Creativity Across the Curriculum
In this section
- Whole school approach
- Curriculum design to support creativity
- Pupil voice and learner agency
Whole School Approach
This is often stressed as essential for the successful implementation of any change or development of the curriculum or wider school culture.
Having worked closely with a variety of schools and settings across different phases, sizes and locations on these programmes, our learning reveals that the most creative schools consider the ‘whole school’ both as a support and resource.
To achieve a whole school approach, leaders need to consider the engagement of school personnel at all levels to ensure their enthusiasm and commitment towards developing a cultural ethos. Communication of this to the wider school community is also key, ensuring that governors, families and partners are clear on the value being placed on creativity, arts and culture in the school and the benefits of it.
Many of our projects demonstrated the impact of engaging all school staff from leaders, teachers and governors to support and admin staff. Our partners became powerful advocates who shared their passion and enthusiasm with their colleagues as well as their pupils. A result of this advocacy, in some settings, was to reveal hidden creative skills across staff teams and to provide opportunities for them to be shared, developed and celebrated.
“Having the whole school embedding creativity and being more aware of the creative arts in their subject has been successful for a range of students who had often struggled in more academic subjects. The SharePoint folder has also been beneficial for the newsletter providing creative imagery for parents and carers to see.”
– Mimi Gabriel, Art Lead, Cornfield School, Surrey
Another creative interpretation of a whole school approach is to consider the school buildings, the grounds and local area as a potential teaching and exhibition space. This includes the community, the pupils, their families and local artists and cultural organisations. Using the whole school, inside and out, and the resources of its locality can unlock creative inspiration, activity and celebration. See the practice sharing link in Review 1 – Arts and Creative Outdoor Learning for examples of this.
Arts, culture and creativity are effective tools to ensure a broad and balanced curriculum, filled with opportunities for children and young people to experience and apply their learning in new ways. Many of the programmes we have supported in the last three years have placed a significant focus on making achievable positive changes to their creative and cultural offer, through a variety of approaches. Where most successful, these programmes have set the foundations for future aspirations and tied in school improvement priorities where appropriate.
“If you see the two subjects [art and music] separately then it’s a lot of work. Whereas if you see them as the creative arts together, you are more likely to be able to support each other and get more creative arts in the school.”
– Laura Berry, Music and Maths Lead, The Coombes Primary School
Curriculum Design to Support Creativity
Our projects illustrated the vital role of school leadership, including governors.
It was essential to engage their interest to see creativity embedded across the curriculum. Where leadership changed, priorities changed, and this impacted on some programmes. It takes time and leadership to build creative and cultural practices within a school or trust. All staff and pupils need to share in the journey and understand its value and benefits. Of most importance is a shared vision and an implementation plan that takes into account capacity and resourcing.
“Buy-in is needed from the SLT and other stakeholders for the embedding of arts engagement to begin to happen. We achieved this by bringing artists, musicians and performers into the school, initially on a small scale, and allowed them to work with our young people. We were able to use these visits to demonstrate impact, and staff could see proof of engagement and enjoyment by our young people. This evidence then meant that we were able to increase the length and depth of arts opportunities as they gained momentum.”
– Jen Lord, Assistant Headteacher, The Wyvern School, Ashford, Kent
“We’ve really put Arts and Culture at the heart of a lot of what we do… we use the process to allow the children to express themselves in whatever way they want to.”
– Sandra Ackerman, Art specialist teacher, River Beach Primary School, Littlehampton>
Expressive arts and design are a key element of the Revised EYFS Framework 2021. This can give EYFS settings scope to support the creative and imaginative play that is crucial for developing social and language skills that underpin all future learning. At our Building Creativity in Early Years Settings CPD event our keynote speaker, Kirstine Beeley of ‘Playing to Learn’ in Buckinghamshire emphasised that creative opportunities should run through the whole learning experience rather than being limited to a ‘corner’ or specific time. For her, pupil agency to explore their own imaginations means that the process is as valuable as the product. The challenge for practitioners is to value and celebrate that process.
“Giving individual children the ability to express themselves in whichever way they feel is best for them, not every child will express themselves through painting, not every child will express themselves through music, not every child will express themselves through drama… We shouldn’t be trying to force them all to do exactly the same. We need to look for that spark of creativity in each of our children.”
– Kirstine Beeley, Playing to Learn, Buckinghamshire
All schools can add value to their curriculum by responding to opportunities and connecting to new and existing resources available locally or nationally. One of our Creative Champions Programmes led by Wincheap Primary School, Canterbury worked with two local schools to respond to the ‘Walk with Amal’ live performance event that took place across the UK in Autumn 2021. Using the free to use Education Pack, each school enhanced the opportunity and experience through follow-up creative activities.
“Having a whole school project, that focused on others rather than ourselves, so early in the year was hugely beneficial for the children and the adults in school, it has helped with everyone’s transition between year groups and enabled children to talk about their hopes and fears. It has given the school a positive and bright outlook with a focus on openness and wellbeing which is displayed throughout the school.”
– Julie Burroughs, Art Lead, Wincheap Primary School, Canterbury, Kent
Pupil Voice and Learner Agency
Alongside authentic and meaningful learning opportunities, pupil voice and learner agency are central to developing confidence and empowering young people
A resource produced by one Champions group explored this and considered how pupil agency can be grown by offering opportunities for children and young people to influence aspects of school life and their learning.
