Arts Award Case Study: Rickleton Primary School

16 January 2023

Targeting wellbeing

I have been running an Arts Award after-school club annually for the last seven years. A group of Year 5 children take part in the club each year, for approximately seven months at a time. Although this is far longer than required, I have found that giving the children time to fully invest in the process has a far greater impact on the children’s confidence and wellbeing. I would highly recommend this strategy for anyone considering participating in Arts Award in the future.  

The children who participate in Arts Award in my setting are targeted based on how they could benefit from the whole experience. The children chosen predominantly include those who are in receipt of pupil premium funding, have identified SEND, have issues with low self-esteem, suffer from anxiety, or need support to communicate and socialise. Through exposure to the Arts, the children are encouraged to socialise and interact with their peers, interact with the wider community, develop independent skills, showcase their artistic individuality, and share their voices (which is always met with respect and admiration from the local community).  

Arts Award Club 2022: The impact

Arts Award Club 2022 began with a funded visit (by Friends of Rickleton Primary School) to the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle to see the Print Goes Pop exhibition. Cultural capital is a focus in our setting, and it is deeply rooted into our school ethos. For many of our children, this was their first visit to an art gallery; the children were deeply inspired by the experience, and many have since expressed their aims to explore more outside of school hours.  

At the Hatton Gallery, the children were given a guided tour of the pop art exhibition by staff, who took the time to answer questions and explain concepts. Witnessing the works of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in person had a profound impact on the group. They loved the modern, colourful aspect to the artwork. Upon leaving the gallery, the children were already bursting with ideas of what they wanted to do next, using the pop art exhibition as inspiration. We value student leadership, and by letting the Arts Award group lead their own learning, the children feel an immense sense of pride in what they create. I have consistently found that the children push themselves far more, both creatively and academically, when they feel that they have ownership of their learning process.  

Following the gallery visit, the children edited celebrity photos in the style of pop art which then led to trying pop art self-portraits. The children expressed a desire to create living pop art, and used face paint to mimic the style of Roy Lichtenstein. The group then photographed this and digitally manipulated the images to create pop art inspired artwork. It was fantastic to see their confidence dramatically improve to a point where they could communicate and execute their own creative ideas. This was a far cry from the timid group that we started with.  

  • "I started Arts Award because I thought it would help me. I thought it would be good but not this good! It’s freer and more creative than lessons as we get to lead the learning, instead of the teacher." (Pupil) 

The digital art led to a wonderful enterprise idea. As the children had gained funding for their experiences and resources, the children strongly felt that they should try and give something back to the charity. The group came up with the ideas of creating merchandise (keyrings, tote bags etc) using their digital pop art images and they sold them at the end of unit showcase. After seven wonderful months, the children held a showcase event to present all that they experienced to the school community. I was shocked and immensely proud of how the children conducted themselves. Gone were the shy, quiet group that we began with. The group were confident to talk to unknown adults, were extremely proficient in their explanations and they talked about their Arts Award experience with such warmth and pride. It was very apparent that the children had developed far more resilience by the end of the unit than they had started with. The impact on the wellbeing and mental health of the individuals was clear for all to see.  

  • "It was really fun because we got to work as a team." (Pupil) 
  • "There’s lots of things I really enjoyed but I was most excited about was making the canvases because I really wanted to show people my creativity." (Pupil)

Arts Award club 2023: an inspiring starting point

This year, thanks to generous funding from Friends of Rickleton Primary School, we are kicking off Arts Award club 2023 with a ‘wow’ experience of seeing The Lion King theatre performance at Sunderland Empire. This will be the starting point, aimed to inspire the children to come up with ideas: these ideas will then be facilitated by myself, allowing the children to lead the learning. Student leadership will remain vital to what we do. I also aim to plan a more adventurous end of unit showcase that can include not only the school community, but the wider local community too.  

With thanks to Friends of Rickleton Primary and Hatton Gallery.

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