Travelling Light Theatre Company – Light Up School Learning

Published: 10 March 2023 
Author: Lizzy Stephens 
A young woman is standing at the front of a classroom next to a large flipchart. On the flipchart are words related to acting, like dancing, emotion, exaggerated and movement
Light Up School Learning, Travelling Light Theatre Company. Photo credit: Camilla Adams

As Travelling Light Theatre Company’s Teacher Development Fund programme enters its final months, programme lead Lizzy Stephens reflects on the learning to date and shares the company’s plans to embed the work across the participating schools.

About Light Up School Learning

Travelling Light Theatre Company has been working with five Bristol schools to support teachers to explore how drama-based learning can develop oracy, and emotional literacy and support wellbeing. The aim is to develop a skills-based curriculum offer, expanding teachers’ practice and embedding drama into the wider curriculum. Our activity has predominantly involved regular weekly sessions with artists supporting teachers to deliver curriculum-based drama activity within their existing lessons. The variable between our partner schools is how long each staff member is involved. This ranges from one term to a full year, or in one case, the two full years of the project. 

A whole school’ approach

In year two we have introduced additional planning time for teachers and artists, so a clear transition takes place between artists modelling and teachers leading. We have also added three staff meetings for all of Key Stage 1 & 2, to strengthen a whole school” approach to embedding practice. The relationships and commitment from our schools and artists have felt solid and a real success. The addition of the staff meetings and additional planning time has been noted by all involved as invaluable.

Two young girls are in a classroom, mid-dance. They have their arms crossed out in front of them, one above the other
Light Up School Learning, Travelling Light Theatre Company. Photo credit: Camilla Adams

When looking at the outcomes so far, there is broad agreement and anecdotal evidence that there has been a positive impact on pupil oracy, self-confidence and emotional literacy. We are interested in reviewing the impact over the short or long-term depending on the model we have used. Teachers agree that the CPDL feels relevant, adaptable and useful. 

This film highlights the impact of Travelling Light Theatre Company’s Teacher Development Fund project and shows how the arts can bring the curriculum to life for pupils and teachers alike.

There have understandably been some challenges throughout – including the impact of Covid and largely the ongoing unpredictability of staffing in schools. This includes one-off staff absences, to changing teachers. In three of our five partner schools, a large change in leadership has occurred with a new Headteacher. Artists have remained adaptable throughout.

We are pleased to see that some whole school creative strategies introduced have been trialled and adopted in schools. Creative activities that were modelled in sessions have also been developed and trialled as assessment tools. Through the evaluation, we have evidence that teachers are continuing to use ideas and strategies learnt through the CPD sessions outside of the time they are working with our artists. This is true for both teachers that participated in year one and those working with us in year two. Practice has begun to be embedded and there is the impact of teachers further sharing learning/co-teaching with staff that haven’t been directly involved with focused CPDL work. For example, a participating teacher from year one shaping schemes of work for their new year group, to include creative approaches. It is great that some dissemination of learning is already taking place. Senior leadership has noted that teacher confidence has improved – both in terms of using drama as part of everyday teaching and, for early career teachers, improved confidence in teaching more broadly.

A blended approach

In terms of blended approaches, the majority of drama-based activity has taken place and been more successful in person. However, the use of online learning for elements of evaluation, planning and resources has been key.

As we come to the final stages of the project, we are now in the process of creating physical and digital resources for teachers to continue using. Additional reflection and planning between teachers and artists will further embed work beyond the project period. We are forming a plan around the dissemination of learning, which is likely to include further video documentation, an impact report and possibly an event to share with the sector.

No headshot
Artistic Director, Travelling Light