Even though it is still a recent innovation in the UK, some OfSTED inspection teams have already discovered its effects in participating schools they have visited:-
- The personal development of sixth form students is good. They are diligent in signing into school, even though the automated system is often defective. They have many opportunities to take responsibility. An outstanding example is the "Rock Challenge®" set up and run by sixth form students, demonstrating their enthusiasm for sharing each other's cultural heritages, and developing their enterprise skills, raising money when necessary to fund the activities involved.
- The famous music and dance extravaganza Rock Challenge® has become part of a Hanson tradition ... Students enjoy these events; participation in the Rock Challenge® is high and many hours are willingly given up for practice.
- We are very pleased that you enjoy school so much. We are impressed by your great achievements in dance and drama and we
particularly enjoyed watching "The Rock Challenge®" which we had on in our room all through the inspection.
- "The recent Rock Challenge® and Get Real programme were positive initiatives in raising pupils social awareness and extending their social skills."
- "Pupils are keen to participate in such activities as Rock Challenge® and the School Council and show good levels of responsibility in dance and drama ... these positive attitudes to school are not always seen in lessons ..."
- "One outstanding example of students working harmoniously together was seen in the ‘Rock Challenge®’ rehearsal in which around 80 students organised themselves to practise dance routines with the very minimum of supervision."
- The school offers a wide range of sporting and cultural activities. Some, such as the "Rock Challenge®", are very popular, but time constraints can inhibit the take-up of others.
- "There is a significant commitment by large numbers of pupils to the annual Rock Challenge® competition. These all contribute to raising self-esteem of pupils"
- Very good extra-curricular extension is also provided. For instance, the department participates
annually in the national ‘Rock Challenge®’ competition, a drama-dance extravaganza involving 120 pupils. It has won the local heats in the last four years and come second and third nationally.
- "Musical and instrumental activities are limited ... but a large number of students take part in the very successful "Rock Challenge®s"."
- "... used in the popular "Rock Challenge®", organised by dance staff in the physical education department ..."
- "The pupils enjoy raising money for charity and take part with enthusiasm in a wide range of extra-curricular activities including the Rock Challenge®, a dance/drama ‘extravaganza’ involving some 120 pupils."
- Students greatly appreciated the school’s successes in the "Rock Challenge®" competition.
- "Very good extra-curricular extension is also provided. For instance, the (drama) department participates annually in the national ‘Rock Challenge®’ competition ...."
Every year we ask every Liaison Teacher to evaluate what - if any! - differences they have observed that participation in UK Rock Challenge® has brought about in their school or among their team members. Some of the responses we got from them in 2004 are reproduced below:-
2004 LIAISON-TEACHER FEEDBACK
The 2004 results from the 62.2% of Liaison Teachers who completed a Feedback form are:-
- The age spread of participating students was: Year 7 - 12%; Year 8 - 18%; Year 9 - 19%; Year 10 - 23%; Year 11 - 16%; Years 12 and 13 - 12%
- The percentage of time taken to prepare for the Rock Challenge® was: School time 11% ... Out-of-school time 89%
- The time schools spent preparing their entries ranged from 2 weeks to 9 months. The average time spent was 4 months.
- 46% of the schools reported that truancy rates had been reduced. The total number of students whose attendance had been positively affected was 1370, an average of 15 per school.
- The average percentage of the students involved in the Rock Challenge® who would not have otherwise taken part in school extra-curricular or sporting activities was 42%.
- 100% of the schools reported that self-esteem was either improved or greatly improved in their students.
- 98% of the schools said that their students' understanding of the importance of teamwork had either improved or greatly improved.
- Aside from the day of the event, 68% of the schools were able to use the Rock Challenge® to promote a healthy lifestyle.
- 96% of the schools reported that their students' participation in the Rock Challenge® had helped them realise a 'natural high'.
- 69% of the schools said that the participants' consumption of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs decreased or greatly decreased.
- Anti-social behaviour has decreased in 72% of responding schools.
2007 PARTICIPANT FEEDBACK
Each participant in the 2007 Rock Challenge® events was asked to complete a questionnaire. These were anonymous and were completed during the day of the event. 4430 questionnaires were returned.
