Artswork goes to Thailand Part 2

Date Created: 21st Feb 2020

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Read part 1 of Jane’s blog on Artswork’s adventures in Thailand HERE

Flying back to the UK gives a rare moment of ‘betweenness’ – neither one place nor the other – and hence some space to reflect. The seminar on Thursday evening (13/02/20) jointly hosted by ARThailand and Chiang Mai Creative City – – that I referenced at the end of my first blog, was a very positive event. It was attended by a diverse range of committed educators from across Chiang Mai, keen to consider the ‘irresistible’ case for creativity and the arts in the education and lives of children and young people. We talked about the social, economic, equality, and health benefits, the evidence for this, drawing from practice and case studies.  We referenced the acknowledged importance by employers of the need for creativity to ensure a skilled, innovative, confident and entrepreneurial workforce of the future. The Q&A at the end of the session threw up some questions that teachers in the UK frequently raise: a) the question of how to integrate creativity across a school, going beyond the excellent practice within individual classrooms; b) the time needed for planning and collaboration with colleagues; and c) the need for Senior Leadership/Management Teams in schools to take a leadership role to steer, drive and embed creativity and the arts across the curriculum as part of a whole school approach. What a stimulating evening which finished with one delegate from Myanmar indicating that embedding creativity “need not necessarily require new resources- this was simply about a pedagogy, an ethos, an approach – and courage!” A joyous and positive way to end the evening!

The questions and discussions that Anna and I have enjoyed with the PREM Leadership Teams and members of staff throughout our time here, have also been stimulating. With the Leadership Team, we had an excellent review of our reflections and feedback and explored what might be potential first steps in a paced and phased way forward. Perhaps the first of these might be to review and audit the considerable areas of strength in the School as well as identifying those areas which might benefit from further development. Taking time, bringing the staff on board, considering both curriculum as well as extra curriculum provision, were all excellent ways to begin to move forward towards what might become a whole school strategy for creativity.

Anna has already found very positive, courageous leadership, engagement and buy-in through her work with PREM’s Science teachers. Working through dance and movement saw increased collaborative approaches between them – seeing and exploring possibilities together. They themselves shaped an approach which would intend to go beyond quick fixes, investigating deeper, richer ways of working not only in terms of teaching for creativity, but also in fostering enquiry among the young people. An example is their new planned approach to their end-of-year programme – Science in Motion – and their plans to work with young people using movement and non-verbal communication to express global scientific developments.

The willingness of PREM teachers to engage with the conversation, to share their current strengths with us and with each other, to explore with commitment and enthusiasm the possibilities, and the committed leadership from the Headteacher and Senior Team to facilitate further consideration and enhancement of whole school approaches, has been truly inspirational.

What has also been wonderful is the kindness and knowledge of staff too. Thai Teacher Yuwadee took Anna and I out one evening to explore some remarkable sacred temples: Wat Pa-Lad – a forest temple in the hills – and Wat Umong – an amazing temple which has tunnels with small Buddhist shrines. She also took us to a Meditation centre which felt an exceptionally sacred and spiritual place. In the Staff Wellbeing Hour on their Tuesday INSET day, Anna chose watercolours and I chose Bird Watching with two extremely knowledgeable leaders. I was privileged to get to see an incredible range of birds.

As I packed up my things this morning at dawn before departing for the Airport, I felt a sense of humility and wonder. This has been a most inspiring experience. We feel there is a renewed sense  of creative momentum in the School and that the unique ARThailand Programme run by Creative Director, Alex Soulsby, will continue to offer PREM staff and students extraordinary opportunities to work with extraordinary artists integrated in a holistic way into and beyond the curriculum.

Words: Jane Bryant, 14 February 2020



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