Eldwick Primary School is leading the way to Artsmark success by working in a cluster with other primaries, sharing costs and expertise.
Eldwick Primary School in Bingley lead a cluster of schools when they applied for their Artsmark Award. They joined together with 3 local primary, and 2 local secondary schools. Headteacher, Janice Kershaw, is in no doubt about the single biggest legacy of the Artsmark process: the network that developed as a result:
“A group of teachers, passionate about the arts, coming together regularly to reinvigorate each other has enhanced music across all the schools and keeps the arts going.”
Janice is a passionate advocate of the arts. She hosts trainees from the Bradford Birth to 19 SCiTT every year, for a full day’s arts training.
As an Early Years practitioner herself, she knows the vital role that the arts play in the development of children. They provide vital creative and interpersonal skills. She also knows how easy it is for schools to pare back the arts experiences as children progress through the school system. Often this is because of curriculum pressures; often it is because some teachers feel they need to develop their abilities as ‘artists’ further. In either case, partnership working can help. Janice explains the impact of a project involving both primary and secondary pupils, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
“Year 5 children performed The Tempest with Bingley Grammar School students in their professional studio, with all the lights and facilities. This opened doors to students and their families. If schools don’t open doors, how do [children] know if they like it? And it all brings literacy to life.”
Eldwick is no stranger to partnership work. In 2014, they partnered with Northern Ballet to explore how a dance programme could impact on literacy levels. The results were significant:
The key to successful employment of artists in schools is to develop a true partnership. The days of the teacher marking in the corner whilst a visiting dancer teaches the children are long gone. It’s the expertise of the artist combined with the expertise of the teacher that brings the best results. They should plan and deliver together, evaluating after each session and then re-focus to build on early successes. The Artsmark process gives the school space to really explore what they do and what they don’t do. Most excitingly, it all gives it space to imagine what they could do, and with whom.
Before the Artsmark process, the primary schools were already working as a cluster and all fed into the secondaries. However, there was little sustained focus on the arts. Further, the individuals identified by the head teachers to lead the Artsmark process didn’t know each other. Together, they attended the Development Day and identified common areas for development for the Statement of Commitment. They have never looked back.
Holly Atkinson, arts lead at Eldwick, now leads specialist music sessions in the other primaries. She brings children together in choirs, who then perform together in concerts. Teachers from the secondaries come into the primaries and bring facilities and skills that are impossible to deliver under normal circumstances. And each term, the team meet to agree priorities and projects to co-deliver. One of the elements that keeps this process focused and sustainable is the framework that the Artsmark delivers. Teachers from each school know its journey towards the next Artsmark level and they all help each other get there.
Holly teaches a Year 3 class at Eldwick each morning. Each afternoon she dedicates to music tuition, across the whole school and the cluster. I asked Janice about the financial implications of using Holly across the cluster. Times are tight and Holly is an excellent teacher. How could Janice justify using Holly so much as an arts specialist? Janice was clear. She pays mainly through the CPD budget, as Holly’s leadership skills have thrived whilst leading the cluster.
Holly brings back those leadership skills to the school so everybody wins. So why is Janice so passionate about the arts in the first place?
“Our children leave Holly knowing who they are and what they love. [The arts taught well] builds confidence, voice and a clear sense of self. If you plant the seed throughout primary education, they never lose it. They’ll find it.”
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