Making their Artsmark: collaboration, connections and peer-to-peer learnings in Rotherham

23rd June 2021 - Laura Bloor

Written by Paul Drury-Bradey, CultureAndSocialImpact.co.uk.

The Rotherham Artsmark Consortium group is bringing together schools to collaborate in new ways, make unexpected connections and help arts education thrive in South Yorkshire. The Rotherham School Improvement Service (RoSIS) has been working with IVE since 2019, catalysing creativity for schoolchildren through focused arts-led innovation and priceless peer-to-peer support.

Pencil drawing of an three penguins by pupil

© image from Redscope Primary School pupils who focused on observational drawing and pencil skills as part of their Artsmark journey.

The new Artsmark consortium has had an extraordinary impact on schools in Rotherham. Teachers from Brinsworth Howarth, Anston Greenlands and Redscope Primary School explain how the Artsmark journey has transformed how both pupils and school staff see arts in education.

A world of creative opportunities: about the Artsmark

Artsmark is the only creative quality standard for schools and education settings, accredited by Arts Council England. It supports settings to develop and celebrate their commitment to arts and cultural education and gives schools a real focus on arts education, helping staff to develop new teaching styles, learn new skills – and most importantly provide meaningful, tangible experiences in arts and culture for children. By opening up a world of new ideas and opportunities to children the Artsmark journey itself builds aspiration, skills and allows pupils to explore a different way of seeing the world.

The Rotherham Artsmark Consortium Group consists of two groups of education settings in Rotherham who have registered for Artsmark and delivering Artsmark within their settings – 47 schools are now members. Each school identifies creative goals and objectives to work towards over the course of their Artsmark Journey. This new way of working has developed vital relationships between schools in the local area; providing a network to develop arts knowledge and unique expertise.


Brinsworth Howarth Primary School, Rotherham: building togetherness through Artsmark

The power of the Artsmark in Rotherham stemmed from the way it brought schools together to start networking again, ‘magpieing ideas’ from each other according to Maxine Crawford.

Maxine is the associate Head for the Arts with RoSIS. She said:

“Artsmark is all about the journey you’re on as a school. It had a huge impact on pupils here, with what we’ve gone through during Covid-19. This meant we worked with a trauma-informed approach – getting children to be happy together, socialising together, using visual art and music, helping children to converse and be more relaxed.”

The Artsmark consortium has a structured approach; providing a network of facilitated sessions led by IVE, all responding to schools’ needs to develop advocacy, knowledge and expertise. Rotherham School Improvement service subsidise part of the overall Artsmark fee for the schools taking part.

But for Maxine, it was the ‘hidden’ skills that unlocked the most potential. She said:

“The biggest surprise being part of the Artsmark was learning just where people’s skills are. We found that many teachers had hidden skills in music, writing, painting – being part of this programme opened things up and we found out that people can share these skills with pupils too.”

It’s a powerful new way of working in South Yorkshire – motivating for both staff and children. How many people have these secret skills and hidden abilities? They can have a transformational impact on young people.

The evidence of the Artsmark’s success in Rotherham’s schools could be seen etched on the faces of pupils there, according to Maxine. She said:

“As a headteacher going through the hall on a Monday morning, seeing children doing dance for the first time… well, their faces tell me everything. The beaming smiles, the relaxing atmosphere, teaching pupils to be happy taking a risk. The arts isn’t just one thing – we really found doing this work transformed the whole feel of the school.”

 

Anston Greenlands Primary School, Rotherham: catalysing confidence, teamwork and resilience through Artsmark

Kate Roberts, Deputy Head at Anston Greenlands Primary School, is at a different stage – right at the beginning of the Artsmark process. Her school started the journey in February, and is aiming to complete the process by February 2023.

