By Press Office 07 March 2017

A media production lecturer at Queen Margaret University (QMU) has created a new film highlighting the experiences of young people who have been through the care system.

The short film focuses on their experiences of education whilst being in care. It also offers helpful advice to teachers in dealing with care experienced pupils.

The film ‘How to make a difference’ presents an honest and very personal account of young people’s issues during their schooling. Pupils discuss some hard hitting subjects including bullying, teenage pregnancy and isolation. However, importantly, the film highlights the positive impact that teachers can have on people’s lives – while they are in school and beyond.

QMU’s filmmaker, Graham Drysdale, volunteered to work with the East Lothian Champions Board - a group of care experienced young people who meet once a week in Musselburgh.

He explained: “It’s heart-breaking to know that there are 15,000 kids in care in Scotland. The issue of support for young people in the care system is something that is very close to my heart, and I wanted to use my professional skills to give these young people a voice.

“I was struck by the eloquent way in which the young people explained their situations, and offered advice as to how teachers can communicate and support people with lived care experience.”

Graham continued: “I was very moved by their stories and it was insightful to hear about both their negative and positive experiences of education. I learned mostly, that young people just want teachers to spend time with them - finding out about their lives and understanding them. People had very different experiences of school – some found that the teachers gave them love and understanding, which was lacking at home. For others, it was a very different story, with some suffering violence and exclusion from their peer group.”

Graham hopes that schools will find the film to be a useful tool which will help to improve the student/teacher relationship. He said: “Having listened to these young people, it is obvious that teachers have the power to transform people’s lives - during their time at school and in their future. There are some lovely examples of teachers who have gone above and beyond to nurture and encourage pupils. It is obvious that the young people in the film really appreciate the individuals who have invested in them.”

The East Lothian Champions Board is supported by a team of support staff from ‘Who Cares? Scotland’ and East Lothian Council.  Graham said: “I was so impressed by the support workers and how they skilfully engaged the young people in the filming process. I’m also grateful to the young people who took part in the film for their courage and insights.”

One of the young people involved in the project said: “It helps teachers so they can deal with situations properly and not be discriminating against care experienced young people.” Another said: “Making the film was good ‘cause it’s coming from care experienced people rather than hearing from the  professionals.”                                                                                                                                                          

Richard Butt, Deputy Principal of Queen Margaret University, said: “QMU aims to be a university of ideas and influence and this project, with the East Lothian Champions, fits with QMU’s community engagement work. Our staff and students are encouraged to make a real difference to the world around them. I am therefore proud that Graham has created a powerful film that encourages wider awareness of the issues faced by care experienced children and young people during their education.”

‘How to make a difference’ was well received when it was screened at a recent East Lothian Headteachers’ conference. It will be screened again before an audience of primary school teachers on the 25 th March. The film will form part of a resource for all East Lothian teachers, which is being put together by the Champions Board.

View the film at https://youtu.be/5BrHi85IyeQ

Notes to Editor

For further media information contact Lynne Russell, Marketing Manager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E: lrussell@qmu.ac.uk  T: 0131 474 0000, M: 07711 011239 and Jon Perkins, Press and PR Officer, E: jperkins@qmu.ac.uk T: 0131 474 0000.

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