Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Anti Bullying Information and Advice

Here is a copy of the QandA session our Director did with thr BABA Blog for Anti Bullying Month.
Q&A: Dr Andy Hickson on Anti-Bullying



Q1) What are the triggers that cause bullying to start?

A) Bullying has many triggers both for the bully and the person getting bullied. In terms of the person getting bullied it often starts when notable differences or weaknesses are perceived. Bullies tend to pick up on these. So if people are lonely, without a friendship group, stand out in any way, depressed or similar, their already low self-esteem and lack of confidence may be compounded by being bullied. It should also be pointed out that anybody has the potential to get bullied and anyone has the potential to be a bully.


Q2) What are the different forms of bulling?

A) The main forms of bullying are physical (hitting, kicking, spitting etc), emotional (name calling, excluding etc), relational (hurting someones reputation, bad rumours etc) and cyber (bullying through the use of technology such as mobile phones and through social networks).


Q3) What are the signs to watch out for, changes in my child’s behaviour, etc?

A) There are many signs to watch out for, but be aware that these very same signs could indicate other things than bullying. Signs include: being frightened of walking to and from school, not wanting to go on the school bus or not wanting you to go on the school bus with them, they may beg you to drive them to school, feeling ill in the mornings or late at night, begin truanting, start doing badly in their school work, have their school clothes or books destroyed, come home hungry (because the bully as taken their dinner money), become withdrawn, start stammering, lack confidence, become depressed and anxious, stop eating, they may attempt or threaten suicide, cry themselves to sleep, have regular nightmares and not want to sleep in their own bed, have their stuff go missing, ask for money or start stealing (to give to the bully), refuse to talk about what's wrong with them, have unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches, start to bully other children, brothers or sisters , become aggressive and unreasonable, and more. Look out for excuses for any of the aforementioned too.


Q4) Does age make a difference and are there different forms of bullying for girls and boys?

A) People can get bullied at any age. Adults get bullied too. All forms of bullying can be done by both boys and girls. It has been suggested that girls use more relational types of bullying and boys more physical at times.


Q5) What should my child do to stop the bully? How should they respond to the bully?

A) There is no one quick fix, no one magical solution to deal with bullying. We need to find what will work for us. As a first step for those low on confidence, they might want to try activities to raise their self esteem and confidence such as working on open body language, take up a sport or martial art, find ways for them to feel good about themselves.


Q6) What can parents of young children do about school bullying? 

A) Demonstrate through their own behaviour positive relationships. Listen and talk to their child, take their concerns seriously. Ask them what it is they would like done rather than charging in with their own ideas. Be aware that their child has the possibility to be a bully as well as someone who gets bullied. Keep an open dialogue with the school and their child’s teachers. Never stay quiet about bullying.


Q7) What can parents of teens do about school bullying?

See answer to question 6.


Q8) If I suspect my child is bullying others, what should I do?

See answer to question 6. Find out the truth, be honest with child and self. If they are bullying others, then find out why, are they masking some other inadequacy? Are they bullying because they are getting bullied? It’s very rare for parents to report to the school that they suspect their child of being a bully … be that first parent. Seek help – don’t try and deal with it all yourself, on your own.


Q9) What can I do as a parent to promote safe use of the internet, and minimise the risk of my child being bullied online?

Educate yourself about safe internet use s well as your child. Make sure you know as much as your child does about social networks etc. Do not let children have access to the internet in their bedrooms. Have a communal internet PC/Mac in a space where everyone can see what is going on.


Q10) What’s the most common question you’re asked by parents?

A) How can I stop my child from getting bullied.


Dr Andy Hickson

Director of Actionwork


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

How to complain to schools in England

Typical complaints procedure if you want to make a complaint to a school in England.

The school has approximately 1,400 pupils on roll and 150-160 staff. The head teacher set in place a new complaints procedure upon taking-up post, which was based on previous experiences of handling complaints. The procedure is publicised in the annual parent handbook, and aims to provide an open opportunity for parents to express complaints or concerns of any kind, which are signposted accordingly.

