Portfolio > Theme > Engagement

Transforming lives at Willingdon Community School

Year 11 students who had never settled into school life devised and took part in a radio serial drama. They mentored younger students from Year 7 in danger of failing to fit into school life and worked together with them to instil a sense of common purpose and enjoyment.

Who was involved

  • Hard-to-engage young people from Year 11 and Year 7 nurture groups at Willingdon Community School, East Sussex, with Head of Media, Rob King, support teachers, and other teaching staff
  • Creative partners: Nick Pilton (film-maker) and Max Wheeler (sound artist)


Will a more creative way of working change the way the most marginalized group of students in the school perceives what school is and can mean for them?


  • To change disengaged students’ perceptions of school
  • To transform teaching staff’s perceptions of this group of students
  • To enable participation in learning
  • To raise aspirations in traveller students


Students’ ability to engage and treat others with respect improved significantly. Some students acquired college places; all found new direction and purpose. A non-hierarchical model of equal participation between Year 11 and Year 7 students gave everyone opportunities to project-manage, take part, learn and enjoy.

Back to top

It was so good to see the students working together as a team and seeing their talent come out. They did the whole radio show and put it together so brilliantly, it was so good to see what they could achieve.

Support Teacher

They learnt how to manage and motivate themselves rather than just to do what they were told.

Creative practitioner

They’re very good with us. They give us some good experiences and they don’t swear. They try to calm us down.

Year 7 pupil on the Year 11s

We’ve learnt quite a bit of confidence… you’re not sitting in a classroom and writing, you’re really getting into the community and doing your bit.

Year 7 pupil

Just half the time they weren’t listening and started being rude so now we know how a teacher feels having to take a class and try to teach them something.

Year 11 pupil on the Year 7s