Primary pupils in Liverpool are making creative use of digital video technology to tackle bullying. George Cole reports
A bully confronts a boy with purple hair, calling him names and generally making life miserable for him. Suddenly, someone shouts "cut!" and the bully and the boys grin at each other.
The scene is part of a video being made by several schools which makes extensive use of digital video and ICT. Eventually, the video will be edited and the finished product burned on to a CD and used as part of a personal, social and health education programme in schools in Liverpool.
The school driving the project is St Patrick's Catholic Primary, based in Toxteth, Liverpool. St Patrick's has around 150 pupils aged three to 11 and is a beacon school. Some pound;5,000 of beacon school funding has been invested by St Patrick's in the latest project.
Headteacher Terry Kirwan believes it is money well spent and is a big fan of using digital video in schools. So much so, that the school has bought three digital camcorders and Apple computers, which will be used for making and editing videos. What is more, St Patrick's plans to lend the camcorders and computers to local schools.
"Video is a fantastic resource and the more people that can use a video camera and edit, the more sustainable it becomes," says Terry Kirwan. "You can use video to spread good practice - for example in drama, if you do a good play with a class, you can record and edit it, and it can be shown to other schools.
"But it's not just about drama," he adds. "The video we're making today can be used simply as a PSHE resource. You can show it to children to explain that you shouldn't pick on someone just because they look different and that we have more in common than our differences. On another level, you could show it to teachers to demonstrate how ICT can be linked across the curriculum, for example, script-writing is linked to literacy. We've already filmed some science lessons and shown them to other teachers."
Terry Kirwan describes how a number of his pupils recently took part in an international tennis event in Liverpool, which saw the children being coached by tennis professionals.
"It was fantastic. You had all these top coaches showing the children how to handle a racket, play shots and position themselves on the court. The sports teachers were kicking themselves that they weren't videoing it and then showing it to the kids back at school," he says.
The anti-bullying video came out of the Excellence and Enjoyment initiative from the DfES, which aims to bring some fun back into a primary school curriculum in danger of becoming restrictive and overloaded.
The project, which combines ICT with performing arts, came after discussions between Terry Kirwan and the heads of two other local schools, St Hugh's Catholic Primary School and St Silas Church of England Primary School.
Ten Year 5 children from the three schools are involved in making the anti-bullying video. As part of the project, the children visited London to see The Lion King musical and do workshops at the Globe Theatre, in order to see how a theatre production differs from a film production.
The children also worked with two local organisations, Toxteth TV and Valley Theatre. Toxteth TV is a pilot project set-up to provide film and video skills to children and young adults. Before filming began, the children spent three days at Toxteth TV studios learning about how to use audio and video equipment. When the filming was finished, the children spent time editing it on computers at Toxteth TV studios.
Members of Valley Community Theatre taught the children about film scripting and story-boarding, and also various film acting skills.
Michael Neary, one of the pupils from St Silas, describes how the children put the video together: "We spent the first day back in school sitting around a table and writing a script. We also wrote a shooting script. We were all videoed and the Valley Theatre people decided who was going to be the actors and who was going to be the technical crew."
Three characters are involved in the video: the bully, the boy with the purple hair and a friend who comes to his aid. Another pupil from St Silas, Muhammed Musadik, says: "You learned skills like how to hold a (microphone) boom, how to put a camera on to a tripod and how to put all the equipment away."
The third member of the St Silas group, Asha Elmi, adds: "We used two cameras because it meant you could capture things with one camera that you couldn't with the other and we also learned to keep behind the camera whenever filming was happening!"
Christine Osborne, ICT co-ordinator at St Silas, says: "The children also learned how much work goes into making just a five-minute video - all the scriptwriting, filming and editing it takes to produce such a short programme. Another thing they discovered was that ICT isn't just about computers. Other hardware, such as digital camcorders, digital cameras and even photocopiers can be linked to a computer." She says future lessons will build on the knowledge and skills the children have acquired from the anti-bullying project, including one that will use computers to show a simulated earthquake.
"The children will be put into teams and have to make decisions, in the same way they have had to on this project," Christine Osborne says. Terry Kirwan adds: "I know schools have to invest a lot of money in video equipment at the start, but it's a wonderful resource that more than pays for itself if people are given the chance to use it. You can show good practice, share ideas, share skills. Kids love working in this medium - I could go on."
Apple markets various computers for education including eMac and iMac.
Apple's computers come with iMovie software pre-installed, which is designed for editing audio and video. Some also have a built-in DVD writer and iDVD software for transferring video to a blank DVD disc www.apple.comukeducationsoftware
Adobe School Collection includes Adobe Premiere LE, which is designed for audio and video editing.
Pinnacle System's Pinnacle Studio Version 9 includes tools for editing audio and video and burning DVDs.
Information about Toxteth TV is at www.helltown.uklinux.net toxtethtempindex2.html
Information about the Dingle Granby Toxteth Education Action Zone - which includes St Hugh's, St Patrick's and St Silas - is at www.dgteaz.org.uk