- 82% said that they spent 3 or more months rehearsing with 84% spending 3 or more hours per week on their production outside of curriculum time.
- 13% of respondents reported that they smoked before becoming involved in the Rock Challenge®. Of those 61% have stopped smoking due to their involvement while a further 27% have reduced the amount they smoke.
- 16% reported they drank alcohol before becoming involved in the event. Of those, 84% have stopped or reduced their alcohol intake since becoming involved in the Rock Challenge®.
- 81% of students who had used drugs before becoming involved in the Rock Challenge® have now stopped or reduced their drug usage.
- 89% felt their self-esteem and teamwork skills had both improved since they became involved in Rock Challenge.®.
- 97% of respondents reported that they enjoy school more since becoming involved in the event.
- 96% reported that they have better relationships with their teachers following their involvement in the Rock Challenge®.
- 97% reported that they have made new friends through the Rock Challenge®.
- 98.5% described the BYBF Rock Challenge® initiative as excellent or good when given the choice of excellent, good, average or poor.
Early research (in Portsmouth in 1996/97) showed not only a much-improved awareness and behaviour among Rock Challenge® participants regarding substance abuse when compared to those in a nearby matched non-participating school over a period of a year, but also positive changes regarding their attitudes to teachers, behaviour, teamwork and a growing commitment to such things as the importance of homework, working hard, regular attendance at school, doing well in exams and planning further education and future careers.
Independent research has also been carried out by two departments of the Leeds Metropolitan University, who looked at the Dance Action Zone Leeds (DAZL) involvement with the Rock Challenge® team at the 11-to-16 Merlyn Rees School from November 2000 through to Summer 2001. The full report by Sheila Scraton (Professor of Leisure and Feminist Studies), Fiona Stoddart (Research Officer) and Nicki Latham (Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity, Exercise and Health) seems now to have disappeared from the Internet (anyone finding it again, please let me know :) but the Summary Findings from three of the report's sections are given below:-
PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS
It was perceived by the DAZL Rock Challenge® participants and coordinators that taking part
- increased access to exercise;
- increased fitness;
- increased flexibility;
- supported weight loss;
- promoted awareness about the ill effects of smoking;
- provided a supportive culture for those students who chose not to smoke;
- provided the opportunity to discuss a range of different health related topics with the students;
- provided opportunities for physical skill development.
MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
The data indicated that the students involved in DAZL Rock Challenge® perceived that they had grown in self-confidence and had an increased sense of well-being because of their involvement. This confidence and sense of well-being appeared to manifest itself in a number of different ways for the young people. They spoke about:
- overcoming shyness;
- feeling better about their bodies;
- feeling more confident when they meet new people;
- the buzz factor from doing well;
- confidence to risk trying new things;
- a culture of mutual support within the group;
- a sense of shared identity;
- group solidarity;
- a sense of responsibility to the group.
Furthermore, DAZL Rock Challenge® appeared to:
- instil a sense of pride in the students involved;
- give them a credible identity within school;
- give the school an improved self image;
- develop a commitment to doing a good performance;
- support the development of a ‘DAZL Rock Challenge® Attitude’;
- allow creativity;
- in some cases make individuals reflect on changes in their own behaviour.
The DAZL Rock challenge project provided
- strong dance role models;
- career aspirations;
- certification of involvement in a dance project;
- opportunities to link into existing community dance opportunities;
- opportunities to raise the profile of Merlyn Rees School.
The project also enabled
- friendships to develop;
- instances of team-building among student groups;
- career development opportunities.
In December 2001 Australian researcher Rose Grunstein reported on an analysis of students in a range of high schools around New South Wales. Students were allotted to one of three groups (Rock Challenge® participants, Rock Challenge® schools' non-participant students, and students at non-Rock Challenge® schools) and an attempt was made to highlight the factors that support "Resiliency", described as "an interaction between an individual's personality and his/her response to the environment" and as "the individual's ability to cope with adversity." (Some of the factors measured related to Identity, Belonging, Sense of Purpose, Problem-Solving Skills, Social Competence, and Attitude.)
