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Community Cohesion 4: Acquired Brain Injury Project

Holy Cross School

Acquired brain injury project

Lawrence Williams, Holy Cross School, New Malden
Joanna Tkaczyk, Acquired brain injury co-ordinator, Kingston

How can schools develop practical research projects, designed to address the new government Community Cohesion requirements? The project described here was undertaken by a south London secondary school in support of the work of the Acquired Brain Injury Co-ordinator in Kingston, Surrey. Lawrence Williams and Joanna Tkaczyk discuss the project and its outcomes.

The background

This project came about by word of mouth. The Holy Cross School had recently completed a series of practical research projects with the local NHS Kingston team on Healthy Eating (See: pre December 2009 Issue 42), on Keeping Safe, and on Interactive Whiteboard Games. On hearing of these, the Kingston Acquired Brain Injury Co-ordinator, Joanna Tkaczyk, contacted the school to explore the possibility of the school’s students creating a DVD, to support her in-service training needs.

The ultimate aim of this project, therefore, was to produce a DVD featuring the life journey of three brain injury survivors as they reached beyond the limitations imposed on them. A short video, of about thirty minutes, was planned in order to give an insight into the difficulties they faced on their way to recovery. It is not only a fascinating documentary of changes occurring after a brain injury, but also a compelling account of individual strength and determination to take back control over their lives.

Joanna explains: “The idea of a video production started while I was researching training techniques for my workshops on ABI. It occurred to me that brain injury survivors themselves can give a first-hand account of their experience. The insightful personal stories might easily enhance our understanding of a brain injury. A video seemed to be an ideal carrier.”

Project development

A preliminary meeting was therefore arranged, in the Spring Term 2010, to discuss the possibilities of collaboration between Kingston Social Services and The Holy Cross School. Two Year 11 Media studies students, Kate Baxter and Katie Reynolds, having completed their GCSE course requirements, volunteered to undertake the filming of interviews with two survivors. A third survivor’s experience would be included, later, but would not be filmed.

Concerns were raised by the school about how traumatic such a film might be for the girls, who were aged only 16, but it was felt that, while clearly a challenging process, the outcome would be very positive, and life- affirming. It is a story of adversity, but ultimately it is also one of determination and survival.

Accordingly, meetings were arranged in which Moore Magagula and Selasie Tamakloe were invited to Holy Cross to be filmed. The filming sessions were held after school hours in the Media Department of the school. Hand-held cameras were used to film the unfolding stories of the participants.

The participants sat before the cameras with their bodies angled obliquely towards an interactive whiteboard, on which a prepared text in PowerPoint had been displayed, in order to provide a prompt for them to read, while being filmed. Memory loss is a significant aspect of their personal history, and so this electronic memory aid was essential to support the smooth unfolding of their stories.

These resulting spoken presentations were subsequently edited by the girls to provide a DVD of suitable length for the in-service-training sessions at which they would subsequently be used. The journey of a third survivor, “Scotty” McCleod was also added to the DVD, as text and still images, though he was not actually interviewed on film.

The two designated school students, Katie Reynolds and Kate Baxter, displayed a high level of professionalism while working on this project. Their enthusiastic approach to the task, and their media competence, were among the significant factors influencing the success of the project. Over a period of a several weeks - broken by sitting their GCSE examinations - they produced a DVD that truly fitted the purpose.

The future

The video will be now used as a powerful training tool amongst Social Services professionals working with brain injury survivors, and also as an educational aid amongst brain injury survivors themselves.

About the authors
Lawrence Williams is Head of Creative Development, at The Holy Cross (secondary girls’) School, Surrey, where he develops creative methods of teaching and learning, using ICT tools
Joanna Tkaczyk is Acquired Brain Injury Co-ordinator in Kingston, Surrey, where she works to support survivors of brain trauma.

Contact details
Lawrence Williams:
Joanna Tkaczyk:

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