Creative Graffiti is a project that was part of Leicester Shire’s “Four C’s Fund”, which empowers young people to become informed Consumers, Critics, Creators of art and Commissioners. Among the activities that took place were marketing workshops, fun days, and an enterprise challenge. The young people, who chose to create and sell graffiti t-shirts, were supported by their families and by graffiti artist Bizzy Panchal.
The young people involved in the project were boys for whom school and education was not a priority – many went through the motions at school but were not finding their learning inspiring or relevant, and were often in the middle of, or on the periphery of poor behaviour in and out of lessons. Some of the boys had been involved in a graffiti project the previous year and asked whether it could run again, and could be used to engage some of the most poorly behaved of their friends: their thinking was it had helped them, so could help their friends.
The difference was that this year they would take responsibility for all aspects of the project: planning, outcomes and who was to be involved.
As a result of pitching their idea of producing tshirts to the Young Dragons, the young people had to clarify exactly what they wanted the project to be about and the outcomes they wanted. They also realised that the project would not be able to go ahead unless they were successful in their bid, so they had to take on that responsibility. Being successful in their bid gave them confidence and ownership of the project.
The skills they have developed in graffiti art are important as the boys feel they can now be creative and artistic – and the majority want to go on and develop and use these skills further, such as for designing clothes. However, the graffiti project has been an effective vehicle for developing a much wider range of learning and life skills, from business marketing and creating profit and loss accounts, to knowing how to conduct yourself at a formal four-course dinner.
The project will always serve as a positive reference point for the students, and their parents, about how they can succeed.
- The young people have been involved in a wide range of experiences as a result of the project. Many of these have been very new and different and have taken them out of their comfort zone socially, culturally and educationally e.g. formal presentations for Young Dragons at the regional enterprise conference; working as experts with primary age children; marketing their tshirts within the local community and online.
- They have learnt the importance of good preparation and clear presentation; they have learnt to be tolerant of others; they have grown in confidence as independent young people who can tackle problems and make decisions for themselves – and are aware of having to deal with the consequences of the decisions they make!
- The project was effective in developing relationships with parents. The parents of the students involved in the project, without exception, did not readily and positively engage with the school – either because of their own discomfort with being in a school environment or because the majority of dealings they had with the school were negative because of their child’s behaviour. Because much of the project happened outside school buildings e.g. Young Dragons, workshops, fun days, parents were more comfortable with being involved. Added to this was the positive nature of the project – the students were motivated, enthusiastic and engaged and parents were happy to see and talk about their children in the context of the project. This has resulted in greater communication and understanding between parents and the school; they feel the school understands their children better and is prepared to do something different and positive to support them.
As a result of the project, more staff are aware of how important it is to give students the freedom to make decisions, be independent and take responsibility for their development. The school has therefore introduced a new element to the Y9 curriculum (where most of the students will be next year) whereby all of the Y9 students will be given curriculum time to develop their own projects, supported by staff but led by the students either in groups or individually. These projects will be able to be accredited as a GCSE equivalent.