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Vol. 23 No.

4, 2005 Education and Health 61

Jane OByrne is Project Worker for Sex and Relationships Education in Primary Schools in South Derbyshire. E-mail: Jane.O'

Jane OByrne
The Body Image Project
The project won the fpas national Pamela Sheridan Award in
2005 and involved primary schools and parents in Derbyshire.

S ex and Relationships policy

development in Derbyshires primary
schools included a reflection on media
differences, feelings about those differences
and changes that happen to our bodies as we
grow. The workshops concluded with an
child's self-esteem. Parents evaluated the
session as most useful in discussing with
other parents, and realising 'how we as par-
influences regarding body image and images exercise that encouraged pupils to give posi- ents may be affecting how our children see
of sexual behaviour and gender tive feedback to each other, not about themselves, and that we have to be more pos-
expectations. They were also concerned physical appearance, but about the qualities itive in our comments'. The impact of the
about 'sexualisation' of childrens clothing. Itthey possess. project was evaluated by a final Draw and
was recognised that younger children were Drama proved to be an excellent inclu- Write activity. This used a re-wording of the
experiencing pressure to aspire to certain sive tool for this work. A safe and positive questions in the initial baseline activity.
images of physical attractiveness. Concerns working environment was established
were also expressed as to the effects this through the use of ground rules and giving
Before and after
could have on childrens self esteem and children the confidence to express their At the start of the project , initial views of
relationships. The Body Image Project was views. They were able to bring their own a cool person centred around physical and
developed to address some of these issues. ideas and experiences as a starting point to lifestyle attributes such as 'fanciable', 'black
The project used drama to explore childrens the work, which made the learning meaning- hair, earrings, nice looking', 'puts others
attitudes to body image and addressed the ful and relevant. For instance, some boys down to get friends'. They described them-
underpinning issues of self-acceptance and talked about changing their bodies through selves in terms of physical appearance and
self esteem. the use of steroids. Another child said that 'if personality with a range of positive and neg-
you phone Childline you are gay'. The facili- ative comments 'Im sulky, fatter than
Describe a cool person tator had thoughtfully anticipated the range normal 10 year olds', 'I dont like my hands'.
Nine primary schools took part, located of attitudes and values to be explored and Comments at the end of the project indicated
in areas of high teenage pregnancy, and the was able to challenge childrens views in a that pupils were generally more positive and
project was aimed at pupils in years 5 and 6. supportive way. less focused on physical appearance. For
Their views and attitudes were gathered at example, on being cool, 'We can all be cool,
the start of the project by an initial Draw and Active learning methods everyone gets frightened and embarrassed at
Write activity. Pupils were asked to 'De- After the workshops each teacher deliv- times'. Comments generally demonstrated
scribe a cool person' and 'Describe how you ered 4 follow up lessons based on active an increase in self esteem and willingness to
feel about yourself'. The answers gave teach- learning methods. For instance, in each recognise their own positive personal quali-
ers an understanding of the childrens school the children started a new trend in the ties. Following the workshop children also
attitudes and levels of self esteem. The data playground to explore how fashion and 'be- filled in a questionnaire asking what they
were used as a baseline that informed the ing cool' develops. In one school the children had learnt. Typical answers included, 'I
work as the project progressed. chose to wear their sweat shirts and cardi- learnt that everyone wants to change at least
Schools attended a Teacher Training gans back to front. In each school by the end one thing about themselves', 'its ok to be dif-
Day which provided an opportunity to share of dinner time a large number of children ferent'. It became clear that the most effective
the ethos of the project. School Nurses also from other classes had adopted the trend! aspects of the project were what I call 'magic
attended and this helped the teachers to Another lesson involved staging an Award moments'. Children felt safe enough to
recognise links with other health issues. For Ceremony. In pairs the children had to write express their fears and worries about them-
example, one of the factors that discourages an Oscar winning accolade for their partner. selves. Perhaps for some it was the first time
young women to quit smoking is the belief This could be exaggerated but had to be they had ever voiced them. By sharing these
that it helps them to stay slim. By trialling based on some truth. They then practised they realised they were not alone and that
some of the drama exercises, teachers had a a c c e p t i n g their awards with others felt insecure at times also. This
taste of what the children would experience pride-appropriate body language and allowed them to relax and accept their feel-
in the workshops. A range of active learning smiles. ings. These moments of self-acceptance are
methods were also explored that could be In order to share their learning, and to crucial to emotional health.
employed in the follow up lessons. involve others in re-enforcing the key mes- Teachers also felt that they had gained a
sages, each class performed an assembly for lot from the project, particularly in terms of
Drama workshops the whole school, to which parents/carers learning about a range of techniques for
The project began in each school with 2 were invited. The Barnardos charity ran a PSHE. One teacher reported 'the children
drama workshops on consecutive weeks. workshop for parents/carers immediately learned more about how to value and respect
These were delivered by a professional after the assembly. Consultation prior to the each other, and to recognise and celebrate the
actress with considerable experience in arts meeting informed the content of the session. good things in life'. Next year we hope to
and health work. Through the exercises the The session focused on helping parents/ offer the project to a larger number of schools
children reflected on the body, body carers to develop techniques to support their and increase parental involvement.