Words: Prior’s Court School
The young people and staff at Prior’s Court School have always been fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing sculptures and pictures, thanks to our founding patron, Dame Stephanie Shirley and her passion for art. As a special residential school for severely autistic young people, we decided to apply for Artsmark in order to both audit and develop the arts provision for our young people, for whom the arts can be an invaluable means for cross-curricular teaching and learning.
Before our Artsmark journey began, our arts and cultural provision was somewhat limited, with very few visits from professional artists, and a music curriculum that was having little impact on the learning of our pupils. In order to develop the music curriculum and increase opportunities for dance and drama, we began a year-long CPD music training programme with The Voices Foundation. It provided us with the necessary support to review our curriculum’s relevance and suitability for our students and their unique and individual needs, whilst still maintaining that key element of fun.
Prior’s Court has experienced many changes as a result of the Artsmark journey. Students now have access to a wider and regular programme of arts events, from watching visiting theatre companies, to taking part in music performances and
workshops and creating artwork with professional artists. Many of the companies that have been involved with us have seen evidence of real impact and want to revisit to offer further opportunity for the young people here.
We are very proud of how the arts are embedded across the curriculum now. Number is focused on through music teaching. Drama is taught though sensory stories where students interact with props or dress up and imitate actions or sounds. Science incorporates sensory art ideas to explore and predict changes in materials and Religious Education and Modern Foreign Languages are celebrated through cultural days with arts-based activities, such as Chinese plate painting or Irish music for St Patrick’s Day. For our learners, these types of experiences are essential for bringing these subjects to life.
The young people with their complex needs may not be able to comment on what they would like or how they feel. What has been very evident is that there have been multiple opportunities for communication through theatre, dance, and different genres of music, and these have been extremely well received. The young people have wanted to be engaged, and have contributed at their own level. Staff have reported the positive impact and learning that has gone on that was not considered possible before. The attitude towards ‘the Arts’ has been met with a change in perception, with people wanting to incorporate more to support learning.
“Our Artsmark journey has enabled the children to develop their fine motor skills, enjoy the arts through sensory experiences, and access a wider variety of arts both in and out of school. It has introduced the arts as an overarching theme across the whole curriculum, as well as encouraged staff to participate more in visual arts, music and theatrical events.”
(Di Deacon, Lead Teacher for Outdoor Learning)
We would definitely recommend applying for Artsmark; our journey has transformed our arts provision so significantly. Our next steps will be to look at developing our arts provision to Artsmark Platinum standard, and to continue to work collaboratively with other special schools on developing arts experiences for all of our unique young people.
You can find out more about the work Prior’s Court School are doing via https://www.priorscourt.org.uk or by following them on Facebook
To find out more about The Voices Foundation click here