How Joining a Local Cultural Education Partnership can Help Your School

17th January 2018 - Sarah Mumford

Local Cultural Education Partnerships are collections of individuals and organisations working together to improve arts and cultural education. They can include local authorities, arts organisations and community groups, amongst others but in this article Sarah Mumford examines how they benefit schools.

“By becoming a member the school has access to resources and support that really enrich the curriculum and learning opportunities for the pupils. It is more important than ever to recognise the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum and the important contribution the wider curriculum has. LCEPs support schools in this endeavour and help schools deliver a curriculum with local, cultural partnerships at its heart.”

– Simon Bush, Headteacher, The Green Way Academy*, Hull (Academies Enterprise Trust)

As Cultural Education Director in charge of the Arts Council funded Bridge programme at IVE I have been overseeing the establishment of Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEPs) in all local authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber for over two years. Bridge organisations like ours are establishing LCEPs across England in response to the Arts Council’s Cultural Education Challenge.

Launched in 2015 against the backdrop of declining funding for schools, Ebacc, Progress 8, Attainment 8 and school readiness measures, the Cultural Education Challenge seeks to address the combined impact these requirements are having on arts & cultural education, namely, that arts are increasingly being given less time in the curriculum at all levels.

I have the wonderful privilege of working directly with so many teachers, head teachers and arts and cultural providers who passionately believe in every child’s right to have access to great arts and culture. And it is great to see and hear about some schools proving that it is more than possible to offer arts education despite these pressures.

Part of the way schools can do this, is through participation in an LCEP, for a number of reasons.

“Being part of the Bradford LCEP has provided us with access to professional artists from all disciplines, who are set up to work with young people. It has provided opportunities to signpost our parents to arts and culture groups that can support the interests and skills that children have demonstrated in school.

We have become aware of innovative activities and workshops provided by local museums and galleries. Our LCEP has provided opportunities to exchange ‘tried and tested’ ideas and activities between schools and youth groups through a ‘trip adviser’ style forum for feedback. It is a source of new ideas that will enrich the curriculum of your school, is a resource of potential ‘artists in residence’ and is a chance for local authorities to publicise their local heritage offer.”

– Head Teacher in Bradford

Firstly, by being part of LCEPs, teachers and heads are getting to find out about the arts and cultural education opportunities available locally for their pupils. LCEP meetings and events are great occasions for relationships to be established and for partnership working opportunities to emerge.

They also provide a fantastic forum for schools to directly communicate their needs to local museums, theatre companies, dance organisations, Music Education Hubs and others. I have heard many teachers I know ask why an organisation ‘doesn’t offer this,’ or say ‘I wish they would offer that.’ LCEPs let schools express these problems to the people with the power to solve them, and teachers can offer the possibility of school trips or buying artists in to encourage the organisations to adapt what they offer.

For example, as a result of being involved in the Kirklees LCEP, 52 children and young people from 10 schools were enabled to say what arts and cultural opportunities they wanted access to locally via a youth engagement open space event hosted by Lawrence Batley Theatre. For children and young people and the school to have their say and for the arts providers to hear them and act is the perfect way to ensure the offer meets the curriculum demand. Similar youth voice events have been organised for schools by LCEPs in Rotherham and Sheffield, plus Hull will be organising one soon.

“The LCEP is also a good vehicle for attracting national funding which can then be devolved to schools by way of high quality projects”

– Head Teacher in Bradford.

Being part of an LCEP provides opportunities to apply for and access funding made available either for the LCEP partnership as a whole of or for smaller partnerships of schools and arts orgnisations that have formed as a result of working within the partnership. As ever, these things are about getting back out what you put in and without doubt they rely on passion, will, enthusiasm and sheer determination at a time when the arts in schools have never been more sidelined or squeezed in some cases and teacher’s time has never been more precious. Belle Vue Girls School, for example, reaped rewards from partnering with Bradford Museums and Galleries when their year 9s had an arts week last year, all because they came along to the LCEP and got talking about what they needed!

LCEPs also provide great opportunities to access CPD that improves the arts teaching done in school. By coming to LCEP meetings teachers and head teachers get to share and find out about good practice around engaging children and young people in arts and cultural activities. At a time when arts CPD is little more than a few hours in the whole of a teacher’s ITT training journey, having access to providers of arts CPD is of great value. Some primary schools in Bradford, are now reaping the benefits of an arts CPD programme being provided by Bradford College as a result of their engagement in the Bradford LCEP.