There are three main stages, as follows:

Stage One: Initial acknowledgement of the concern or complaint - at this stage, the parent is encouraged to speak to the member of staff concerned e.g. class teacher or form tutor, to resolve the matter informally if possible.

Stage Two: Consideration by the head teacher– if the matter is still not resolved, the parent is asked to put it in writing to the head teacher, who exercises their discretion. Concerns are still taken seriously, but are delegated to line managers such as Heads of Year to address in the first instance. Complaints are assigned an investigating officer, who is always a member of the senior leadership team. The parent is informed in writing and the complaint is progressed through meetings, written and telephone contact as appropriate.

Stage Three - Consideration by the chair of governors – if the parent wishes to protest the school's decision, they can write to the chair, who will review how the complaint has been investigated, and whether the judgement is reasonable. The complainant is informed of the outcome. Unless the chair finds that the school acted unreasonably, the complaint is closed. The parent is signposted to the Secretary of State if they wish to pursue this route.

The school is quite large, and causes for concern are raised on a fairly regular basis. However, only 3 to 5 complaints are received each year that reach the stage of formal investigation. The head teacher felt that the transparency of the procedure, the ethos of the school in addressing and the immediate acknowledgement of all complaints were factors in maintaining a low number reaching formal stages.

There was some variation between different types of school in the chains of contact used to resolve complaints informally. Stakeholders reported that secondary schools had more staff levels to go through, which provided more chances for the issue to be resolved. For example:

In a typical secondary school parents can contact tutors, heads of year, the pastoral team, assistant head or senior management team representative and then the head teacher.

The typical size of primary schools, nurseries or special schools meant the chain was shorter, but stakeholders reported that the school was more likely to operate an ‘open door policy’ where parents were more encouraged to discuss any issues with teachers or senior staff. This approach was more likely to be facilitated by closer parent-school relationships and the greater contact parents have with schools.

In the main, informal face to face or telephone discussions were the main mechanism for informal concerns to be raised. There were exceptional examples, however, of an opportunity being given to parents to raise concerns through written communications, for example through home-school communication books.

Source: Parents and Young people’s Complaints about School (DFE) by Katherine KcKenna and laurie Day 2010

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Theatre in Poland

Went to see 'Spanish Fascination' in Lodz, Poland. What a fantatic evening. For under £10 I got 3-hours of top opera, ballet, contemporary dance, spanish dance, virtuoso violinist, solo spanish guitar and a whole host of amazing performances.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Should theatre companies be charities #awqt

We are now starting a question time session. If you have a question about theatre in education (TIE), film in education, theatre in general, dealing with bullying or anything else you want to ask us (we will answer questions on anything), then please ask away. All questions will be answered. Ask your question by replying to his blog post or send us a question on twitter: @touringschools with the hashtag #awqt Your questions and the answers will be available for everyone to see.
Question from Rose (via Twitter):

What advice would you give to someone wishing to establish an education/community theatre company RE charity stat/fund etc? thnx, Rose

Answer: Hi Rose and thanks for your question. It's a very large question, but I will keep my answer brief. As you know, it is very difficult, especially in the current economic climate, to effectively sustain a theatre company financially. Funding pots are diminishing and many people are going after the same funds. I suggest that if you go down the charity/funding route that you must have a dedicated funding/promotion manager (they won't have time for anything else). You will also need to demonstrate a good track record of work and positive feedback. It can be an all-consuming affair and much like the audition process for actors - you need to be able to take rejection well and be persistent. I do not like the funding application process as I feel it wastes valuable time and resources. I prefer to rely on donations and fee based activity and actually spending time doing the work itself.

As regards being a charity, you need to decide why you are doing the work. Is it really charitable or do you just want the status? A charity is more work to set up - don't do it if you don't need it.

Based on the above I would suggest that, just starting out, time is better spent on producing a creative product that people are happy to pay for and actually spend time doing the work rather than rely on fundraising before you can do the work. Once you have toured/performed and can demonsrate a track record, use this to approach funders. You then have 'showcases' they can attend plus you get to do what you want to do (which is perform), when you want to, how you want to and to who you want to.

