The Artsmark process facilitated self-realisation and empowerment for Minster; the self-assessment tool became the catalyst for change, demonstrating current good practice that was already portraying the quality principles already embedded but prompted a number of questions which then informed subsequent thinking to affect improvement at all levels. Outcomes permeated across leadership, curriculum design and staff/pupil confidence as evidenced in stakeholder surveys, books and outcomes across both key stages. We originally thought we were working towards ‘Silver Award’, however, on further reflection, our outcomes and journey are making considerable differences within and beyond school and are now working within a ‘Gold’ framework, and we are already starting to prepare for our 'Platinum' journey!
The Artsmark gave us the launchpad exposing us to cultural conferences, events, relevant research, widening our understanding of the importance of the Arts for individuals, developing insight about standards, pupil/staff self-development, engagement and life skills. We committed to a whole-school Arts approach, we needed transference of responsibility to sustain significant changes in the ethos of all stakeholders.
Having audited curriculum provision, we needed consistent offers of opportunity for experience and creativity, underpinned by our ethos, values and SMSC principles, which led to the complete re-planning of our curriculum alongside subject specialists and the school improvement partner. This included a wider range of artists and media for Art, DT, Music and Drama than we had previously engaged with, leading to a live and organic curriculum that is developing as it emerges. Our leadership model developed as the Arts became intrinsic to our offer with specifically appointed governors, senior and middle management visibly working in collaboration. CPD by professionals/specialists has been an essential factor including bespoke animation training, Arts Award advisor training, cultural leadership networking and deepening the understanding of curriculum principles enabling the leadership team to drive improvements.
We fulfilled our original plans for the Arts-led Literacy project enabling 93 children to achieve Discover Arts Award and enjoy a celebration of film with our community; we had incredible success with the Shakespeare project leading to live performances which pupils helped prepare and organise. Due to the successful projects and staff training involved, sustainable improvement occurred in Literacy with high levels of impact for pupils demonstrated in writing moderation within local collaboration. Our multi-disciplinary approach to both projects were evident in the planning as writing and drama were used together, children created props, composed music for the production, and working with established theatre groups to learn from professionals. They explored the breadth of roles enabling the production choosing their own role within it. Wanting to demonstrate the real-world relevance of positionality finding that children gained knowledge and understanding of this, evidenced by our lead-teacher’s experience ‘Our children lit up, they were inspired, one child said she felt insignificant in the classroom but she was able to stand out as a star in this environment, she realised that she could be seen in a different way.’ Equally, the Nutcracker project created pupil engagement, broadened knowledge of dance, formed new relationships within the community and networks, acting as powerful CPD developing our Dance curriculum, and improving the attendance for all pupils involved.
We have had a wider approach to sharing vision including all school staff to drive our unique curriculum but this has been fed by a greater use of networks. We have realised the importance of this and have established networking links with the Turner Contemporary, Royal Opera House Bridge, Artswork Bridge, The Cultural Learning Alliance, The Local Educational Partnership, Ideas Test, the subject leaders group, an NPQH cohort, Canterbury Christ Church University, The Leaders for Impact Network, local schools and Arts businesses (florist/architect/historian), Boogie Tots, Music hub and an adult choir. The amount of public-art projects that have arisen from networking opportunities has increased the level of Arts offers for pupils and impacting upon the community; including working alongside McDonalds and local government on arts-inspired environmental projects, local Council on building community links through art, creating Talent shows alongside other schools, singing in local churches and O2 arena, and participating in National dance programmes.
A visible change is demonstrated by leadership development. Our Senior Leadership Team supported our Arts Leader to gain a place on the Royal Opera House Bridge 6 month course ‘Leaders for Impact’ including mentoring by cultural leaders, coaching for impact, study days, understanding ICT networking platforms, school-to-school support, peer study groups challenging current provision in multiple-school research projects, creating a sustainable network of cultural ambassadors for the future. Our assistant headteacher has driven and developed the provision of the Arts across school reflecting and sharing Arts good practice with a NPQH cohort and Assistant Head teachers’ Network. This has led to future networks and influenced other school’s practice and curriculum through conferences, consultancy and informal support.
