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EDITIONS
Friday, 31 January, 2003, 10:46 GMT
Film roles boost boys' behaviour
A scene from the film, Welcome Home Dad
A moment of drama in the film, Welcome Home Dad

It was an unlikely film cast that was called to a classroom a year ago - six 14 year olds "extremely close" to being thrown out of their school, according to their teachers.

Today, however, they are all still attending classes and some are even preparing to sit academic exams thanks to a remarkable experiment that has transformed their outlook.

Last summer the teenagers, working one day a week during the summer term, wrote and acted in a moving, 50-minute film about a family in turmoil.

The just-finished film, Welcome Home Dad, was written almost entirely by the boys and centres on the experiences of a family with a violent father.

It looks at the relationships he has with his wife and three children and how they resolve their many problems.

Life skills

Catherine Lloyd, manager of inclusion at Chesham Park Community College, Buckinghamshire, explained that the film had helped the boys mature and grow emotionally, by showing them how to work together.

In return for being allowed to take part in the project, the boys had to stick at their studies and improve their often poor attendance records.

They found it difficult at first and they lacked almost every skill

School inclusion manager, Catherine Lloyd
She said it had taught them vital life skills such as perseverance and imbibed them with much needed confidence about their abilities.

It showed them that when they put their minds to it they could produce a polished and gritty product.

"We found it has been quite a tough process," she said.

"They found it difficult at first and they lacked almost every skill, including being able to go in front of the camera.

"They lacked the skills of working together and of doing things more than once to get it right.

"They had such a negative image of themselves that they could not think they would do something right.

"And for the first couple of weeks there was a lot of 'effing and blinding'.

Tough group

Des Webb, managing director of Mirror Circus, which produced the film following sponsorship from the Arts Council and Gulbenkian Foundation, agreed that the teenagers had been a challenge.

He said: "The first couple of weeks were a bit nightmarish. These were the hardest group we have ever worked with."

Soon, however, the benefits of learning new skills and working as a team began to produce some encouraging results and the boys gained the respect of the Mirror Circus team.

"During the 12 weeks we worked on the film with the kids, we built up a relationship with them. This is a great product and it could inspire other special needs students.

"It shows they can do anything. The kids were great," said Mr Webb.

Names of children mentioned in this article have been changed to protect their identities

Gary, previously a poor attender, said he had been so inspired by his work with the film that he made a special effort to improve.

"I didn't want to let the group down so I turned up every time."

He said that without the film, he and the others could have quit their studies.

"I don't think most of us would be in school now if the staff or film company had given up on us.

"I'd encourage others to do it. It helps you get on with other people and work as a group."

'Serious stuff'

Ali said they had confounded expectations by producing a serious, well-considered piece of work.

"I thought we'd do a film with loads of action and violence and stuff, but it has turned out a boffin film.

"But that's good isn't it? I mean it is serious stuff.

"It has made me think about drugs and that. I mean I know they're bad, but this made you think what they can do to a family."

They are still struggling, but they are still in education and some are doing their GCSEs and they could still make it

Mrs Lloyd said four of the boys were still in schools full time, following GCSE courses.

During the project another two were given statements of special educational needs, for behavioural and emotional problems.

She said that although the film had not made the students into model pupils, it had helped keep them interested in their school work.

"We are not saying it has been a road to Damascus-type experience. They are still by no means brilliant at school as this came very late in their school career.

"They are still struggling, but they are still in education and some are doing their GCSEs and they could still make it."

See also:

16 Nov 02 | Education
29 Nov 02 | Education
07 Jan 03 | Education
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