-professional actors in the skills of performance and self-expression.

After a three-week run in London, various scenes from the play, which focuses on the life stories of four young people in the waiting room of a counselling service, have been filmed by Sussex media and film students for a resource pack that will be used in schools next year. 

The initiative is also funding Sussex doctoral student Fidelma Hanrahan, who is carrying out research to better understand the development of disaffection in young people and how theatre and schools can re-engage them.  She says:  “Through interviews and surveys, my work is focused on understanding the psychological issues that lead young people to become disaffected with school.

“It now also includes the development of an education resource pack for secondary schools using scenes from ‘The Girls’ as a basis for discussion. The pack focuses on pertinent issues such as the perceived importance of peer reputation, and conflict with authority figures. The resource will provide an opportunity for staff and pupils to reflect and grow in awareness of the source of their own behaviours, emotions, and attitudes.”

Research supervisor Professor Robin Banerjee says: “We have already seen the benefits of the theatre work. Among those young people who took part, one has already gained a place at a theatre school, and others have expanded their personal and career opportunities.”

As well as the education resource, which  will involve a collaboration with Camden Borough Educational Psychology Service, the University will host a panel discussion in 2013 with researchers, policymakers and practitioners.

Notes for editors 

Various departments at the University have been involved in the production of The Girls.  The Attenborough Centre Creativity Zone hosted performance workshops on campus and loaned projection equipment for the London production. The School of Media, Film and Music provided additional funding to recruit a professional film maker.  Further funding for the workshops came from the School of English, The School of Education and Social Work and the Widening Participation team.


By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 30 November 2012

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