Our use of sketchbooks is a clear tangible change in our provision. We invested in Sketchbooks for key stage 2 but realised that Key stage 1 children should have a sketchbook to immerse themselves in the process. This reflected our developing opinions of how to scaffold learning in the arts. We placed higher emphasis on the importance of performance/exhibition and built this into subsequent planning; our development of capturing these events and their evaluation has been informed by the Arts Award training and sketchbook CPD allowing students to have greater input into what they learn, how they learn and how they record their learning. Alongside sketchbook implementation, we needed to develop teachers’ understanding of how to successfully use them, arranging some CPD with an Art specialist and conducting monitoring within school, looking at where effective practice could be showcased. This helped us to develop our theory on how to use them across the entire curriculum, e.g. Visual literacy.
Having committed to providing Arts Award Discover to Year 4 every year at the start of our Artsmark journey, we decided to extend our offer to include Arts Award Explore for our Young Arts Ambassadors annually. This is a rolling programme that will have different Art foci and involve different children each year. Our concept of Young Arts Advocates was celebrated by the ‘Leaders for Impact Network’ and six schools across Bedfordshire and Essex who are adopting this approach demonstrating a wider impact than we anticipated. These Young Art Ambassadors were picked for their artistic license from a range of Arts rather than voted by peers to ensure that the group truly reflected our school community and celebrated these attributes.
Previously our Music provision was facilitated by a specialist but through auditing, we felt the need for each teacher to engage with the subject to support our broad and balanced curriculum. This led to investment in high-quality planning and CPD supporting teachers to deliver their own lessons, heightening impact on pupils’ learning. The model of high quality planning for Art and DT was replicated for Music, and our NQT commented that she felt supported and able to deliver an outstanding teaching sequence as a result, ‘During my teaching practice, I felt that I was delivering the lessons but not actually teaching them, the plans have increased my confidence and I’m able to promote learning in the Arts.’
Our public art displays, provision of the alternative arts and cultural subjects are demonstrating how the arts permeate across communities and the children are starting to foresee the reality of career options in the creative industries as part of their futures. This is prevalent in our enterprise week, however, rather than only selling creative products, we are now including child-run workshops promoting different skills such as marbling. We are demonstrating these attributes ourselves in the school’s method of recruitment as pupils created an island collaboration video to encourage teachers to join our school.
We are proud of our Artsmark journey because it has been revolutionary for our whole-school pedagogy. It redirected some of our focus towards a much more holistic approach which has had far-reaching and positive effects for children, staff and local community. This is evidenced in weekly timetabling of the Arts with a greater school presence; the constant manifestation of the Arts has been able to supersede the Art Days that we previously had, ensuring that this original practice is embedded throughout.
The strategic approach to creative curriculum delivery has given children a social context of their world and supported personal development. Children are becoming much more curious about the curriculum subjects that we are presenting to them and are starting to develop their own line of enquiry. This can be evidenced by the huge uptake in our ‘Passport to Learning’ home project, formerly ‘Power Projects’, which have been rebranded to enable children to reflect upon their own experiences in relation to learning.
Ensuring that pupils are active participants in their learning has been a key motivating factor where sequences of Arts lessons have embedded pupil’s choice of recording, evaluation and reflection. The pupil surveys have spoken very favourably of this and their participation in National competitions such as Portfolio. We have been able to link these experiences to our environment, capitalising on our Forest School, Beach School, The Glen (a cultivated green space) and local cultural landmarks.
The power of partnership has formed part of our greatest learning as a school because it has created possibilities for our curriculum offer and provided greater opportunities for our staff, children and families. For example we participated in the Island Festival of Arts. We are forming an active role in creating the infrastructure alongside local museums, arts providers and relevant Arts Council Bridges in the form of a Local Cultural Education Partnership with school commitment of staff and pupil’s time. This is already proving to be a successful venture in securing money for future projects.
National Pupil Premium Awards
21 Primary Schools received a letter of congratulations from the Schools Minister congratulating them for their work in achieving excellent results for disadvantaged pupils.