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University of Worcester Receives Prestigious Award Nomination

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The University of Worcester has been nominated for a prestigious Higher Education Liaison Officers Association (HELOA) award for an interactive theatre production run to help Year 8 and 9 school pupils make key decisions about their future in education.

The organisation’s Innovation and Best Practice award recognises exceptional outreach work taking place among its 140 member institutions throughout the UK.

The University of Worcester Outreach and Recruitment project – ‘It’s Up to You’ – was directed by Alison Reeves, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Performance, and saw current University students tour schools to perform the production, which centred around the issues surrounding GCSE option choices.

A variety of influences affecting these decisions were covered, and the school pupils in the audience were encouraged to interact with the performers by voting on which path the characters should take, using cutting-edge software which enables the audience to view the anonymous voting via whitescreen  projection.

Due to the success of the June 2013 tour – which played to a combined audience of over 1,250 pupils – the production will be touring again this month.

John Ryan, University Secretary and Pro-Vice Chancellor (Students), explains: “We are delighted to receive recognition from HELOA for what has already been an extremely successful project.

“While the medium of drama and performance is not new within education and outreach, the interactive nature of the production and the use of new technologies proved to be exceptionally successful tools.

“The student actors were relatively close in age to the audience members, and were able to portray recognisable and believable characters and act out situations – many of which were improvised as a result of the audience vote – which the pupils could truly relate to.”

He adds: “The key aim of the project was to raise awareness among Year 8 and 9 pupils of different influences and issues when choosing GCSE options, and feedback shows that pupils enjoyed the production and related to key themes.

“The tour during the summer proved very popular, and we look forward to taking the production to more schools in the coming months.”

The project has been nominated alongside two others in the HELOA Best Practice and Innovation Awards, with a team from the University of Worcester presenting alongside the other two nominees at the organisation’s National Conference at the end of January.

The production has also been shortlisted for inclusion in the Universities Week Focal Event, which will take place in June at the Natural History Museum, and showcase the best engagement projects devised by UK universities.