How to Train your Dragon

Partner: Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest
Partner type: Community Group
Project category: Academic

Shrewsbury High School (SHS) established a relationship with Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest during the academic year 2015-16 and hosted two events at the School of which “How to Train your Dragon” was the biggest community event supported.

Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest was created in 1999 and became a registered charity in 2007. The aim of the organisation is to bring the world of books alive for children in Shropshire and to inspire and enthuse them with a love of reading. In recognition of its work in Shropshire, Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest was given a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2009.

On 27 May, the School hosted and facilitated a reading and question and answer session with Cressida Cowell, author of the “How to Train your Dragon” books. The event was aimed a primary school children in 10 Shrewsbury schools with 40 places allocated to each school. SHS not only hosted the event free of charge but also provided a minibus service to all schools not in walking distance.

The event brought together 400 primary school children from the Shrewsbury community at an affordable cost at Shrewsbury High School.  The School transport team brought in children from the School and they were greeted by School staff before settling at the arranged venue on the School site. 

The event was led by the author Cressida Cowell talking to the children about her childhood and how this had ignited her imagination and inspired her to write books.  Children could then ask questions about the author’s life or her books.

Aims of the project

The aim of Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest is to bring the world of books alive for children and to inspire and enthuse them with a love of reading. 
 
Through a series of annual projects with schools and families, Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest is the only organisation of its kind working with school age children in Shropshire.

This particular event allowed primary school children to hear from and question a recognisable author with minimal cost to the participating schools. The event was to encourage children to develop their minds and imagination with Cressida explaining her childhood experiences which captivated her imagination and led her to become a writer. She encouraged children to write and even if they weren't the best at school, this didn't mean they couldn't be a writer.

The success of the project rested on making it affordable to the participating primary schools. This was achieved through the generous hosting of the event by SHS and the provision of transport to ferry pupils to and from the event. Having achieved this, then primary schools snapped up their allocation of tickets allowing 400 pupils to attend an intimate and focussed event just for them.

The immediate beneficiaries were the 400 pupils from Shrewsbury schools in the wider community who accessed the event. They were enthused by listening to and meeting an author whose books they were familiar with.

The event encouraged the pupils to read avidly and write stories using their imagination. Therefore there are benefits beyond the pupils themselves as they took the event back to their 10 schools describing the event and how Cressida got into writing and thus passing this enthusiasm to other pupils. Pupils were encouraged to use local facilities including library resources at school and in the community and get involved with other local events centred around literacy.

Background and goals

SHS were approached by Bookfest to support their work as the School has the facilities to host and facilitate such events. The School is continually looking at how it can support community events and with a focus on literacy, this was an obvious partnership to develop.

Bookfest approached the School with the idea of a partnership. The School has been involved with Bookfest previously but not as a partner before. Representatives came to the School and described the events that they were hoping to host in 2016 and asked if the School were able to support them. It was recognised by the School early in discussions that this was a real opportunity to help bring new experiences to children in the community that they might not otherwise be able to attend.

The partnership was established in April 2016 with two events supported by the School in April and May.

Resources

esources critical to the project are facilities large enough to host events with the technology to support the event such as AV equipment.

Also critical is the ability to transport pupils to and from their schools. SHS has a fleet of 12 minibuses and drivers that it uses to do the transportation and also a member of staff who is given the time to co-ordinate the operation.

As described above, the School provides the use of its hall and transport for the project. It also provides space for the pupils whilst all attendees are being gathered up from the participating schools.

It uses non-teaching staff to support the event.

The projects are overseen by a member of the School management team and she is supported by the Operations Officer who organises any transport requirements, IT Services to organise the necessary equipment, caretaking staff to organise the set-up of the event, marketing to ensure the event is publicised internally and administrative staff to support the logistics on the day of the event.

Whilst there is no direct financial contribution, the contribution by the School of its resources free of charge means that costs to those schools participating are minimised and hence more afforadable.

Impact

The impact is seen through the day itself and the enthusiasm of the children attending the event.
Bookfest monitor the events that they promote and the uptake from local schools to ensure that events are meeting the needs of the pupils.  Such assessment is carried out after each event and used for planning future events.
The outcome is that further similar events will be held at Shrewsbury High School as a hub to host community schools.

Pupil involvement

This event was aimed at primary age children (boys and girls) from both independent and state schools.

Frequency and duration

How long will it continue? Whilst this was a specific event, the School continues to work in partnership with Shrewsbury Children's Bookfest to host other events.  An earlier event was hosted by SHS – An Evening with Jacqueline Wilson as part of the ‘May Festival’.
The 'May Festival' is the annual children's literary festival described as "a beacon of excellence amongst literary festivals" by the patron, Michael Morpurgo.  This is a festival of literary themed events and author/illustrator workshops at venues across Shrewsbury which has, since its inception in 1999, become a hugely respected and popular event in the county.
SHS provided the resources for the evening for children’s author Jacqueline Wilson to talk about her life as a writer and how she came to create some of her most well-known characters.