The South Essex College drama students delivered their vital message to children from junior schools, secondary schools and special needs schools across the borough.
Their endeavour was part of a dynamic community enterprise led by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Senior Educational Psychologist, Dr Margaret Evans, and the College’s Course Team Leader in BTEC Drama, Sarah Doney.
As part of the preparation, two Police officers visited the college to speak with students about cyber bullying incidents. The 37 young actors aged 16 and 17 were much moved to hear about these, and between them devised and rehearsed six 20-minute plays revealing the sheer misery of cyber bullying. They gave multiple performances in 30 schools over four days, sometimes playing to audiences of more than 300 pupils ranging from year five to year eight. To help keep the performance tour moving, the coach firm, APT generously sponsored the transport, in partnership with Southend Local Safeguarding Children’s Board and Southend Children's Partnership. In addition all six plays were performed at the POD at South Essex College with the support of College tutors and the College’s technical team.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Children and Learning, Councillor James Courtenay said: “It is a tremendous achievement by these talented and motivated students to create and perform such important pieces of work to so many Southend pupils. “They have successfully shared with 5,000 schoolchildren, the message that cyber bullying will not be tolerated in Southend “We know this message will especially hit home to the young audience members because it was being delivered to them by other young people.”
The performances, which were assessed as part of the course for the students, proved to be a valuable and life changing experience for the young actors.
Jae Hudson, 17, from Laindon, added: “With an audience of this age you really have to capture their attention early with your performance and we wanted to entertain as well as educate. We based our production round a loose reworking of Jack and the Beanstalk, called Jackie and the Dream, linking it back to the impact of cyberbullying.”
Sidorela Koleci, 16, from Grays, continued: “At first we were all really nervous about performing in schools but this project has seen us all grow in confidence and in our acting, all of which has allowed us to produce a much slicker performance. And I think we have had a real impact as people have laughed in the right places and you could hear a pin drop in others.”
Sarah Doney, Course Team Leader BTEC Performing Arts Level 3 at South Essex College, said: “If these productions change one person’s life and makes them speak out about cyber bullying or stops them from cyber bullying, then it has been a success. Everyone involved has been really passionate about it and we have been getting some fantastic feedback, it is creating real conversation in classrooms, assemblies and staff rooms across Southend.”
Deputy Head Teacher of St Nicholas School, Chris Kinnear said: “Our students and the staff team were delighted with the standard and quality of the production which made a big impression on everyone.”
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