Our Artsmark journey: Queens Park Primary
Date Created: 3rd Apr 2019
Boosting arts and culture in a curriculum focused on ‘core’ or STEM subjects may feel like a daunting task. However, at Artswork, we know it is possible – we see and hear so many great stories from schools across the South East doing just this. Working towards an Artsmark award is a great way to build on your arts and cultural provision. We caught up with Mhari Smith, Arts Coordinator at Queens Park Primary School in Brighton, to hear more about their Artsmark journey…
What’s the Artsmark journey been like for you?
We began our Artsmark journey two years ago. At the time I really had no idea what a huge impact it would have on our school, in terms of how much we have expanded our creative provision, and also the extent to which we have been able to spread our vision to every aspect of our school community and beyond.
What helped you structure your approach?
The Artsmark Self Assessment Framework tool we used to find out what was and wasn’t being taught creatively was really useful, as it gave us a clear structure. We had previously thought that we were quite a creative school, but the assessment tool helped us to identify gaps.
How have you ensured that your children and young people have been involved throughout the process?
Pupil involvement has been a hugely successful addition to our provision. We began by appointing Arts Ambassadors from our Year 6 children. They took responsibility for running art/zine/comic clubs by learning and then sharing skills. They even occasionally ran a staff meeting, teaching teachers new skills. Empowering children to influence the creative provision has been one of the most worthwhile decisions we made to ensure we have pupils’ creative development at the heart of our improvements.
How did things progress from there?
As this was so successful, we soon realised there were other ways that children could become involved, especially at a more strategic level. We formed our own school Arts Council, with representatives from each KS2 class taking responsibility for finding out what children in their classes wanted improved or added in terms of creativity. They have come up with some great initiatives, including an art board, which celebrates art created in their free time (other boards are dedicated to an art skill progression), art competitions and comic club.
Did you find you had success in other areas too?
Yes. Another surprising aspect of improvement was reaching out into the community. It’s brought about some wonderful connections, such as working with a local women’s group and singing to elderly people in the local nursing home. More recently, we have been sharing and inspiring other schools and educational professionals with our NT Let’s Play experience.
What else have you done as part of your commitment to the arts in your school?
We trialled a 20 minute after-lunch art session, designed to support children who found it difficult to transition from what was often a challenging playtime back to settling in class. The results were extremely positive, and although this was run for only one year, it has continued to be used for classes with a significant number of High Tariff children. This has also led to our Arts Week being held directly after the winter break, another difficult transition for many children. Again, this has produced positive, calming and grounding effects on all children and staff involved.
Did you start out with any specific aims for areas of improvement?
Our particular focus was to improve our Drama provision. We have now become heavily involved in the National Theatre’s Let’s Play project, and we will be sharing our new skills through CPD during an upcoming INSET, to enable other year groups to learn about the great ideas and resources we have acquired.
What have you found the most challenging thing so far during all this?
One of the biggest problems we’ve found can be that creativity is not held in such high esteem compared to the core subjects. Embedding it in your School Improvement Plan means that quality and relevant CPD can be scheduled into the school year. Giving teachers the necessary skills and confidence to do this kind of work is key to making it successful.
Wishing you and your school all the best as you continue on your creative education journey, Mhari!
If you are looking to boost the arts in your school, Artsmark can provide a strong platform to support and complement this. Find out more about it here
Download the Artsmark Self-Assessment Framework resource here