Blog: Our Continuing Journey

12 October 2018

Blog: Our Continuing Artsmark Journey

By Charlotte Jones Curriculum Leader for the Creative Arts at Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools in Morpeth Part of The Three Rivers Learning Trust

Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools were awarded Platinum Artsmark in October 2017.

 Our two middle schools are co-located on the same site; a combination of Arts Awards and Artsmark has united us through the medium of the Arts. The Artsmark Award structure has helped us to build stronger external partnerships with a very diverse range of organisations. These links are richly supplementing skills, knowledge and experience thereby strengthening our internal arts offer. Redesign of the Arts is a major contributor to deepening pupil experience and we are excited about continuing our Artsmark journey.

Artsmark has been central to developing the ‘Morpeth Music Partnership’ with the aim of allowing pupils to start the Arts journey at an early stage and to continue through to further education. As the middle tier in a three-tier system we have been able to form a bridge between the first schools and high school. Strong partnerships have been built with our feeder schools so that budding ‘artists’ of all kinds can experience a seamless experiential journey. The participation of high school students in our events gives the younger ones an opportunity to learn from and bond with older students. Our previous and upcoming showcase event at Sage Gateshead and the annual Morpeth Music ensemble event with Music Partnership North are all examples of events where musicians from first, middle and high schools across Morpeth have been able to practise and perform together.

Artsmark provides an inspirational lift within the Three Rivers Learning Trust, encouraging cross-school cooperation in a wide range of activities. This include joint music ensemble offerings, choir, ceilidh band, jazz band and percussion band. Our Arts Award projects have a growing number opportunities, including competition entries, visits to cultural venues and working with people from the creative industries, which has helped our efforts to raise self-esteem and aspirations for our students, contributing to our core values of creativity, achievement, co-operation, respect and resilience.

Through Artsmark’s encouragment to work with a wide range of organisations, both locally and nationally, we have been able to gather momentum with a series of recurring events; also supplemented by new ones. The yearly joint middle school charity Sign2Sing event has been formative for pupils, helping them to learn to sing and use Makaton sign language. We have a Rock Choir of over 1200 students from across the partnership planned for Comic Relief 2019.

2018 has been a special year of celebration of women’s suffrage and Morpeth, as the birthplace of Emily Wilding Davison who was a protagonist in the movement, has marked the anniversary with a statue of its famous citizen. Our schools have been privileged to provide a mural that sits alongside the statue for residents and visitors to enjoy. These are just three examples of the many inclusive events that are a spur to developing individuality and support for the health and wellbeing of our students. As one Year 5 student put it after a Comic Relief event: “I just love getting that buzz when we get to the actual performance.” Our students are greatly looking forward to the 2019 production of the ‘School of Rock’, which will involve coaching and mentoring from Newcastle College Creative Arts students and choreography, sound and lighting technical support from high school students.

Involving students in the arts encourages many to go on to complete award programmes, enhancing self-confidence and giving a sense of achievement. As Jill Woolley, Deputy Headteacher at Newminster Middle School says: “The Bronze Arts Award provides a structure with many benefits for our young students. They get to apply their creative skills within a wide range of purposeful contexts, reflect upon their progress and share ideas with others. Opportunities have included working with artists and exhibiting their artwork through the Laing Art Gallery 'ARTiculate' project, designing and making backdrops for school shows and following their own learning path to develop new skills. Their resilience and visual literacy skills really develop over the year, aided by peer support and input from a range of creative professionals.”

Our continuing Artsmark journey has taken Newminster and Chantry Middle Schools to new places within the Arts, with a lasting creative impact helping us to widen our resources and focus on putting all learners’ experiences at the centre of our planning. We have gradually gained momentum and now have a thirst to push forward the creative arts in our school as an integral part of our school planning to continue this exciting trajectory.

My top tips for making the most of the Artsmark journey are:

  • be imaginative
  • take advantage of a wide range of opportunities
  • forge links with other organisations
  • don’t be put off if things don’t turn out quite as you had planned
  • develop capability
  • build on experience
  • and, most importantly, enjoy!