Ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum for all

16 January 2017

Ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum for all

By Suzanne Howell, Deputy Headteacher, Sacred Heart Catholic High School for Girls

We are very proud to be the first North East secondary school to achieve the prestigious Platinum Artsmark Award, and what is most pleasing, is that Sacred Heart Catholic High School has been recognised as a regional leading light for our work in the arts.

So what is Artsmark and what does it entail?

It is the Arts Council England’s flagship programme; a tool that enables schools and organisations to evaluate, strengthen and celebrate their arts and cultural provision. Artsmark is endorsed by Ofsted, the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It involves auditing provision, developing a whole school agenda and sustaining long term purposeful partnerships, as well as completing a statement of commitment and a case study. Like everything worthwhile in this life…you have to work for it!

Our Artsmark journey began at the Forge in County Durham, an arts education organisation, contracted by Culture Bridge North East, to deliver the Artsmark award across the region. The Forge, Culture Bridge North East and Arts Council England all firmly believe that ‘great art and culture is for everyone’. As a school looking to maintain its already wide ranging curriculum offer, securing the highest award seemed to dovetail into our whole school plan. And, achieving it has opened up an even wider array of opportunities, which now afford us the privilege of choice for our students.

Professional partnerships

We have continued to develop our already strong relationships with a range of companies like Northern Stage, Theatre Royal Newcastle and the Royal Shakespeare Company. We are proud of our association with these professionals and hope that our new platinum status will further strengthen our links with the best in the business, and allow us to continue to share our practice with partner schools and beyond.

Platinum status is testament to our amazing students and staff who go above and beyond in so many areas of our school; our students, who have the passion, drive and desire to allow their teachers to unlock their potential, and our staff, who work tirelessly to develop students’ character and talent, ensuring all benefit from our high quality arts provision. Platinum status rewards the fact that we constantly deliver excellence and plan new and exciting ways to increase our arts offer, in a current climate where some arts subjects are being squeezed out of the curriculum in other schools.

Current pressures

In some schools, this does seem to be the case, where the pressure is on to align that curriculum, fill that EBACC bucket and increase that overall P8 score, and in some cases, certain subjects are falling by the wayside. We must ensure that our students are able to access all areas of the curriculum. Our girls excel in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, we have record numbers of students wishing to study Medicine who go on to secure that vital Russell Group university place. Equally, they take up prestigious places, most recently with the Brit School, Ballet Rambert and LAMDA. We feel it is our duty to make sure that the very best opportunities are offered to the students of Sacred Heart and our Artsmark Platinum status is already allowing us to honour this promise to our girls.