Scottish Ballet Safe to Be Me Research Evaluation Report

Mevawalla, Zinnia and Molyneaux, Kate and Taylor, Yvette and Wall, Kate (2024) Scottish Ballet Safe to Be Me Research Evaluation Report. University of Strathclyde.

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This report presents the findings of a research evaluation of the Scottish Ballet’s Safe to Be Me ® programme which explores key social issues around identity, diversity, racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia with children. The Equality Act (2010) describes nine protected characteristics. These are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation (see Lawrence & Taylor, 2019). The Safe to Be Me ® programme is delivered in line with key Scottish Government targets to address these areas, engaging young people to explore issues such as identity, respect, acceptance, allyship, family diversity, and LGBTQ+ communities. The evaluation of the programme was conducted in three phases. Phase one involved collection of data prior to children starting the programme. Phase two involved data collection during workshops. Phase three occurred several weeks to months following programme completion. During phase three, children and teachers were asked to reflect on their experiences and learning from the programme. Separate focus group interviews with dance facilitators and programme managers provided further context and insights. In total, 5 schools and 6 classes were involved across the project. Within this sample, participants included 60 children, 2 teachers, and 7 programme facilitators and leaders. Attrition of school participants meant that different schools participated across phases one, two and three, such that a direct mapping or comparison of impact is not possible. Instead, the data provides rich and detailed snapshots of participant experiences across the programme. Overall, the findings indicate that the Safe to Be Me ® programme influenced children’s understandings of key terms and enabled confidence in using these terms to describe structural inequality or ‘protected characteristics’, as listed under the Equality Act (2010). Prior to the programme activities and workshops, children used common rhetoric and phrases to discuss identity and diversity (e.g., “difference doesn’t matter”). Following workshop completion, children made more direct references to racism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. The findings also indicate that the programme influenced children’s language recognition, with students directly reflecting on, recalling, and labelling instances of discrimination. Participants’ willingness to talk about or accept diversity varied across ability, gender, race, and sexuality. On occasion, children had mixed feelings towards dance – with some students indicating enjoyment and self-confidence with dance during and after the programme, and others sharing feelings of discomfort, hesitance, and/or awkwardness.