In Kirklees Birkby Junior School recently piloted a new approach to demonstrating the impact of the arts across the curriculum during the school’s art week and shared the framework they had developed and the impact it has had through the Kirklees Cultural Education Partnership (KCEP). The school has high ambitions for a rich cultural education for all pupils as indicated in their Artsmark statement of commitment. They wanted to develop wider partnerships with arts and cultural organisations and to demonstrate the impact of arts and cultural engagement across the curriculum and the LCEP was the perfect vehicle through which to achieve that. A wider range of arts practitioners is now involved in the schools art week programme as a result.

Schools get exclusive opportunities to be part of new arts and cultural related initiatives when they are part of LCEPs. Children and young people in schools in Doncaster, Rotherham, East Riding and Bradford are now visiting theatres and having high quality drama, dance and visual arts-based experiences over the next 3 years thanks to the IVE Partnership Investment programme with Children and the Arts and their START programme offered through LCEPs. Being part of an LCEP will mean schools are more likely to gain access to these opportunities like these as they emerge in the next 4 years.

LCEP membership provides the opportunity to help lobby for the arts and gain access to tools to evidence the value and impact of arts and cultural provision in schools. If you need to persuade school leaders and governors of the need for and value of arts and cultural education then it can help to have the cooperative weight of your LCEP behind you. Most LCEPs are actively working right now on ways to raise the profile and evidence the impact on children’s health and wellbeing, on their engagement, attendance and attainment. All useful stuff when trying to persuade those who make budget and curriculum decisions!

LCEPs are a great way of finding out information about the value and importance of Arts Award (the arts leadership qualification for children and young people) and of Artsmark (the award for schools committed to developing their arts provision for pupils). Many of the Arts Council funded arts organisations in each LCEP area are supporting schools with their achievement of Artsmark via the Artsmark Partners Programme and supporting pupils with their achievement of Arts Awards. As a result of finding out more about the value and impact of Artsmark in the Doncaster LCEP, for example, Partners in Learning are now offering subsidized support for their TSA schools to register for Artsmark and access arts CPD offered by IVE.

The benefits apply not just to secondary and primary school though, but to everyone working in education. With the introduction of school readiness measures and increasing pressure in Early Years to focus more on literacy and numeracy I give the final word to a Hull LCEP Nursery School Head teacher:

“As the Head teacher of a Nursery School I have a particular interest in advocating for the needs of 0-5 year olds in the creative and cultural agenda. This is a group who are unable to express their own voice without the support and assistance of the adults who live and work with them and who are therefore frequently overlooked and ignored. Young children see the world through their own eyes and senses, and their perspective is as valid as anyone else’s – but they find it harder to express and articulate it because of their age. In addition, because they are in their early years of development in terms of language acquisition, physical development, understanding and interaction etc., creative and arts projects need to be devised much more specifically for their stages of development, by people who really understand and can respond to their needs. Projects or work for babies are different to those for 1 or 2 year olds and different again from 3-4 year olds – the younger the children the more tailored the work needs to be.

Unfortunately, but perhaps understandably, it appears that relatively few arts and cultural practitioners have the necessary experience and understanding of very young children to be able to produce and offer this work. Practitioners may have young children of their own, which is a valuable insight, but nevertheless very different to the range and depth of experience Early Years practitioners gain over years of working with young children – for this reason I strongly believe in shared practice and shared development of projects between Arts and EY Practitioners for them to be truly effective and meaningful to young children.

So arts and cultural work with young children is hard to do, requires significant complex and potentially expensive collaboration to be effective, and it doesn’t offer much reward, due to the lack of funding – not much incentive for anyone to bother!

Someone has to bang the drum for very young children – that’s why I want to be part of the LCEP and any other partnerships and projects like it.”

– Andrew Shimmin, Head Teacher, McMillan Nursery School, Hull

If you’re interested in joining your Local Cultural Education Partnership you can find out more at https://weareive.org/bridge/local-cultural-education-partnerships/ or get in touch via our contact page to arrange an introductory meeting.

Sarah Mumford

Cultural Education Director

IVE

* ‘The school’s (Greenway Academy, Hull) work to enhance pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and their understanding of British values is very effective.’ OFSTED report 2016

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