“The arts and creativity are essential in putting our children’s lives back on track.” Highlights from ‘Aspire: The Power of the Arts to Transform Learners’ lives’ online festival

Date Created: 5th May 2021

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Saturday 24th April saw hundreds of education professionals, artists and arts advocates gather online for an international festival celebrating the power of the arts to ‘inspire, unite, cheer, challenge and heal.’

Led by Aspire Alternative Provision MAT (multi-academy trust) in Buckinghamshire, this event featured a diverse programme of over 50 live and pre-recorded CPD presentations, panel discussions, written and visual submissions for those passionate about the power of the arts to transform learner’s lives in schools, further education and beyond. Our Strategic Manager Ruth Taylor and Education Development Manager Eleanor Markland were spoilt for choice on the day. Thankfully session recordings are now available here for anyone that missed out. Not sure where to start? Eleanor shares her online festival highlights below…

The event brought together so many inspiring speakers all sharing their conviction that the arts have the power to engage learners and transform their learning, wellbeing and self-perception. The programme was hugely varied and achieved an enviable diversity. It was one of those schedules that makes you wish you could be in two places at once and grateful that, in these digital days, recordings make that almost possible!

“Why is our school system suffocating creativity?”
– Debra Rutley, Head of Aspire AP

Debra Rutley’s opening speech demonstrated that under her leadership Aspire AP MAT is making full use of the transformative powers of the arts and creativity to support their students to overcome the challenges they face to “reconnect with achievement”. However, Aspire also harnesses this power to benefit staff, and I was very envious of the staff ‘revival days’ that form part of their CPD.

I particularly enjoyed learning from those artists actively working in communities with young people. I point you to Imrana Mahmood – The Art of Representation and Zohab Zee Khan – Poetry, Wellness and Life-Long Change. Both included spoken word pieces that brought the points they made to life vividly.

It was also inspiring to hear from teachers about how they use creativity and the arts in their practice at all phases. Rupinder Sandhu spoke about how the national Covid-19 lockdowns had helped move her practice on, enabling her to embrace digital learning in Further Education Art & Design. Wayne Roberts from Dalmain Primary School spoke about how he has used his adult education experience to develop an art curriculum that provides progression, inspiration and challenge to Dalmain’s pupils. 

Nick Corston of SteamCo demonstrated the tech skills he has learned over the last year by broadcasting from a cardboard replica of Coventry Cathedral built by pupils at a Dorset primary school. Overall my biggest takeaway from the day was the two extra ‘I’s his headteacher colleague has added to Ofsted’s ‘Intent, Implementation and Impact’ assessment framework; Inclusion and Inspiration.

Words: Eleanor Markland, Education Development Manager for Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Milton Keynes. Find the Education Development Manager for your area here.

Click here to find out how we support schools and other education settings to embed creativity into the curriculum through programmes such as Artsmark and resources such as our Schools Newspaper. Plus, be sure to keep a look out on our Training and Events page for upcoming CPD opportunities for teachers and educators.

Visual Minutes displayed in spider diagrams captured on the day exploring topics such as 'Key learnings from the pandemic', 'How did you develop your practice?', 'Inclusivity', 'What can education learn from the arts?', 'How to use the arts to empower?' and 'How to convince senior leaders?'

Image credits: Visual Minutes, Aspire: The Power of the Arts, 24th April 2021, Rebecca Osborne and Aspire AP


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