Using cinema as part of a rewards system

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William Parker School uses the appeal and inspiration of film to motivate its learners. Ruth Roberts explains how they use cinema as part of a rewards system.

At William Parker School, we strive to implement schemes to help benefit students from underprivileged backgrounds and support them in areas where they require additional support. Our aim is to help them and their families, enabling our students to reach their full ability.

In cases where levels of motivation or engagement are low, which could be down to reasons including a lack of parental involvement or financial deprivation, we try to implement measures to help boost the learner’s approach to education and deliver something positive for them to strive towards. This can help to decrease absenteeism and improve performance.

To address the challenges we faced, the school designed a questionnaire to establish the activities that most appeal to our learners and which they most enjoy. 

The results indicated a keen interest in going to the cinema. This not only seemed an appropriate reward for this age group, but something they would be able to share and experience with others.

Our school-parent support advisor, Joan Goodrich, instigated the initiative and through the school’s extended services programme, the school successfully obtained funding for an initiative called Do Something Fun.

This money was allocated to support our students with additional needs, such as learners who are on free school meals and those who are particularly in need or vulnerable. In addition, we also offered it as a reward for our young carers, some of whom have a demanding and stressful home life.

Through monitoring attendance, time-keeping and behaviour, Joan identified the students whom she could engage with and encourage to work towards a reward. 

She communicated with the families on a daily basis and scheduled meetings outside of the school environment, such as in a coffee shop, to help build trust between parents/carers.

During the initiative we have awarded cinema vouchers to our students to raise attendance and drive good behaviour. It has proven a good value for money reward.

The world of film offers escapism, which is excellent for these students, particularly as some have challenging home lives. Also, the students love the fact that they can watch new releases quicker and this adds a real “feel good” element to the process.

Helping to create a positive association to the school for learners is not only beneficial to their overall performance, but if we offer a reward that they actually want and that appears accessible, we are supported in our drive to achieve good behaviour.  

Since incorporating cinema tickets to motivate and incentivise, there has been noticeable progress in many areas. Time-keeping has greatly improved and we have seen a decline in the number of unauthorised absences for the identified students.

Another area in which it is important to see an improvement is overall conduct. For those students who regularly face confrontation or instability in their home life, behaviour while at school can be somewhat challenging.

We want to impart to our students the importance of respect. Whether this is respect for their teachers, for their peers, or parents, this is an essential quality which will help them to develop and become well-rounded people.

Cinema tickets have certainly been helpful in meeting this goal. We constantly monitor our students’ learning outcomes, so that all parties are aware of the progress. Once they have achieved their objectives, we can then deliver the reward which is something tangible to strive towards.

  • Ruth Roberts is assistant head at William Parker School in Daventry which works with Filmology.


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