Northern Ireland news

Co Down school using film projects to boost mental health of pupils and staff after Covid-19 pandemic

Seamus Hanna, principal of St Colmcille's High School in Crossgar, with pupils who made Framed, a short movie, which won the school's inaugural film festival 

A CO Down school is using film projects to boost the mental health of its pupils and staff after it was "hit hard" during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative at St Colmcille’s High School in Crossgar has seen year 8 and 9 work together to "create and showcase their own films to help resurrect their wonderful school spirit".

Principal Seamus Hanna said the project aimed to support the mental health of pupils and staff "impacted by the effects of Covid".

"We were hit hard during the pandemic with both staff and pupil absence and in a small number of cases the loss of family members," he said.

"At its height, in one week, we had 23 of our 39 staff absent and over 50 per cent of our pupils absent with Covid. It had been such a dark time and I can’t even put into words the strange atmosphere in school.

"The return to normality has been a difficult road for us and we had been searching for a way to build enthusiasm and put fun and enjoyment back into our pupil learning.

"When we saw the massive positive impact of this first video project, we decided to expand it."

The project was led by Victoria Polly, head of English and education ambassador for the organisation Into Film.

Working with 3fortyfive Films, each class was given one day filming and provided with professional help to direct and produce their films.

With films set in a prison, forest and school, they had a range of characters including villains, heroes, doctors, lawyers, teachers, zombies and even a dancing dinosaur.

The scripts and characters that were created by the students prior to filming were brought to life in just six days.

The staff also got behind the project and created short film clips based on famous scenes from blockbuster films as a way to bring parents and the wider community back into the school.

Ms Polly said: "We know the power of film to transport us to another world and allow us to give freedom to our imaginations.

"Our pupils began to talk about genre, setting, plot, characterisation, scripts, camera angles and most importantly we witnessed energy, enthusiasm, laughter, and of course, competition emerging from our pupils.

"The darkness of the virus was being replaced with a passion to succeed and a desire to enjoy learning and to show the family spirit that typifies our school."

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