Inspiring tales of outstanding arts and culture
in South East schools

Date Created: 18th Jun 2018

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Our Artsmark and Arts Award Officers, Lisa and Andrea, recently visited three schools in the South East recognised by Ofsted as having strong or even outstanding arts and cultural provision. Apprentice Meg reports.

One of the schools, Prior’s Court in Berkshire, tailors their curriculum on an individualistic level, in order to better accommodate their students with autism. The school was set up by Dame Stephanie Shirley, who cared for her own autistic son Giles, and has provided funding and also donated eccentrically crafted sculptures to inhabit the vast land space that the school has acquired. These grounds are also home to farm animals, including goats, a pony, sheep, chickens, rabbits and even Pets as Therapy (PAT) dogs, which has resulted in the children gaining horticultural and farming skills. Children are free to explore tranquil floral walks too, which fill their worlds with colour.

Since the school’s outside area is so large and inviting, a music circle has started up outdoors, comprising of instruments made from recycled and upcycled materials, including bongos, maracas and bells. Our team member Andrea witnessed the children happily creating an array of noise, gaining cooperation skills through working in unison to create sound. On this year’s World Autism Day, the school even released a single that they had written and composed themselves, titled Let Me Shine.The song truly works to shine a light on Prior’s Court and its uplifting artistic education, and the ways it helps pupils in often challenging situations.

The next school the team visited was St Paul’s Primary School in Portsmouth, which strives to uphold their school motto: ‘Do everything with love’. And what better way to pursue education and learning with love than through arts and culture?

St Paul’s Primary School // credit: LPA ltd

Once stepping into the setting, you are greeted by the school’s library. This area is decorated by paintings and drawings created by the students, as well as works that visiting illustrators have donated to the school. This integration is a perfect example, not only of the importance of making arts accessible, but also serves to show that within future employment, accessibility in the arts remains.

With many schools focused on academic achievements (largely due to concerns with practicality and job prospects for pupils), it is rejuvenating and inspiring for young people to see that progression is possible within the creative and cultural sectors. Our Artsmark and Arts Award Officer, Lisa, also sat in on one of the school’s impressive music lessons, led by Mr Welsh. Independent thinking was encouraged as he began producing a beat and asked each individual pupil to join in once they felt they could accompany with a complimentary rhythm. Some were very eager to begin and started straight away; others lacked confidence or were perhaps worried they would ruin the rhythm. However, by the end, all of the children were joining in with the exercise – a fitting representation of the inclusivity of the arts.

The last visit on the agenda was Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School. This setting particularly excels in terms of resources and facilities, with their very own drama and art studio on site. These spaces are required for the school, who have a steady export of student productions, including segments inspired by School of Rock, Matilda and Abba. The whole school from across KS1 contributed to this effort, with adults and ex-students joining in too (many ex-students came on board as production/behind the scenes help).

The school also participates in the annual Rock Challenge. This year, they dedicated their performance to the life and works of Carrie Fisher and her mother. The show, which took place on January 30th, won eight awards! This was undoubtedly a huge achievement for the whole school and a boost to their ‘status’, but much more importantly, it encapsulated the artistic experiences of each individual young person involved.

Each school’s dedication to artistic and cultural experiences for their pupils is exaclty what Artswork and the Artsmark award strives to encourage, and it is great to see just a few of many examples up-close from schools within the region.

If your school has an Artsmark award or is working towards one and would like to show our team all you have to offer, please get in touch – we’d love to visit and see all the fantastic work first-hand. Drop us an email via [email protected] to share your arts story!

right-hand image: Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School // credit: LPA ltd

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