A series of workshops aimed at supporting UASC students to improve their mental well-being by unlocking their creativity has been trialled at two Kent colleges thanks to funding from the Kent and Medway Collaborative Outreach Programme (KaMCOP).

The workshops, led by staff from the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), were developed to offer creative opportunities for students who came here as UASC (unaccompanied asylum-seeking children) or who are studying English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

The workshops encouraged relaxation, creativity and reflection while improving confidence and self-esteem. They also allowed students to learn new skills and techniques that they can practice independently, such as clay sculpture, textile weaving, watercolours, mark making, and acting & performance.

Holly Rogers, Collaborative Outreach Manager, Kent and Medway Collaborative Outreach Programme (KaMCOP), explains, “We have a working group for anyone who is working with UASC young people – made up of other partners of KMPF, UniConnect, and other Higher Education providers. Beena Amir, the programme director for ESOL at Broadstairs College, joined us as she had an ESOL group that is made up of mostly UASC young people.

“These workshops were suggested as an opportunity to explore creative subjects, learn new skills and put into practice what they’re learning in their college programme. It also gives them an opportunity to practise language skills and learn new vocabulary and specialist wording.”

According to the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, 93% of 16 to 18-year-olds say studying a creative subject positively impacts their mental health and well-being*. UCA’s Outreach team worked with leading national children’s mental health charity, Place2Be, to develop the workshops so that they supported and promoted positive well-being in young people. They selected activities that would make it easier for participants to switch off from their everyday pressures by focusing solely on creative expression.

After initially delivering two successful workshops with Broadstairs College students last year, UCA has arranged a further eight workshops with entry and level 1 ESOL learners at the college this Autumn/Winter. A high percentage of these students are from UASC or refugee backgrounds.

Beena Amir, Programme Director for ESOL, Broadstairs College, said, I am delighted to share the wonderful impact seen in ESOL learners after they attended creative and well-being workshops delivered by UCA staff.

“During the clay session, the true colours on the pottery were the reflection of the students’ emotions, which were hidden due to the language barrier. They learned that speaking English is not the only winning tool. Hand movement, moulding, shaping, and special effects on clay sculptures are also other ways of learning.

“The drama workshop helped learners to openly express themselves, build confidence, and improve vocabulary and speaking skills. It gave them an opportunity for spontaneous speech. It was a fun time with laughter, bringing them closer to working as a team. During the painting workshop, they learned that ideas can also be expressed through connections of colour, shape, and size. It made them happier. They learned that making mistakes is part of the process, and they aren’t afraid of mistakes anymore.”


Two workshops were also delivered to ESOL learners at Mid Kent College earlier this year and further ones are currently being planned.

Lianne McDermott, ESOL Lecturer, Mid Kent College, said students really enjoyed designing t-shirts. She said, “The students loved them and created some great T-shirts. All the students were engaged and focussed throughout, with many wanting to stay past the lesson time.”

Holly says the workshops have been worthwhile, “This was a different pilot for us. UCA had never worked with this cohort before, so it has been really rewarding to learn more about a group of young people who were deserving of our outreach support. Having worked with them in a sustained way, I understand a lot more about what they need from us. It has been really helpful, and I hope it will now be included as part of a wider outreach offer. We would never have reached them otherwise because they’re not studying a creative course.”

Holly Rogers, Collaborative Outreach Manager, Kent and Medway Collaborative Outreach Programme (KaMCOP)

Notes to Editors

*Statistic taken from Enhancing Creative Education, Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre, 2022


Lucy King

7 Mar 2024

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