2017 was a very busy year for the Education team, working with schools and colleges to help fund literature and literacy projects for all age groups.
Tony Walsh, the poet made famous when he read This is the Place at the vigil after the Manchester bombing, stayed in Wells for two weeks while he worked with pupils from 21 schools around Wells, Shepton Mallet, Cheddar, Glastonbury and Street. Other poetry events included: Inja, poet and rapper, worked with English and Media students at Strode College and spent a day at Fosse Way School, Radstock, working with autistic children through the school. Poet AF Harrold spent a day with pupils at Ashcott School.
WFL arranged author visits to several local schools including Joffre White to Croscombe Primary, Steve Voake to West Pennard School and Marie Louise Jensen to St Dunstan’s Secondary School, Glastonbury Similar workshops and projects have been arranged with storytellers, poets and actors: Annie Fisher and Anne Harvey spent a day at Shepton Mallet Infants School; the Two Steves ran writing workshops at St Benedict’s School, Glastonbury; Chris Connaughton, actor and storyteller, worked with all the pupils at Baltonsborough School.
WFL buys books too – in one case so that children from Whitstone School, Shepton Mallet, were able to take part in the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards shadowing project. And in another case we purchased 210 books for a new transition project at Crispin School, Street, so that Year 6 pupils could work on the same book during their last term at Primary School and in their first term at Secondary School. We provided books for able readers in five small schools so that they could meet on a termly basis at a book club event. We also supplied Wookey School with books to start a school Book Club for higher ability children. And Coxley School’s Short Story Competition awarded prizes funded by the Literature Festival – all part of our on-going commitment to literacy.
We funded St Paul’s School, Shepton Mallet, to enrol with the Shakespeare Schools Festival, staging an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet at the Merlin Theatre, Frome. We also supported a Community event, including poetry workshops and theatre performances for families at the Bishop’s Barn, Wells. With the Theatre Royal (Bath) and with input from Mendip District Council, we funded Plays in the Playground – an ongoing initiative to bring theatre to school children, and their families, in Shepton Mallet. Throughout the year, Higher Beings, Paddleboat and Squashbox visited Bowlish Infants, St Paul’s, and Shepton Mallet Infants, performing for both children and parents and interacting with families in the playground. The Festival paid for transport so that Hemington School pupils could attend a performance at The Egg Theatre in Bath.
Nearly 320 Year 6 children from 11 schools attended talks by author Ross Montgomery in Wells, and 300 children plus staff came to his talks in Glastonbury. Every child was given the chance to buy a book for £3 (subsidised by WFL). 500 books were sold, and teachers expressed their appreciation that children who had never shown any interest in reading were queuing excitedly to buy a book.
St Cuthbert’s (Wells), St Paul’s (Shepton Mallet), Nunney First, Coxley School, Hemington Primary, Hindhayes Infants (Street), and Shepton Mallet Infants were all funded with Reading Helpers from the literacy charity Beanstalk, an ongoing project, supported by WFL. Helpers are each allocated three children in a school, and by working with them individually twice a week for a year they give children who may have fallen far behind the confidence to work at and enjoy their reading.