THE age of 14 is a tough one for school pupils as the choice of school subjects that they make begin to set them on the path for adult life.
In Barnsley, the town’s dance theatre company Qdos Creates is touring a show called Destination around all the borough’s schools, with the aim of helping youngsters think about some of the issues involved.
The show follows the fortunes of three friends, Sonny, Tegan and Anna, from the age of 14 to their school reunion as they reach 30, and looks at what they achieve and the problems they face on the way.
Tegan is keen on fashion and is too busy with her thriving business selling accessories to schoolmates to concentrate on her exams, although she wants her own fashion line.
Sporty Sonny is bright but doesn’t have a clear career in mind and Anna is clever and studies hard, but is so worried that at university she won’t fit in the ‘posh kids’ or afford the fees that she may decide not to go.
The show is very fast and lively and uses a lot of music and dance to engage the youngsters.
All the year 9 students at Barnsley Academy in Kendray saw its third performance at their school and took part in a discussion with the actors about it afterwards. It seemed that the show had caught their imagination and they followed it closely.
Students had filled out a form beforehand to say what their aspirations were. Those who said they had no clear ideas were invited to an afternoon workshop with Qdos to try to get them thinking about their future and what problems they might face.
Qdos project manager and trained teacher Louise Edwards, who plays Anna, said the point of Destination was “to open the young people’s minds about options that they have in life, to try to get them through dance and drama to think about that message and choices they have.
“This gives them an opportunity to talk about what they’d like to do and what they will be like when they’re older.
“We want them to look at the skills they might need to know and what will affect and not affect what they will do in life.”
She added: “The performance engages the students, they can relate to the characters.
“In the workshop they have the opportunity to talk about it, we use the characters as a vehicle for the discussion.”
In the past Qdos has tackled other issues in schools such as sexual health, drugs and vandalism. Destination has been funded by Barnsley Council and will travel to all the borough’s schools and the group are hoping that other schools in the region will book it as well.
Louise said: “We’ve found that this type of drama is a good way of getting young people discussing these issues in the third person.
“For a range of kids it is a good way of learning, particularly kids who find it hard to be sitting still.”
Louise said that it’s clear young people are under pressure to make decisions in an education system that is pushed to hit targets.
She added: “There is a massive push on target setting. The children seems to have a sense of that.
“There is a difference between having a sense of that and knowing in reality what that’s going to mean.
“This can open up that discussion. Will they need extra lessons or other help to achieve their goals?”
She added that the group also wanted to get across to pupils that whereas actions have consequences, it needn’t be the end of the world if they fail at something, there’s another path they can take.