Blog: Our Artsmark Journey

14 March 2019

Blog: Our Artsmark Journey

By Lisa Hall, Arts and Culture Leader, Cragside Primary

Artsmark has reaffirmed our commitment to a creative ethos and has encouraged all levels of the school to see the arts as a vital element of our school development plan. 

Artsmark has encouraged us to reflect on our curriculum design, ensuring that the arts permeate the curriculum in meaningful ways. We have worked diligently to resource authentic arts-experiences for our children and believe that creativity is now at the heart of everything we do at Cragside Primary.

Prior to Artsmark, staff CPD in arts-based subjects had stagnated with more emphasis placed on developing skills such as reading, writing and numeracy. Artsmark has changed this. Since embarking on our journey, we have invested heavily in arts CPD, and the result is a happy and enthusiastic staff that is confident teaching across the arts.

Art coordinator, Julie Westwood is delighted with how the arts curriculum has developed through Artsmark. She says, “Artsmark has undeniably raised the status of the arts within the school. Teachers have embraced staff training in music and visual arts to increase their own knowledge and understanding. This has then been used to develop their own practice and in turn has motivated and inspired pupils. The arts are now an intrinsic part of the curriculum and are used to engage pupils in a variety of topics. As part of our Artsmark journey, pupils and teachers arranged an exhibition to showcase our work to the wider community. The sense of pride in this work was overwhelming.”

Pupil attitudes towards the arts have changed too. Arts based subjects are now valued and pupil successes in these areas are celebrated in their own right. It has also allowed children the opportunity and freedom to try our new art forms and discover hidden talents.

As a school, it has also enabled us to strengthen existing links with arts practitioners and facilitators and form new partnerships too. Our pedagogical approach to teaching has been revitalised by working alongside creative partners such as Scottish Opera and The Concordia Project. It has also encouraged us to reach out into our community and explore the wealth of arts opportunities that sit on our very doorstep.

Artsmark has given our active PTFA a focus for their fundraising which has had whole school impact. Through their generosity, we have been able to ensure that each and every child in our school has had the opportunity to be immersed in authentic arts experiences.

Although we are unable to make any direct links between our Artsmark journey and pupil outcomes, it is clear that our pupil voice speaks volumes. To follow are some examples of our children’s responses to the question, ‘What have you enjoyed most this year?’

“I loved our theatre visit. I’ve never been before. It was great to see James and The Giant Peach so close up.” (Year 1 pupil)

“Making the animations for our 80th anniversary film was amazing. I want to be a film-maker when I grow up.” (Year 5 pupil)

“Working with a proper artist is just the best. I was able to ask her all about what she does. She really loves her job.” (Year 4 pupil)

“Being on stage at The Northern Stage was a fantastic experience. I’ve never performed in front of an audience that big before. Terrifying and amazing at the same time!” (Year 6 pupil)

With the appointment of a new head teacher, who is passionate about enrichment through the arts, we are confident that Cragside Primary School will continue to champion the arts and build upon the successes of our Artsmark journey. We firmly believe that Artsmark has made a significant contribution to the school’s forward momentum.

The future of arts and culture at Cragside Primary looks bright. Our new headteacher has already made changes to roles within the senior leadership team to appoint a leader of arts and culture who is taking part in the Cultural Leadership in Education course run by Culture Bridge North East and North Leadership Centre. Currently, our arts team is busy planning an exciting arts week due to take place in the summer term which will be linked to the National Gallery project, Take One Picture. During this week, we will launch an arts ambassador initiative, which has been successfully implemented at West Jesmond Primary School. This role will actively involve children in curriculum design and delivery of arts throughout the school.

Looking ahead to the future, we are already involved in the initial planning of a collaborative project for 2020 with Shoe Tree Arts to commemorate the Newcastle Corn Riots of 1740: a fascinating, local story which still resonates today. Furthermore, we intend to fully explore the use of Community Foundations to support future arts and culture projects in our school and local community.