Grunstein reported that "For both the whole sample and the group of girls from Year 9 and above, Rock Challenge® school students had a significantly higher overall resiliency during the rehearsal period than students from control schools. Within RC schools, participants scored higher for overall resiliency than non-participants. At no point in time do control-school students reach the same level of resiliency as participants."
Grunstein also reported that there were highly significant correlations between behaviour and participation in Rock Challenge®, Students from Rock Challenge® schools had a positive association with non-smoking behaviour and binge-drinking and participants themselves had a positive association with recent non-smoking behaviour and future intention.
Rock Challenge® participants scored significantly higher in feeling close to friends and having a strong attachment to their school, having a sense of future purpose, their positive attitude to peers and to family, and their negative attitude to substance abuse.
Grunstein concluded (paraphrased) "Both students and teachers involved in the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge invariably express how much fun they had being involved in it. To use something that is fun as a prevention tool is ideal. Furthermore, since the young people actually participate in an event rather than passively absorb information, the REC is an effective prevention tool. The individual in fact discovers for her/himself that it is possible to have fun without the aid of alcohol or drugs. It has been shown that the most successful prevention programs are the ones that involve indirect approaches and skill building, and this is exactly what the REC does."
IN CONCLUSION ...
Research and feedback shows that on average something over 40% of team members are those from the school population who would have never before shown any tendency to take part in any other school-based activity. Without Rock Challenge®, it seems that many of these young people would eventually have left school as they began it ... not participating.
The Rock Challenge® organisation's attitude to any team members who break their commitments regarding substance abuse on any Rock Challenge® Event Day (they are removed from further participation immediately, they must be taken away by their school or college, their remaining team members can perform in that evening's show but cannot win nor can they proceed to any further Event that year) is widely supported by the vast majority of team members. Many teams adopt similar "One strike and you're out" rules for their own team members through the rest of the Rock Challenge® 'season' at their school or college.
Though some inevitably start with the attitude that it's 'all about winning', a majority of team members seem to go on to develop the mature attitude that on an Event Day yes, you're certainly there to do your best but (perhaps even more importantly) you're also there to join in all the fun, to support all the other teams and team members there (and even on occasion to step in and help them with their hair or makeup or costuming or sets - yes, it does happen), to meet up with 'old' friends from other schools and colleges again, to work hard and to put on a terrific evening show, and to join in with everyone else in the uniquely substance-abuse-free, warm, supportive and friendly atmosphere.
On average, 90% or more of rehearsals and preparations take place in out-of-timetabled time. Rock Challenge® teams often attract help and assistance from recently-retired teachers and parents too, and a nucleus of committed and supportive adults can sometimes develop.
English teachers carrying out the "Speak on a topic of your choice" part of the GCSE examination used to get heartily fed up of "My time in the Rock Challenge® team" by now, for so many team members choose this as their favourite topic.
University Admissions Tutors up and down the country discover that the interview may suddenly become much more upbeat - and longer - if they ask anything like "And what is this 'Rock Challenge®' thing I see you've been involved in? Can you tell me anything about it ?"
Team members know that they are part of the growing Global Rock Challenge® movement: already well-established in Australia and New Zealand, it has spread to the UK and Eire, and is spreading to Germany, South Africa and the USA.
Membership of the Rock Challenge® team becomes a valued section of a student's Record of Achievement, while others incorporate participation into elements of their Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.
Go on!! Whether you are a Chief Constable or a Councillor or a DAT member or a Head Teacher or an MP or a prospective Sponsor, arrange to get along to an introductory meeting in your area, or book a presentation or just phone to find out more or to arrange to come along to an Event - preferably for a whole day.
But be warned - attendance at an Event Day can be hazardous. You may find yourself whistling or humming a tune or two, jigging along with the music, smiling cheerily at complete strangers, rediscovering a faith in the virtues of young people and walking around all day with a happy - if completely bemused - smile on your face.
Rock Challenge® Office:
Phone 023 8061 7729 --- Fax 023 8061 7740
PRESENTED IN 2008 BY THE BE YOUR BEST FOUNDATION