Written by Rebecca Stroud, Beck Primary School.
Courtesy of Greentop Circus.
Beck Primary School is a very large, 3 form entry school, sitting in the heart of a large council estate in North East Sheffield. It’s a vibrant, busy school with a high percentage of pupils (more than 50%) with pupil premium. The centre of the city is a forty-five-minute bus journey away, and combined with parents’ socio-economic deprivation, very few pupils engage in external cultural activities. We strived to plug this cultural capital gap.
In 2017, we wanted to widen the curriculum, which had become narrowed due to accountability/testing regime. We felt that the arts had particularly been squeezed due to the pressures of governmental accountability measures. Furthermore, staff median age is quite young and as a result many staff have trained since arts teacher training had been cut to a minimum requirement and post LEA Advisory Service being disbanded. This had resulted in lower teacher skills, experience and confidence in arts subjects. Beck primary wanted to re-invigorate the curriculum and broaden it to incorporate greater use of the arts and arts processes to engage children more in their learning.
We felt that Artsmark would give us:
To support this, our Music Teacher in school undertook the role of Arts Lead and formed an Arts Team to drive the two-year Artsmark cycle, which was undertaken in 2017-2019. Extra monies were assigned in the budget and time was given to arts CPD in staff meetings.
Beck Primary School now has a designated music room and has invested in instruments and music resources that enable the children to receive high quality music sessions that work towards team skills, and all the soft skills like self confidence and self expression, resilience and persistence.
Our curriculum received an overhaul and we actively looked for ways of using arts processes to deliver other areas of the curriculum – the children engaged more in the new revamped curriculum. We have increased the variety of trips out or visitors in to enrich our topics – this includes physically getting the bus into town to show the children that there are cultural places to visit within reach of their doorstep.
Through Artsmark, we have made connections with local arts partners, co-created activities and projects, and collaborated on developing activities with arts partners, e.g. Sheffield Theatres, Greentop Circus ‘This is Circus’. We also had an artist in residence for a year and have joined national arts organisations. We have begun to develop meaningful and ongoing network relationships with the local arts community, LCEPs and bridge arts organisations.
Staff in school have received significant arts CPD uplift, leading to increased skill set, experience and confidence. IVE supported strategic level development by sponsoring one of our staff through NPQSL. We’re no longer scared of getting messy as staff recognise getting messy is getting creative! We now actively seek funds to help swell our cultural capital capacity and we’re developing our school blog and twitter to raise our schools’ arts profile, engage with the arts world and journal activities that can’t be captured in a book.
Collaborating with Sheffield Music Hub led to our students playing an opening fanfare for the national Music Mark Conference held in Sheffield in 2019
We want to keep going on this journey because we can see it engages our students, enriches our school environment, helps us connect with people in our city and brings a vibrancy to the school and engages our parents and pupils.
We’re beginning to develop the use of Arts Awards – this started with a home learning prototype during lockdown, now developing opportunities within the curriculum and in collaboration with partners.
We’ve signed up to do another Artsmark cycle because we’ve realised that we’re not ‘finished. We feel like we’re on a journey and the Artsmark cycle helps us stay focussed on that journey of improvement.
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