“Building Aspiration In The Creative Arts”: A Reflection On A Collaborative Project Between Regional Low Ses High Schools And The School Of Creative

Year: 2015

Author: Englsih, Helen, McKinnon, Jocelyn, Grushka, Kath, Lawry, Miranda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper is a reflection on a project funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Higher Education and Participation Program National Priority Pool in 2015 at the University of Newcastle. The aim of the project is to raise aspirations and build capacity in students from high schools identified as low SES in Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast, as representative areas of regional New South Wales. These three areas hold some of the lowest socio-economic demographics in Australia and contribute to the University of Newcastle’s student base which is 24% low SES as compared with 14% as the national average. Recent research at UoN into students’ aspirations in NSW primary and high schools has shown that in years 6 and 8 a career in the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) is one of young people’s top ten aspirations (Gore, J., Holmes, K. et al., 2015). However, this does not translate into corresponding subject choices in the upper school years. The aim of the project is to offer possibilities to reconnect with aspirations expressed in earlier years through a collaborative process in which students in years 9 and 10 design and realise a creative project. The creative process, which does not ask for previous CAPA skills, seeks to address the exclusion from engagement in the CAPA that many young people feel due to their lack of access to CAPA experiences and skills (Burke and McManus, 2009). The hands-on project involves working ‘with’ rather than ‘for’ schools, creating working links between university and high school communities. Importantly, the project addresses the disempowerment many young people feel in text-dominated learning environments by utilising an approach to learning and achievement that is based on ‘other’ kinds of learning that are not “text-centric” (Burke, 2012). The project is evaluated through qualitative methods comprising student wellbeing measurements, questionnaires, teacher and mentor focus groups, audience feedback and a web-based questionnaire/blog. This session will reflect on the performances and process of collaboration with school communities, drawing on video footage and the results of the wellbeing questionnaire.