“Learner agency can arise from the student voice. Learner agency involves equipping learners with the skills and ability to progress, explore and develop their understanding and knowledge themselves, often with close guidance to start with, leading to increased freedom. One role of an educator is to encourage and develop agency in their learners.”
– Jonathan Harris, Head of Academy Music, The Premier Academy, Milton Keynes
Pupil Voice Resource
Our CPD session Developing Pupil Voice through the Arts explored this further and included other examples of schools that are enabling pupil voice to benefit young people and their school community.
Brighton Aldridge Community Academy sees students as the school’s ‘customers’ so it’s important to listen to them and adapt the curriculum (within exam specifications) in response to their ideas and requests. The ‘BACA100’ model was developed by students and offers all their young people a wide range of experiences and leadership opportunities during their time in the Academy, such as going to the theatre or spending a night in a tent.
Also in Brighton, Queens Park Primary School have a developed Arts Ambassadors programme through which pupils from upper Key Stage 2 share their creative skills with their peers, younger children and staff. When the school took part in the National Theatre’s Let’s Play programme, the Art Ambassadors took the leading role in drama games. They attended a staff CPD and taught teachers and support staff how to play the games with their classes. The success of this approach led to the Arts Ambassadors taking part in a city-wide event where the pupils taught teachers and headteachers from other Brighton schools.
“The children prepared and facilitated workshops teaching local teachers and head teachers. We were particularly struck by their powerful model of pupil-led CPD for staff and how listening to the pupil voice has impacted their ideas take forward in the future.”
– Mhari Smith, Art Lead, Queens Park Primary School, Brighton
One of the benefits of working with arts and cultural partners is the opportunity provided to enrich learning in the curriculum and beyond.
“Partnership work is powerful. You need to be outward looking and not protective over your own ideas or projects. The creative arts sector is one of the few areas where everyone is happy to share creative ideas and support each other without any financial or equity gain.”
– Matt Jones, Headteacher, Deer Park Secondary School, Hampshire
The project model Jelly Arts developed over two iterations, one in Reading and the second in Wokingham, used investment to fund artist-led workshops in schools that provided both stimulating experiences for children and supported teachers and support staff to develop their skills.
“The programme has been a great success within the school. The pupils have gained a vast knowledge of different art styles and techniques which they then applied practically to create fantastic pieces of work. As a consequence of the programme, the staff have developed their understanding and pedagogy of how to deliver fun, engaging and enriched lessons where learning outcomes are achieved by all. Staff have since engaged in discussions and training with each other sharing tips and ideas on how to develop the content and delivery of the curriculum within the school.”
– Brenda Goodchild, Art and DT Lead, Aldryngton Primary School, Wokingham
As part of the Artsmark Creative Champions programme, Art lead and mentee Andrea White worked with Elno Art, a spray paint Avatar artist, and reflected:
“Pupils have enjoyed the link to the gaming and videos they watch, the exciting way of creating portraits, the imagination and creativity of avatars, and the prospect of spray painting on the school wall. The ideas of pupil voice, anonymous individuality, ownership of environment and learning that are being encouraged and endorsed by a practising artist makes the curriculum more authentic for the pupils, increasing pupil engagement and enthusiasm.”
– Andrea White, Art Lead, Polygon School, Southampton
A strong and wide-ranging extra-curricular offer provides additional creative and cultural opportunities for children and young people, but it can be a challenge for staff. As part of a Secondary Champions programme, Sam Martin, Assistant Head at Kennet School in Thatcham, shared her tips on running a rich extra-curricular programme, without compromising staff wellbeing. This was as part of a podcast series.
All of our programmes have been about providing new and exciting high-quality arts, cultural and creative learning opportunities for pupils and upskilling teachers through CPD.
The impact of this has been wide ranging, from improvements in attendance, behaviour, engagement, and progression to unlocking creativity in both pupils and teachers and, through this, building their confidence.
“Children, particularly some of the vulnerable ones, have reported that performing/sharing work together has improved their confidence and sense of ‘belonging’ within the class.”
– Dave Ayres, Headteacher, River Beach Primary School, Littlehampton
A powerful story of the lasting impact of a rich and creative arts and cultural intervention at primary school was offered by Jonathan Harris, our Keynote speaker at our CPD Developing Pupil Voice Through the Arts. This video is one of his former pupils, now in Year 9, talking about the impact her experiences at The Premier Academy have had on her continuing musical education.
Embedding a creative ethos in school will have positive impacts not only on pupils but on the adults. Through our projects we have seen benefits reported, including increased confidence, inspiration and professional development, for not only the teaching staff involved but also their colleagues and support teams.
Some of our less confident teachers have been inspired by the workshops they observed… I have been inspired by the Arts Award and have undertaken training [funded by Artswork] so that we can build portfolios and earn Discover Awards in upper school. This will support the work we do for Artsmark and will enrich our art curriculum.
Amy French, Art Lead, Lambs Lane Primary, Wokingham
Read Our Other Reviews
Developing Representation through Arts and Creativity
SEND Settings Excelling in Creativity
Latest Training & Events
9th Jan 2024
Representation in the Primary Arts Curriculum