There and back again | Admiral Lord Nelson School on 16 years of Artsmark commitment

Date Created: 16th Jul 2018

Fourteen secondary school aged children performing choreography on a lit stage

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Words: Julia Firth, Senior Leader, Curriculum and Personal Development, Admiral Lord Nelson School

From 1995 to now

ALNS was founded in 1995 and has 1040 students from 11-16. The school is located in a highly urbanised North East corner of Portsmouth surrounded by housing and with very few leisure facilities. Arts in the city generally have a low profile with our parents and students despite a flourishing scene. Attendance by our students is minimal as they are not easily accessible and Portsmouth has one of the highest rates of youth poverty in the country. When we began our Artsmark journey many years ago we agreed to commit to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to take part in a range of high quality arts experiences throughout their time at ALNS in order to develop a lifelong love of the Arts.

We are exceptionally proud to have held an Artsmark Gold Award since the award started and were part of the pilot in 2015 resulting in us becoming one of the first Artsmark Platinum Schools in the country. We have just been awarded Platinum again and are exceptionally proud to be the first school to have reached this level of award twice!

The Arts are highly valued by both staff and students at ALNS. Students are engaged and creative within their lessons and beyond, and their successes are celebrated. Students experience Music, Art and Design, Dance and Drama at KS3 and a full range of Arts courses are offered at KS4.

Students at ALNS have access to a huge range of art forms from a large variety of sources. They undertake Art projects with local and national artists, creating work that has been displayed throughout the school and within the community, with a focus on building sustainable on-going projects. They also have the opportunity to work with professional artists and performers as often as possible. Our Personal Development Days encourage students to explore the Arts from a global perspective. Extra-curricular Arts at ALNS remains one of the school biggest strengths. We ensure a minimum of one public performance opportunity every term for our students. We participate in many local events and the school has become recognised for its excellence within the local community. We provide many opportunities for our students to perform around the country, and we are always looking for ways to extend this provision.

ALNS as a Rights Respecting UNICEF Gold School

One of the most exciting developments for us has been the induction of ALNS as a Rights Respecting UNICEF Gold school, which has in in turn led us to achieving the International Schools Award and becoming a Global Learning Programme Expert Centre. These programmes have all been led by the same member of the Senior team responsible for the Arts and Artsmark within the school, which has enabled the development of some exciting Arts-based projects exploring Global Learning and Children’s Rights through the Arts and the power of Performance. Plans are now in place working with a local theatre to develop a performance/drama project using the Rights Respecting aspect of our work. We have started this with a Journeys performance about refugees working with the Red Cross in Portsmouth and are excited about developing this work further over the coming months. Students have also been asked to create to performances for Stonewall training and recently performed to a large group of teachers.

The ALNS Arts Charter

For our previous Artsmark award application, we developed the ALNS Arts Charter, using the seven principles and then developed this into the Salterns Academy Trust Charter, so it can be seen in all schools within our Trust. Our ongoing commitment to being an outward-facing Artsmark school means that students have the best experiences possible to help them develop a life-long love of the Arts.

The development of the Arts Curriculum and the change to a three-year KS4 process ensures that students will gain a full and varied experience of the Arts in all areas and build upon their current learning. They get the opportunity to specialise in the Arts a year earlier and really develop an in-depth understanding of their chosen art form.

Parents have more opportunities to see their children’s work either through Performances both in school or in the city (Rock Challenge, Soundsational, Portsmouth Music Festival, three school productions a year, a Royal Albert Hall performance, and Red Cross Journeys to name a few), or the large displays of Art work now all around the school. Their children have enhanced curriculum experiences and real opportunities for positive learning experiences within school.

Striving for more

We are constantly striving to “be better” both as a school and as an Arts team. Artsmark has always enabled us to look closely at our current practice, highlight our areas of excellence and move forward the areas that we want to continue to develop further.

We continue to review our practice both as an Arts team and as educational practitioners. Artsmark has encouraged us to share our practice as part of our schools programme of CPD, to recognise the value in what we teach both within curriculum and beyond and to look at how this can have a lasting impact across the school and the wider city.

Increasing access

We know that students in our school and within Portsmouth do not have access to Arts experiences in their everyday lives. It is our job as artists who are also educators to ensure that our students have EVERY opportunity to discover and thrive within the Arts. If we do not give them these experiences now they will never have them! Our Artsmark journey enables us to re-confirm this as a school, to make sure that the whole staff are committed to providing quality Arts experiences where possible within and beyond the curriculum. We have had the time and opportunity to renew our whole school commitment to the Arts with a review of our Arts Charter that fits perfectly with our whole school ethos.

After 16 years of completing Artsmark applications I believe we have gone from strength to strength as a school and the application process and two yearly review of our arts provision ensures we revisit our core principles and commitment to the Arts for all.

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