Comics Youth CIC has been working with a group of children looked after (who are in the care of the local authority) in Knowsley, aged 8-17 years, to design and develop a zine, along with working towards an accredited qualification. The 12-week project was funded by Public Health and developed by Knowsley Council with support from local schools.
The project enabled the young people to express their voice through the creation of a comic focussing on their experiences of education, after school provision and the stigma associated with being ‘looked after’.
To date, 38 young people have participated in the project, of which 30 have achieved an AQA qualification in the Introduction to Comics.
Throughout the 12 weeks, young people took part in structured sessions which focussed on behaviour as well as creating better opportunities to learn with the establishment of ground rules which addressed the importance of eye contact, listening, using appropriate language, awareness of personal space, managing emotions and making or developing new friends.
Some of the participants have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) and at the start of the project, they had low levels of mental wellbeing, they were reluctant to engage and had low self-confidence. Art therapy techniques helped these young people to develop relationships and communicate their feelings. As the project progressed, the young people ‘opened up’ more about their experiences, particularly around how the world sees them. Feedback specifically from the group of young people with SEND included that over time, they were better engaging in guided reading due to the interactive nature of the comic books and Comics Youth commented that it was “beautiful to see young people become more aware of themselves as learners.”
Cllr Margaret Harvey, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said
“This project provided a fantastic opportunity for our young people to take part in tailored and engaging activities as well as providing innovative ways for them to share their experiences and provide us with feedback. Like any parent, we want the best for our children and young people, helping them to achieve their potential. Through this project, it was great to see and hear about how their confidence and skills had developed over such a short period of time.”
Overall feedback at the end of the 12 week project included:-
- Young people felt more comfortable participating in activities with less support.
- They reported improved confidence to take on leadership roles to design and implement their comics via the AQA structure.
- Personal confidence developed over the period of the project, from being very shy initially to being very talkative and willing to contribute their ideas and opinions over time.
- There is evidence that relationships have been strengthened – with foster carers and other looked after children – which has also addressed feelings of isolation and their perception that they “didn’t fit in.”
- They have developed new, creative, life and social skills and as well as improving their comprehension and reading skills.
- They have a greater understanding and support of one another.
- Improvements to focus and better attention spans.
- Greater participation in other activities, such as after school clubs.
- At the start of the project 89% of participants had low levels of wellbeing, compared to 24% at the end of the project.
Cllr Sean Donnelly, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, added
“I’m delighted with the results this project has delivered, which has helped to improve their wellbeing as well as addressing feelings of isolation. I know that many have gone on to take part in other activities – something they wouldn’t previously have considered – so given, the success of this initial project, we will be looking at what other support and future activities we can offer to the children and young people in our care.”