She explained arts and creativity had always been important to staff and pupils, with the team already delivering cross-curricular opportunities, so the Artsmark felt like a good fit:

Generally, our children have always been extremely positive about art and creativity; most of them are confident performers and many would say that art is one of their favourite school subjects. To further support this, all children are invested in achieving our ‘CREATE’ aims: we are Creative, Resilient, Enthusiastic, Aspirational, Team Players, and Expert. Our school vision is ‘Love to Learn’ and this drives everything we do.”

The Artsmark journey has pushed staff to think differently about what children do and how they are creative. An outdoor theatre space is currently being built at the school. And during lockdown 2021 they wrote and recorded a song called ‘These Four Walls’ – making the song and video remotely, entirely over videocalls (see below).

Clipping of YouTube video 'These Four Walls' by Anston Greenlands Primary School

Children from Rotherham Anston Greenlands Primary School wrote and recorded their own song during lockdown 2021

The context for new ideas taking root is always so important. The Artsmark journey has a distinct approach, but feels distinct and specific for each school. Teachers have peer-to-peer and expert support through the programme to develop a distinctive offer that helps to make arts experiences more meaningful for children.

Redscope Primary School, Rotherham: inspiring children to be independent and think differently

Clipping of YouTube video 'These Four Walls' by Anston Greenlands Primary School

© image from Redscope Primary School pupils who focused on observational drawing and pencil skills as part of their Artsmark journey.

Heather Preston, head of Year 3 at Redscope Primary School in Rotherham, said the Artsmark has been vital in igniting a new confidence in teachers and staff.

“Before we began our Artsmark journey, our children were very reliant on staff, lacked the resilience to complete artwork and when asked about what ‘the arts’ were, we received very basic answers about drawing and painting. Children were unaware of the positive effects the arts could have on their life skills and mental well-being as well as the different job opportunities that could arise from all the different arts,” she explained.

The arts are important in helping young people question things, building a resilience and an inner steel that works in a cross-curricular way as well as building important life skills.

Heather explained:

“Pupils are developing the way they tackle things and how to cope when things go wrong as well as understanding that art is subjective. I personally believe that the arts are so important for self-regulation, pride, resilience and independence which are all things that children need time to develop.”

The peer learning was particularly valuable for teachers at Redscope Primary School. This peer-to-peer network in Rotherham has helped idea development, problem solving, developed new partnerships for team working across the region and a new way of thinking about meeting attainment targets during lockdown. The peer learning has been done online, via Teams, Zoom and emails but post-lockdown meetings will be conducted face-to-face.

Memorable moments from the Artsmark journey at Redscope Primary School included taking part in the local Wentworths Flock and hosting a whole school competition to design a bird. Staff and pupils also created a Lockdown Gallery where children and parents/carers could contribute a piece of art to be displayed in the school. Plans are already in place to open up this lockdown gallery during the summer months. There’s a determination to not let the pandemic stop parents being involved and part of this – with teachers hopeful of competitions and galleries being opened up.

Pupils at Redscope Primary School gave the Artsmark a major thumbs-up:

The Artsmark journey: supporting and celebrating new ways of teaching creative skills

How best to unlock creativity in children in 2021? Arts and cultural education needs a supportive framework, focused expertise, and peer learnings. The Artsmark journey provides this for these schools in Rotherham; opening up new ideas and ways of teaching.

Teachers and pupils alike have praised the experience-led and engaging programme. But what’s most important is the programme’s legacy: building aspiration, skills and helping pupils to see the world in a different way. Driving all of this is that magic ingredient of creative practice: resilience and independent thinking. Every teacher taking part in the Artsmark journey had that same message – the most important thing that pupils can take away is that independence, the ability to question things and the bravery to make and create new things.

Download the case study as a PDF here

Want to start the Artsmark journey for your school? Inspired to set-up or join an Artsmark consortium in your area?

If you’re a school from the Yorkshire and Humber region, IVE is here to support you.

Visit our website or get in touch with our Artsmark expert, Aoibheann, at aoibheann@weareive.org for more information and advice.

Written by Paul Drury-Bradey, CultureAndSocialImpact.co.uk

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