I hope the above is useful. Please let me know if you want me to clarify anything.

Thanks for your question.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Actionwork Question Time #awqt

We are now starting a question time session. If you have a question about theatre in education (TIE), film in education, theatre in general, dealing with bullying or anything else you want to ask us (we will answer questions on anything), then please ask away. All questions will be answered.

Ask your question by replying to his blog post or send us a question on twitter: @touringschools with the hashtag #awqt

Your questions and the answers will be available for everyone to see.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Theatre in other langauges

One of my passions, when writing plays, is to combine more than one language in the script. Most of my plays, even the English ones, contain a few phrases of other languages. One of my more challenging plays used a combination English and Japanese. The show was 2-hours long, half the show was in English and half the show was in Japanese. Before writing the script I worked with 3 English and 3 Japanese actors for a month. We shared common cultural elements and common words (for example hundreds of Japanese words that have been adopted into the English language such as tsunami, kabuki, origami, kimono, miso, nashi, sake, soy, tempura, akido, judo, zen, futon, honcho, shiatsu and many others). I led the actors through many exploratory games and improvisations and at the end of the month I wrote the play; a love story about a Japanese girl and a Phillipino boy. The show explored many issues including racism and bullying. I worked with a Japanesw writer for an additional month, helping me with the Japanese script and language. We ended up with a play that was in both English and Japanese - some of the characters could only speak English, some only Japanese and some could speak both languages. We then toured this show or 2-months in England and 2-months in Japan. This was a fantastic project and really well received in both countries in schools, arts centres and theatres. It premiered at Sadlers Wells in London England and in the Kanagawa Theatre Complex, Tokyo Japan.

One of my lasting memories of this tour was a typical response I got from English students and teachers compared to Japanese students and teachers. Many English teachers/students complained about the Japanese language and wanted the play to be in English only whereas ALL the Japanese students/teachers loved the combination. Many of the English students/teachers would say things like "I could only understand half the play, you should have made it all in English". Many of the Japanese students/teachers would say "Mixing the languages made us think more about other ways of communicating".

I was thinking about this as I am about to go to Poland and I want to see some theatre there. Lodz has several theatres and there appears to be a theatre festival while I am there, which is great. Everything is in Polish, which is great (I don't speak Polish). Three theatres that took my eye are the Great Theatre ( currently open but undergoing some renovation, the Jaracz Theatre ( and the New Theatre ( The choice of shows ranges from Tolstoy, Madadme Butterfly, Krol Ryszard III (Shakespeare's Richard III), ZIEMIA OBIECANA, Mayday 2, The Polish Dance Theatre and Syvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant perfrming 4 of their pieces (Shift, Solo, Two and Push -, which looks fantastic, but unfortunately I arrive just to late to see this one. So I have opted for a show called 'HISZPAƃSKIE FASCYNACJE', which translates as 'Spanish Fascination'. Google translate offers this: The show is inspired by the Spanish culture in music opera, ballet and rich literature of songs. In addition to fragments of the more famous works of composers such as Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Rossini, and Verdi Minkus, there will be some songs less popular but equally beautiful and original, whose authors include Manuel de Falla, Jose Serrano, Pablo Luna and Edouard Lalo. The intention of the implementers of the latest release is to show how great source of inspiration for composers from different eras and cultures were the motives of Iberian, and how great is the richness of their interpretation.

Now that sounds brilliant! I will let you know what it is like after I have seen it.If you are interested to see pictures from the show and a cast list then please follow this link:

I believe we really need to encourage peopel to see and experience the arts in many different languages and from many different cultures. Lets not forget that we are celebrating Shakespeare at the moment and there are hundreds of Shakespeare performances going on all over the UK right now.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Copyright for creatives is easy

Did you know that it is very easy to protect your script, film, story, poem, creation? In the UK you do not need to use an 'official' registration organisation. Copyright is AUTOMATIC - all you need to do is prove when you created something.... One way to do this is to just send (by special delivery) to yourself a copy of what you have created and keep it in the unopened envelope in case you ever need to use it.
See here for more info:
This is what the IPO says: There is no official registration system for copyright in the UK and most other parts of the world. There are no forms to fill in and no fees to pay to get copyright protection. You do not need to register copyright - there is no official registration system. This is why protection is said to be automatic. So long as you have created a work that qualifies for copyright protection, that is it falls into one of the categories of material protected by copyright, then you will have copyright protection without having to do anything to establish this. It is a requirement of various international conventions on copyright that copyright should be automatic with no need to register.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Can other people make you empowered?

