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Developing our Learning and Wellbeing Programme – Children and Young People

Developing our Learning and Wellbeing Programme – Children and Young People

The Listening Project – funded by the Royal Opera Bridge September 2021 to date 

Update on the Listening Project   

July 2023

The Listening Project plays a key part in the development of our Learning and Wellbeing offer to children and young people currently in formal education. To date we have been delighted to receive two grants from the Royal Opera House Bridge and now from East Herts Council’s Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF). 

The SPF has enabled us to develop a new steering group, engaging future stakeholders from the Local Enterprise Partnership, senior leaders from education, local and regional arts organisations and senior officers from the Council. 

Chris Quach, Head of Sele School, one of our partners in the new Creative Schools Cluster that now includes Simon Balle, commented after the site visit and meeting, that it was an ‘excellent event which led to fervent and constructive conversations’. 

Image of stakeholders being shown around the site at Hertford Theatre

As we await the result of a funding bid to Arts Council England we continue to develop our links into the community. Last week we had the pleasure of showing children and young people around the new site. This included students from Mill Mead Primary, Sele School, Simon Balle, Herts Regional College and Haileybury. 

When asked what they made of the new building the children and young people commented:

‘It’s so different and much bigger, making it even better.’

‘Wow, there are more screens and stages.’ 

‘Can’t wait to watch a show from the new balcony.’

‘It’s absolutely amazing!’

‘Its accessible to everyone.’

‘It’s going to provide theatre for all.’

‘It’s a huge opportunity for the local area.’

School children visit the site at Hertford Theatre

All being well after the summer holidays, the planning for our spring 2024 pilot project will begin. If you have any further questions do get in touch with Stuart Mullins



Unlocking the future potential of young people  

March 2023

Hertford Theatre brought the local community together on Wednesday (8 March) as councillors, education providers and industry professionals gathered to share the early findings of a project to better connect young people with arts and culture.

The event took place at Sele School and is part of the Listening Project, an initiative developed by Hertford Theatre Director, Rhys Thomas and Associate Artist, Stuart Mullins, with funding from the Royal Opera House Bridge.

The project has identified three key priorities:

  • The continued repercussions of Covid and the ‘cost of living’ crisis on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.
  • The status of drama provision in schools and the STEM curriculum.
  • The use of drama as a teaching tool when working with marginalised and excluded children and young people.

As part of the event, participants discussed the findings and explored future opportunities for funding, investment, and support.

The event also included a series of interactive workshops. Fifteen Year 10 students from Sele School participated in a Philosophy for Children session run by Grace Lockrobin from SAPERE – an organisation that encourages children to think critically, creatively and collaboratively. Grace posed the question; “What makes me, me?” and philosophical dialogue and enquiry techniques were used to help the students think, speak, listen, learn and work together more effectively. 

After the workshop some of the comments from students included: “Philosophical Enquiry helps you understand relationships and take into consideration other people’s outlooks,” “it helps you be in other people’s brains,” and, “the ideas we’ve been having have been beautiful!"

Ben Cannell, Front of House Manager at Hertford Theatre, sat in to observe the workshops. He said, “What struck me the most was how the students thinking changed during the workshop to consider that of others and how that may impact their own decision-making process.”

Hertford Theatre continues to develop its programme of educational outreach work, establishing partnerships with The Sele School, Millmead School, Hertford Regional College, Haileybury and Simon Balle. They also hope to encourage the future potential of young people through new and expanded partnerships with Arts Council England, Sapere, Trestle, Tangled Feet, East Herts District Council, Hertford Town Council, University of Hertfordshire, Active in the Community and Herts Local Enterprise Partnership.

Rhys Thomas, Director of Hertford Theatre and Arts Advisor at East Herts Council, said: “Yesterday’s event was a great opportunity for like-minded people to get together and discuss the roadblocks and concerns of young people and try to put in place a strategy to help them achieve their full potential. I’d like to thank those who took the time to come, listen to the speakers and participate in the discussions. It has provided us with a great foundation to build on, and we are excited to continue delivering our key priorities.” 


Hertford Theatre Education and Well-Being in Schools Report

September 2021

In 2020 Hertford Theatre were grateful to be awarded funding from the Royal Opera House Bridge, the regional organisation that works with schools, arts and heritage organisations, libraries and councils across Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and North Kent, connecting children and young people with great art and culture.

The award enabled us to engage a consultant to work with us and our associate artist, to connect with primary, secondary and SEN schools; listening to and responding to the needs of teachers and their pupils.
We engaged schools in two surveys and a series of one-to-one meetings, the detail of which can be found in the appendix to the report.

The report has recognised that there are three key priorities for schools that we intend to address over the next three years.

•             Impact of the Pandemic on Pupils’ Mental Health and Wellbeing

•             Lack of budget, time, status and provision for arts subjects in schools

•             Lack of confidence in arts teaching

In response, we plan to develop networks and alliances of teachers, pupils and external organisations to enable us to listen further and to animate the report in such a way that it allows stakeholders to comment and suggest how we might progress.

We hope to turn those alliances into partnerships that enable us to raise the funds and develop the resources to build a programme of action research (a process whereby we are constantly learning and evolving) to develop models for the future that can benefit the whole of East Herts.

Our aim is always to listen first.

In pulling this report together, we have heard from teachers and external organisations as to how, over the next three years, we might move forward and respond to the three key priorities.

For example, in serving schools to support the recovery from the Pandemic we could work with Public Health in Hertfordshire to develop youth networks, exploring new ways of reaching children and young people who have little knowledge or interest in mental health.

In addressing the status and provision for arts teaching in schools we could develop cross-curricula programmes and projects that focus on the heritage and history of the five towns of East Herts. 

By developing networks of schools and teachers we hope to create a mentoring system and a CPD offer to address the lack of confidence in arts teaching.

These are just some of the possible initiatives to address our three key areas.

At present our resources are limited, but this report does give us a clear direction of travel towards the long-term aim of creating a Learning and Wellbeing Department as part of Hertford Theatre’s district-wide offer.

If, having read the report and recognising the importance of the key priorities, you wish to engage further with us then do please get in touch with rhys.thomas@hertfordtheatre.com

Our Education and Well-Being in Schools Report can be viewed or downloaded here>>