GRETNA: A CREATIVE AND ENTERPRISING COMMUNITY
This project was based in Gretna, a small town struggling with significant conflict between the settled and travelling communities. Community tensions had begun to seep into the local school with pupils from both communities forming closed groups. STEP supported an artist in residence to be based in Gretna Primary School to deliver a series of workshops that would bring both communities together. The workshops were held in an open creative space at the heart of the school.
The project builds on strategies we know have engaged communities in the past and places citizens in more democratic roles. Based on our previous work with GRT communities, we adopt the following strategies:
- We will base initiatives within school communities as GRT communities are known to view their children’s schools as safe places (sometimes within hostile communities). It is worth noting that although participation in education is also in need of improvement – GRT relationships with educational professionals tend to be more positive than with those of other services.
- Children and young people are effective ‘agents of change’ within their communities.
- Capacity building so that GRT take ownership takes time and trust.
- Practical issues such as modes of communication and methods of information exchange need to be informed by communities.
- Programmes must be culturally relevant and sensitive to cultural issues.
- Creativity, multimodality, participative methods and dialogic practices are effective.
- Coproduction from the outset is necessary.
The principals of democratic citizenship and democratic professionalism underpin the projects. A dialogic approach brings together the perceived expert knowledge of service providers with the local knowledge of service users. Each phase of the project begins by drawing on the concept of children and young people as ‘agents of change’. The children and young people are viewed as full citizens with valuable insights and participate in a democratic information exchange with service providers examining barriers and solutions to the challenges facing their lives. They will learn from each other through activities and dialogue, for example asking questions such as, how can we improve our health, how can we get help when we need it (care and welfare), how can we keep ourselves safe from harm (criminal justice/police), and how and what we want to learn (Education). The theme for the project was ‘sharing creativity: working together to explore common ground’. The overarching aim of the Gretna project was to promote community cohesion between the Traveller and non-Traveller communities – both in and out of school. Taking a problem-based approach, the pupils worked together to identify a problem or issue in their community and find solutions. The outputs would provide evidence of the pupils’ democratic and learning processes.
Facilitated by the artist, activities supported pupils to extend their understanding of the theme through multimodal and material forms. Seven P6 and P7 pupils from settled and the Traveller community took part in the workshops – collaborating and coproducing work in response to discussed themes. The work resulted in a range of visual outcomes including mixed media, collage, digital media and installations.
Through the workshops, the children developed a five-step design process which demonstrates the collaborative creative approach to generating ideas and bringing them to fruition in tangible forms:
- Get ideas
- Play with materials
- Work together
- Think about who would like what we’ve made
- Keep going
The children’s artwork generated as a result of the workshops was developed and presented at a final exhibition. The exhibition was held from the 30th of October 2018 to the 1st of November at the Richard Greenhouse Centre in Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway. School staff, management, members of the community, community council and community police, children and families, and Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd, attended the exhibition.
The exhibition demonstrated how, working together with an artist, pupils from both communities were able to explore issues of identity, friendship and responsibility for the places in their lives. They learned from each other through art activities and dialogue, for example, by asking questions such as, how can we improve the places where we live and how can we keep ourselves safe from harm.
The exhibition of pupils’ artwork was be the focus of wider community involvement. Families from both communities were be invited to the social event to launch the exhibition. Here children shared their ideas using their artworks as stimulus for discussion. Subsequent sessions in the exhibition space involved local authority staff and the local police who entered into dialogue with the pupils, sharing hopes and issues that they have about Gretna, and discussing positive approaches for the future.
Interactive art installations featured throughout the exhibition to inspire and invite family members, children, and other guests’ involvement. For example, ‘What are you design ideas?’ prompted individuals to think about what makes a good designer and to create a new design in response to the exhibition.
During the exhibition, children and young people as project ambassadors, led family members and other attendees on a tour of the exhibition space. The children described their experiences, the process and providing insight into specific pieces. The other group members were assigned to the various interactive exhibition installations to explain and support attendees, including other children, participate in these activities.
- The school and parents have reported the many benefits resulting from the project.
- The participating children described the project as a positive experience.
- Their reactions to the exhibition pieces were delight, pride and pride in ownership of the displayed pieces and what they had achieved through the workshops.
- At its foundation, the exhibition showed how using things that are familiar to the children’s lives provided a common starting point for dialogue, critical thinking and self-expression that cuts across all cultures (ice cream, animals, countryside, flowers, etc).
- The children were able to witness the value and importance of even the simplest of ideas when they see them transformed into professional art and design works.
- The idea of producing things that had commercial appeal (e.g. canvas bags or mugs which could be sold) resonates with Gypsy/Traveller and settled communities; it is motivating for parents to see a link between what children learn in school and their future employment, creativity and success in life.
- Parents, teachers and family members expressed how the artist had inspired and motivated children to participate and create, and that the workshops were a great example of the collaboration between the group of children.
- Parents expressed pride in seeing their children’s work being valued and celebrated.
- Parents shared the many positive comments their children had about the project and how their children were excited about each session and looked forward to the workshops and final exhibition.
- The TENET development officer for the local authority shared that the project had broken down barriers between staff and parents who entered the exhibition as a safe space – opening up to project facilitators.
The school will be given the exhibition pieces to display in the school. The display can be used as a model for arts-based approaches with other year groups or pupil collaboratives.
Representatives from other schools who attended the exhibition, inspired by the project, are in the process of producing their own art exhibitions on the theme of home, place and belonging. STEP has been invited to attend and welcomes the breadth and wide reach of impact the project has had.
The relationships between the school and G/T families strengthened through the project and will be used as a springboard to engage in further consultation and collaborative work with family members.
STEP has a national remit. The knowledge and experience gained through this project is shared through a national network of Traveller educators (TENET), training sessions, STEP website and through social media channels.
POLICY AND LEGAL CONTEXT
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
- Article 28 (right to education) of the UNCRC states that every child has the right to an education.
- Article 29 (goals of education) Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.
- Article 30 (children from minority or indigenous groups) States that every child has the right to learn and use the language, customs and religion of their family, whether or not these are shared by the majority of the people in the country where they live.
Equality Act 2010
Under the Equality Act 2010 race is a protected characteristic. Gypsy/Travellers are a minority ethnic group and are protected by the Act.
The Equality Duty has three aims. It requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act;
- to advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it;
- and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 as amended 2009 and 2016 provides the legal framework for supporting children and young people in their school education, and their families.
The framework is based on the idea of additional support needs and applies to children or young people who, for whatever reason, require additional support, in the long or short term, in order to help them make the most of their school education and to be included fully in their learning.
Gypsy/Traveller pupils may require additional support for a variety of reasons and may include but are not limited to those who:
- are being bullied
- have experienced bereavement
- are affected by imprisonment
- are interrupted learners
- are looked after by a local authority
- have a learning difficulty
- are not attending school regularly
- have emotional and social difficulties
- are young carers