Exploring migration: Research and drama in schools

COMPAS staff, including Professor Bridget Anderson, Ms Ida Persson and Ms Vanessa Hughes, developed educational resources and workshops using theatre as the key form of communication and engagement with young people about the subject of undocumented migrant children.

From 2010 to 2012, researchers at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), investigated the impact that lack of legal immigration status had on migrant children’s daily lives in a project called ‘Undocumented Migrant Children’. The research team commissioned ice & fire, a company that develops original theatre pieces from human rights testimony and documentary evidence, to script five monologues based on interviews collected during the research. With funding from Oxford University’s ESRC IAA, the COMPAS staff, including Professor Bridget AndersonMs Ida Persson and Ms Vanessa Hughes, was able to develop educational resources and workshops around the monologues and original research using theatre as the key form of communication and engagement. They then took these resources into three UK schools, the Lord Williams’s School in Thame, the Capital City Academy in London and Water Mill Primary School in Birmingham.

Using theatre exercises and other rehearsal methods, Ms Persson worked with the students to explore migration-related issues and to develop their own performances of the monologues. They then performed their pieces to packed audiences of parents, academics, charities, NGOs and other organisations. Following the performances, the researchers and the student performers took questions from the audience.  These discussions were a highlight of the project as they really allowed the students to show what they took away from the project and how their own personal thoughts on the issues had developed during the course of the project.

Bringing this particular research to schools provided an opportunity to shed light on undocumented migrant children, whose issues are normally hidden in day-to-day workings of schools and other social environments and systems. It also encouraged the young people to critically reflect on how government policies and institutional practices affect others.  Nicky Stallwood, Personal Development Curriculum Manager at Lord Williams’s School in Thame said: 'By using the words of the migrants and role playing the experiences, the students were able to empathise and gain a profound understanding of the young migrants’ situation.  The drama experience has made the plight of migrants a real and personal issue, and has encouraged the students to search for the facts and personal stories behind the news headlines.'

This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.


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