Rebuilding Engagement through the Arts

John Finney, Richard Hickman, Morag Morrison, Bill Nicholl and Jean Rudduck

£PricingPages96FormatA5 paperbackPublication dateJul 05ISBN978 1 85749 858 5

A clear role for the Arts

How can the Arts help disengaged pupils to get back on track? This exciting book explores the potential of developing positive leadership qualities in pupils. It reports how a group of disaffected pupils were helped to use their talents in Art, Design & Technology, Drama and Music.

Inspirational stories

The book tells the inspirational stories of young people as they struggled to recommit themselves to learning. It shows how a group of teacher trainers worked closely with creative teachers in four very different schools to rebuild pupils’ sense of self-worth and achievement.

Practical strategies for school improvement

At a time when it is widely recognised that the contributions of the Arts have been neglected in the drive for school improvement, the book demonstrates the powerful role they can play. It outlines a range of practical strategies which creative departments in any school could initiate.

Positive comments

Some comments from the pupils involved:

  • ‘I think I earned myself a bad reputation in Year 7. They don’t believe me when I say I am trying to be good.’
  • ‘Everyone goes, “Oh you’re naughty, oh, you’re cool” and you think you’re really clever.’
  • ‘(After we’d taught the Y6s) like I thought to myself, “You’ve done it, you’ve proved everyone wrong”. I’ve even proved myself wrong.’
  • ‘Thanks, Miss. Others wouldn’t have given me this opportunity because of my reputation.’


  • The project and the pupils
  • The pupils’ stories:
    • ‘I was, like, listened to, and it made me feel proud’
    • ‘I think they should expect more of us’
    • ‘I love art, but I can’t stand school’
    • ‘It doesn’t take much to set us off’’
  • Extending the opportunities
  • Risks, achievements and challenges
  • Re-engaging the disengaged: some questions for schools

Real results

What the pupils valued:

  • Teachers who don’t give up on you
  • Teachers who see your strengths, not just your weaknesses
  • Feeling that people have confidence in you
  • Feeling that you can ‘give something back’ to the school.

The research, which took place in 2003-04 was funded by a small grant from the Wallenberg Foundation.

About the authors

The authors are members of the Faculty of Education at Cambridge University, one of the leading departments in the UK committed to training teachers for the Creative Arts.


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