An ’emotional resilience’ project for girls attending two primary schools in Calderdale, Beech Hill in Halifax and Deansfield in Ovenden.

These schools have student bodies that represent the ethnic and cultural diversity of communities in Calderdale. The schools are working together to support each other around academic attainment, but also around issues of community cohesion, emotional resilience, understanding of difference.

Sara Cockroft from Beech Hill explains:

“The sessions involve many different creative activities and aim to increase the confidence of the children involved. They form part of the MANY VOICES project which has the overall aim of empowering women and girls and encouraging them to believe in themselves and be the best they can be. We are really keen to develop links between the two schools and this project will help us with that.

The girls will take part in a performance at the Square Chapel Arts Centre in March as a final celebration of their time together.”

We are joined on this project by dance artist and choreographer Natalie Speake.

The project takes in notions of identity, empowerment and intercultural understanding.

We are aware of how difficult this kind of project is, and how very sensitive we need to be to all the girls needs. Some of the girls are struggling emotionally, at home or with their self-confidence in school. Bringing together these two very different requires us to build a great deal of trust and understanding. The girls have been unsure and felt vulnerable, worried about showing themselves to others from a different school and different ethnic / cultural background. We are aware that there is a real need for more of this kind of ‘shared’ work: to help improve understanding.

We deliver very gentle, held sessional work, but try and ‘nudge’ the girls all the time to build their confidence and to help them articulate who they are, and what it is they want to say. As a result, we have seen a real shift in relationships and can feel the girls starting to trust each other and the process.

Staff at Beechill have done particularly well in keeping their group together – three of the girls were struggling but the school sees how important this project is and is trusting of the process.

In March the girls took to the stage as part of the #IWD2020 celebrations: our aim was to create a performance piece based on what stories the girls want to share with an audience. It was a wonderful, moving piece, and we are proud of all the girls who took part.