Can other people make you empowered? This is a difficult question. The essennce of empowerment for me is that we get things done for ourselves, that we feel good about ourselves, that we feel enabled to do the things that we waat to do and are able to say no to the things that people try to force us to do or that are against our will. Saying that, i do think that it is possible for people to help us towards empowerment. Other people can show us the door, can show us possibilities, and can be there for us when we need an extra hand.

One way to empowerment or to find empowerment is to try things out, to experiment to see what will work for us. Role-play is a fantastic tool that can help us in this endeavor. Role-plays work better when we role-play with other people. Not only can they help the role-play move forward and give us obstacles to overcome, they can also give us feedback and poiinters of things to try out.

Two videos I have watched recently demonstrate, in different ways for me, forms of empowerment or ideas for empowerment. I have posted the links below:

  - youth and a whole school approach - Benjamin Zephaniah

Techniques of theatre are great for helping with empowerment - try it some time.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Learning accents 1: English / British accent

Here are some tutorials for helping to learn an Englsih accent:

How English sounds to foreigners

Is paypal killing crowdfunding?

Is paypal killing crowdfunding?  

Importance of warming up voice and body

Athletes, actors and other performers know the importance of warming up our bodies before running a race or performing on stage. How many of us understand the importance of warming up our bodies and voices  before undertaking even basic activities in our daily lives?

Taking the time to warm up can be the difference in pulling a hamstring, damaging our vocal chords or even just making ourselves understood. It is unforgivable for an actor to start a rehearsal or perform a show without first warming up their bodies and voices, it is desirable for everybody to warm-up their bodies and voices before undertaking most activities. If you deliver presentations or training, are a teacher or instructor, if you are going to go for a jog or a bike ride, even before making love ... if you have taken time to warm up you will get a lot more out of your activity and you will perform better for much longer.

A thirty minute warm up everyday is all that is needed to help keep your body and voice ready for action. Split your warm up 50/50: 15 minutes on your voice and 15 minutes on your body.

15 minutes of body stretching: toes, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, neck, arms, wrists and fingers. All you need to do in that time is some gentle stretching.

5 minutes if breathing: breath in to your stomach (not your chest). Note that your breath is the power behind your voice. No breath equals no voice. Breath in to three seconds and out to ten seconds (repeat 3 times). Then slowly increase the length of your out breath. Eventually (after a week or so of training) you should be able to comfortably breath out to 30+ seconds.

5 minutes of humming (as above). Hum low, then hum high. Then mix them up.

5 minutes of articulation exercises. Work the facial muscles and work the tongue. Say lots of 'd's', then 't's', the 'l's', then 'b's' - say these fast, clearly, high and low (at no time should you strain your voice). Repeat " yo, yah" (10 times). Repeat "gah" (10 times). Repeat "Peggy Babcock" (20 times)
Include some other tongue twisters.

The above is a very basic warm up that if done everyday (with some slight variations to make it more interesting) will REALLY improve your vocal control.

Of course this is not enough for actors. If you are an actor then you will need to include warm ups for resonance, colour and much more in depth breath control.

Taking the time to warm up everyday will really make a positive difference in your everyday interactions, jobs and social activities.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Right to choose a school

The Government is currently trying to pass a law to give parents the right to choose schools for their children. Read more here:

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Drama school and other auditions: be positive, professional and prepared

I have been reading a lot about young people trying to get in to drama schools recently. One thing that has changed since I went to drama school is that they are all charging people to audition for them, some are also charging for recalls. One young person I spoke to last week was charged 3 times for 3 different auditions with the same drama school. Now I understand that drama schools have to cover costs and maybe even weed out people who only have a vague interest but some of this looks like profiteering to me.

