20 May 2013
A project developed by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has enabled local primary school children to build confidence and raise their educational aspirations.
Thought to be the first in the UK, the UCLan Fifth Dimension project is part of a global initiative that brings together schools and communities to provide after-school care, largely for inner city children from deprived areas.
For the last six months, second year UCLan students on the BA(Hons) Children, Schools and Families programme have worked with two Preston primary schools; Eldon Street and English Martyrs Catholic to run weekly after-school drama clubs.
The 14 children, aged between nine and 10-years-old, have practised script writing, directing, costume design, poetry writing and acting as well as taking part in team building activities. All were designed to develop the children’s social and communication skills as well as raising their educational aspirations.
“We’ve watched the children develop over the last few months and you can visibly see the positive effect the club has had on their self-esteem. I’ve been really impressed with the commitment shown by the UCLan students."
English Martyrs Catholic primary school teacher Jane Barnes said the programme has made a big impact on the children involved.
“We’ve watched the children develop over the last few months and you can visibly see the positive effect the club has had on their self-esteem. It’s been particularly beneficial for the less academic pupils as it’s given them a chance to shine in other ways.
“I’ve been really impressed with the commitment shown by the UCLan students and the professional manner in which they have run the after-school club.”
It’s the first year the University has run a Fifth Dimension project, a scheme which was first developed in the 1980’s by Californian Professor Michael Cole in response to an increase in the number of children needing after-school care.
The project focuses on creating partnerships between community centres and local colleges to establish educational after-school programmes. Fifth Dimension projects are already held around the world in the USA, Japan, Scandinavia and Spain.
“We believe UCLan is the first UK university to set up a Fifth Dimension programme. It has enabled UCLan to reach out and make a difference to the local community and provided vital practical experience for our students."
Dr Mike Doyle from UCLan’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, who has worked with Professor Cole for the past three years, commented: “We believe UCLan is the first UK university to set up a Fifth Dimension programme. It has enabled UCLan to reach out and make a difference to the local community and provided vital practical experience for our students.
“Many students on the course aim to work in teaching or social care where building close relationships with young people is essential.”
Hanna Curwen worked with children at Eldon Street primary school. The 20 year-old said: “It’s been a steep learning curve and a challenging but enjoyable experience. We were tasked with planning two hour structured sessions each week and I think we’ve learnt as much from the children as they have from us. The project has allowed us to put theory into practice.”
The scheme culminated in a graduation styled celebration evening at the University. Children from both schools performed group and individual pieces for parents and teachers.
Eldon Street primary school pupil, nine year-old Philip Ottey, said: “I’ve tried lots of new activities and feel much more confident in my abilities now. I used to be quite shy and today I’ve performed on stage.”