Break-dance lessons inspiring youngsters to pass on new skills
MONTHS ago, the classroom was the last place they wanted to be — but youngsters excluded from school are proving inspiring teachers after returning to lessons armed with new "street" skills.
The teenagers say they are thrilled to finally be seen as good role models, thanks to the success of the tuition they have given in beat boxing and break-dancing at city primary schools.
Break-dancing youngsters at the Grenville Pupil Referral Unit MARTIN WHITHAM EE031208_MW02_07
All the youngsters are pupils at the Grenville Pupil Referral Unit, Ringswell Avenue, Exeter, where they are completing GCSEs and other qualifications after having been asked to leave local secondary schools.
Yesterday, their special guests were around 100 primary school pupils, who they have been working with for six weeks, passing on what they have learnt from break-dancer Matt Macklin, from the Just 4 Funk Crew, and beat boxer Audible, aka Alex Norgate, from an organisation called Turntable Technique.
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At the end of the day, the young people performed a concert for their parents and proud new teachers.
The project forms part of an arts award for which the referral unit pupils are studying. They were helped by applied drama students from Exeter University.
They spent one afternoon each week at either Kentisbeare Primary or Stoke Hill Junior demonstrating their newly-learnt skills.
Many pupils at the Grenville have social, emotional or behavioural difficulties, and some are already young offenders or have problems with drugs or alcohol, but staff work hard to change their lives and the centre boasts many success stories.
"One thing it has really done is give them a positive experience of schools for the first time," said Jo Tasker, from Value Theatre, who organised the project.
"They have learnt new skills, the primary school children have learnt new skills and the university students have used it as an example for an arts in the community project."
Amber Johnson, 15, from Ottery St Mary, has been a pupil at the PRU since September. She was responsible for creating a comedy robot dance.
"It's been so good. I've loved it and have felt respected for the first time," she said.
"The children picked up what I showed them really quickly and it's made me feel so mature.
"In school, I would never have stood in front of a load of people doing drama and music, but at the Grenville the teachers treat you like adults, so you feel like you can do anything."
Brad Slade, 15, from Exmouth, was responsible for music during the concert and helping children learn circus skills, another part of the programme.
He says meeting the university students has encouraged him to go on to further education.
"It's nothing like what I was able to learn at that age so it's great I can teach it," he said. "Seeing how the children picked up the skills from my work was so rewarding.
"The university students were nothing like I had thought, they weren't stuck up at all and I would like to study for a degree."
Brad Down, nine, a primary school performer, said: "It's been really fun learning all these skills and we have had good teachers. My favourite was the circus skills."