It used to be the case that drama schools only saw the people they thought showed some potencial from the CV/Applications. Now it is in their interest to see everyone as they will make a profit out of their auditions.

So ... if you still want to audition for drama school then it is important to make the best impression that you can. Now there are some places that you can go (and pay even more money) to get audition training - one 1-day course I found costs £125 for the day (in London), or you can pay them £60 an hour for individual training (what they call mentor training). In my experience there are enough good actors/directors out there that would be willing to help guide people who are interested for free (just ask around your friends).

There are tho some basic tips to remember. From my own experience of holding auditions and being on audition panels I suggest the following TOP TIPS:

- research a range of drama schools and find out what they can best offer you
- know why and be prepared to say why you want to go to that particular drama school
- be honest on your CV, UCAS form, application letter etc
- choose an audition piece that is going to show off your talents - that you can shine in
- learn your lines and then learn them again - AND THEN LEARN THEM AGAIN
- practice and rehearse your audition piece - think about why you are doing/saying what you are doing/saying
- have some knowledge about the character you are playing and read the whole play - know something about their background - show you have done some character research
- be prepared to talk about the play and your character - they may well test your knowledge
- have an audition piece prepared to perform at a moments notice - you never know when you might get a call up
- don't bring in or ask for any props, costume or set to use - just do it in the space you have been given
- don't perform to empty space or a blank wall: look at the people who are auditioning you - they are your audience - don't look them in the eye but do perform to them
- don't fidget or move around too much - if you move make sure you have a reason for moving
- wear comfortable clothing (its not a fashion parade)
- remember that the people you are auditioning for will have seen 100's if not 1000's of people before so don't waste their time - be creative, do unusual things, be memorable
- don't antagonise or be confrontaional with your audition panel
- be professional - DO NOT HAVE A BAD ATTITIDE - if they think you might be a problem then they will not choose you however talented you are
- arrive on time with everything that you have been asked to bring

Be prepared to be rejected. It can be a cut throat business. One leading Head of a drama school said that you are no more than a piece of meat in the industry. If you're n ot chosen or recalled, if you don't get a place then MOVE ON, don't dwell on it, don't take it personally. Go to the next audition ... fresh.

Some drama schools in the UK:
Rose Bruford
Drama Centre
Exeter Uni
Bristol Old Vic
Find a list with contacts etc here:
You can also find some excellent tips here from Theatresaurus:
Remember to be positive, professional and prepared.

Actionwork in Zambia

Last month we were invited to do some work in Zambia. We ran some training workshops for teachers in Livingstone and consulted street children in Lusaka and Kitwe about a school on the street project. Zambia is a fantatsic country; welcoming, hot, diverse and friendly. When we spoke with the children they talked about wanting to go to school but not having the money, unlike in the UK where many kids complain of having to go to school. Many street children in Zambia are Aids/HIV orphans and have HIV/Aids themselves and live a hand-to-mouth existence.

We have been invited back, thats a good sign.

This is one of the places the street kids hang out and sleep.

Mpower You magazine

I musy apologise for the delay in getting out our next issue of Mpower You ( but it will be coming out very soon with the theme of 'Children's Art Against Bullying'. If you would like to contribute to the magazine please contact us ( To read the last issue please see here:

Funding in the UK

One would think that in the digital age we live in, the fast and easy communications across the globe would make things easier to raise funds for projects. I am not so sure. The difficulty is that so many people are chasing the same funding from the same sources. If you already have backing (eg from religious organisations or government) and can make slick video presentations (eg KONY campaign) then raising more funds is easier. Its that old adage money makes money. So how do people with limited backing break through? I have tried a different appraoch to fundraising: Crowdfunding. Already very succesful in the States (eg Kickstarter), crowdfunding is a new way or marketing and an easy way to give money. The difficulty in the UK is that crowdfunding sites (there are a few) still have very limited followers and base their success on just one or two succeful fundraising projects. I have started a campaign with Crowdfunder UK ( to try and rasie money for an anti-bullying dvd. Feeedback has been great, many people have 'liked' the project but breaking the barrier of people actually putting hands in pockets and giving over hard earned cash is another matter. Its early days on this bid so time will tell.

