Leicestershire Education Action Zone
Based on our proven ability to engage with hard to reach audiences Noel Fowler, the Head of Leicestershire’s Education Action Zone (EAZ), invited GDA to provide communications support for the initiative.
Education Action Zones were partnerships formed between schools, Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and other local organisations to tackle problems of underachievement and social exclusion in disadvantaged areas.
The project started with a journey in a minibus with Noel and the GDA team through some of the most under privileged areas of Leicestershire.
During the journey, Noel Fowler spoke of statistics in streets littered with graffiti. ‘Not in Education Employment or Training’ (NEET) was a term which applied to a staggeringly high percentage of the people within an area littered with burned out vehicles. What motivated Noel, the EAZ team and GDA was the missing spark.
Some families had experienced third generation unemployment where the concept of gainful employment, career progression and social mobility were completely absent.
What would it take to rekindle the spark necessary to raise the communities’ perilously low levels of aspiration?
What was the best way to engage with a cynical audience and sell in the benefits of something they had little knowledge of and felt no need for – self betterment?
The first part of our brief was to help develop a website to act as a central hub from which to disseminate the history of the Zone’s achievements during its 5 year tenure.
The second part of the brief concerned the legacy left behind when the Zone ceased operation.
Rather than leave behind copies of an annual report which would gather dust in filing cabinets and drawers, we were asked to dramatically demonstrate the work of the Zone within the heart of the local community and showcase the profound affect it had had within the people of Leicestershire.
It was decided to work with the stakeholders of the project to capture all of the reports, facts and figures for the Zone in a downloadable format within a website.
This website included a permanent archive of all the media chronicling the growth and achievements of the Zone.
GDA created the specification, design and implementation of the website and dealt with all of the local media to collate and create the central media archive.
‘We can because we think we can.’
This statement, derived from a member of the Zone’s staff not only perfectly encapsulated the drive behind the initiative but also directly illustrated its ethos.
The NEET cycle is a self-powering one. Low aspiration hampers achievement leading to the ‘no point in trying’ mentality. The credo of the Zone was to illustrate that achievement is only limited by the subject’s levels of aspiration.
The nationally renowned Leicestershire Haymarket Theatre donated the time of their creative director and the use of the theatre for a one-night event. Staff and parents at all of the Zone schools created a showcase performance of set pieces that both illustrated the Zone’s best practice and celebrated the positive changes it had brought to them.
GDA filmed the production and used this as the basis for a documentary not only to create a record of this emotional celebration preserving it for future generations to illustrate what could be achieved when ‘we think we can’t’ turns into ‘look what we achieved!’
The end product was a booklet and accompanying media piece, which was given to all attendees to plant the achievements of the Zone firmly in the heart of the community who both worked within it and benefitted from the changes it brought about.
Modern day marketing appeals to basic emotional drivers within us all to achieve its desired result.
When areas become classified as ‘disadvantaged’ they do so due to the cumulative effects of low aspiration within the community. This lowering of a communities’ levels of aspiration is exacerbated as subsequent generations grow up to believe more and more in less and less.
The Educational Action Zones were designed not just to ‘jump-start’ their target areas with direct injections of innovation and finance. The real objective was to create a change in attitude within parents, children and teaching staff to be the catalyst for change from within through positive attitude.
By challenging the traditional preconception of the ‘end of project report’, GDA helped create an ‘end of project event’.
Using traditional media analysis tools the local media coverage from the event provided more coverage than five hundred copies of a fifty page report could ever achieve in terms of media coverage.
The tears in the eyes of the proud parents, staff and children who had finally seen what they could achieve proved that the event had achieved the emotional cut-through desired.
This dynamically illustrated to a whole community that the achievement of positive change for the better was well within their grasp.
Click on the links below to view the videos of the event: