Mental Health Podcasts help St Cecilia’s Girls Bounce Back Post Lockdown

6th July, 2022

A group of girls at St Cecilia’s College in Derry/Londonderry have created a series of inspirational podcasts, addressing mental health issues and the impact of the pandemic.

Working with professional artists from Bounce Culture, students have written scripts, conducted interviews, learned technical skills and even created their own music soundtracks for the project which has involved 24, year 8 girls.

The school was one of eleven to receive funding through the Creative Schools Partnership in September 2021. Supported by National Lottery funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Urban Villages Initiative and the Education Authority, the programme is designed to encourage schools to embrace the benefits of the arts by injecting more creativity into the classroom and improving educational outcomes for students. Schools were given the opportunity to apply for grants of up to £15,000 each to develop a two year arts project that would bring professional artists into the classroom to teach students new skills, build self-confidence and explore creative expression.

The Creative Schools Partnership programme is based on research which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can benefit all aspects of learning and personal development. This includes better engagement, increased attendance, improved results in other school subjects, growth in confidence and self-esteem and promoting positive mental health and well-being. The programme promotes a student-centred approach, using the arts as a catalyst for connected learning, raising aspirations and fusing community and school based efforts in improving educational, good relations and wider social outcomes.

Commenting on the project, Tanya Wakeley, lead teacher on the project at St Cecilia’s College, said:

“For the podcasts, we asked the students to focus on lockdown and how they coped with isolation from their peers and not being able to come to school. The project has been really fantastic. We’ve really seen their confidence grow. It’s given the group an opportunity to come together to talk about their mental health in a really positive way and also to be in control of their own learning. The podcasts they have created will be shared with the wider school community and the project has been so successful we are already planning how we can build upon it next year to take it out into the community.”

The Creative Schools Partnership encourages students to think creatively and critically, developing their own voice, resulting in a sense of pride and citizenship. The programme enables teachers to collaborate with arts professionals across a range of creative domains; to co-construct learning opportunities and address the specific needs of pupils in their school and the communities in which they live. Through creative arts participation, young people develop new skills and strengthen their relationships with their communities whilst identifying potential new career opportunities and positive self-expression.

Kwame Daniels, Creative Director, and lead artist at Bounce Culture, commented:

“This has been a brilliant project to be involved with. The students have been really enthusiastic and they’ve had the chance to try all sorts of new things that go into planning and making a podcast. There’s been opportunities to get behind the mic, we’ve been teaching set up and technical skills and they’ve even been learning to DJ, create their own music, to scripting and conducting interviews. The work we’ve done here with this group of student’s feeds into other aspects of their school life, like building literacy and numeracy skills, teamwork and learning to think creatively. To be able to take ownership of each stage of the creative process has been incredibly powerful for them.”