If you are interested in helping this project then you also have a chance to star in the film itself. Details here:

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Anti Bullying Week

Have you seen the new revamped, updated and brand new website for anti-bullying week? Just go to to check it out.

Remember that dealing with bullying does not stgop at tyhe end of anti-bullying week but goes on throughout the year. Help stop bullying - do one thing to help stop bullying in your community right now.

Bullying in the workplace

Bullying does not just happen in school. Bullying is not just a problem for young people. Bullying can affect anyone at anytime. New training packages for staff and managers in all workplaces can be found here:

If you suffer bullying at work you are not the only one. If you want to help stop bullying in the workplace or you want to raise awareness of bullying in your own workplace then point your boss to some of the train ing available for staff and managers. Making an office an anti-bullying office not only makes happier staff it also leads to an increasde in profits.

Help us make an empowerment film

The Director of actionwork, Dr Andy Hickson, is using his experience on dealing with bullying to make an empowerment and anti-bullying strategy film that will be given freely to schools. he needs your help in raising some of the money.

You have the chance to not only help financially but you could also star in the film. More details here:  - check out the pitch where he discloses a lot personally and has some well pitched incentives on offer.

Hope you can help.

Strategies for empowerment

I have been dealing with issues of bullying most of my life. As a kid I was bullied at school and out in the community. There were also times when I bullied other people. Going through life I have found that strategies evolve and that what once worked does not neccesarily work again. Its true that what works for one person may not work for another anyway, but what worked for me once may not work for me again?

One of the key things we need to remember when dealing with bullying is that there are no magic solutions, no quick fixes, no one best strategy that will always work. We need to have a range of startegies available for us to use and adapt. The reason for this is that its not just about us, its also about the bully and how strong/smart/aware they areand how many people back them. Its also about the situation - no situation is ever the same. Its also about who else is around/involved at the time.

We need to work for empowerment. Dealing with bullying is a survival skill, a set of skills that includes, social skills, communication skills and physical skills to be worked on, improved, trained, honed and practiced.

People have said to me that to experience bullying makes you a stronger person and that therefore bullying is a good thing for us all to experience. What these people do not realise is that some people suffer bullying so badly that they want to kill themselves. I have pondered these thoughts for a long time and I do see the truth in experiencing difficulties making us stronger. It was Frankle that said 'that which does not kill me maks me stronger'. This realistion led me to develop a series of anti-bullying rolelays where people can experience bullying in a 'safe' space and at the same time practice strategies for dealing with the bullying. These roleplays, very close to the concept of a psychodrama, have had tremendous success and is now one of the techniques I use with people who have been bullied. The bullying roleplay is not for the feinthearted, it is also not for the untrained. If you want to practice intensive antiu-bullying roleplays, make sure that you have had adequate training in the techniques required.

Roleplays allow you to practice in a safe place without fear of intimidation or ridicule. They also give you the chance to look at a strategy from different angles and howt might be adaptable in different situations.

So I now hold true with Frankle that what does not kill you can make you stronger. The key to survival is adaptability.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Article about the 2011 Anti Bullying Roadshow

Here is an article from one of the schools we toured to in 2011.

Performance rights

Do you know about performance rights? See more here:

The NEW anti-bullying roadshow

The 2011 Anti Bullying Roadshow finished in December. 8-weeks of touring to schools, colleges, theatres, youth clubs and universities was hard work. Some would call it gruelling. We performed to over 30,000 students and drove over 6000 miles up and down the UK. The reception was fantatstic and the show was a hit. Our new TIE performer/facilitator on this tour survived until the end but said she could not do it again ... it was just too difficult. Our plans for 2012 for the anti-bullying roadshow are huge. We are going to create the biggest anti-bullying tour the UK has ever seen, employing the best staff and utilising the most up-to-date research, methods and techniques available. Most of the details are currently under wraps but I can say that the 2012 roadshow will reach parts that no other anti-bullying programme can.