Keeping the arts in focus with Artsmark and Arts Award

11 October 2018

Keeping the arts in focus with Artsmark and Arts Award

By Tracey Hutchinson, The Dales School, Blyth

At The Dales School, we work with primary age children with a range of individual educational challenges. These include ASC, ADHD, Social, Emotional and Mental Health issues (SEMH), complex communication difficulties and other congenital and medical needs. We are concerned with the development of the whole child. We believe that the skills, processes, knowledge, values and attitudes offered by the arts enable children to represent their experiences and respond to the world in a variety of ways. Authenticity and enjoyment are key features of our provision: in order to fully engage our children we offer opportunities which include visits to galleries, museums, theatres, indoor and outside environments. Working alongside artists and craftspeople gives our pupils the chance to explore the whole process involved in visual arts, music, dance or drama. This includes actively involving older children sharing skills with younger pupils; children showing families and members of the community around exhibitions of work; rehearsing and performing for an audience. 

What impact do you think applying for Artsmark has had on your school?

Applying for Artsmark has had a massive impact on our school.  It has helped us to articulate the importance of the arts in education, not only for their own sake but also in giving pupils resilience and transferable skills – if I can do this, what else can I achieve?  Our whole school meets together once every half term for a ‘Big Planning Meeting’ where all staff are involved and encouraged to work together and share ideas.  Each theme includes a ‘hook’ to engage the children in their learning and to find out what they know and would like to find out.  More staff have become trained Arts Award advisers. We continue to be outward facing in our aims and are currently involved in an Erasmus project entitled ‘Creative Learning in Action’ with colleagues from Germany, Denmark, Catalonia and Portugal. We are working to put the A in STEAM. 

We were thrilled to be awarded Platinum Artsmark in 2017. We are keen to continue to develop our creative practice. This includes exploring Arts Council’s 7 Quality Principles as a tool to review, develop, plan and evaluate our work.  We are keen to look for more ways to involve parents and carers in our creative offer, sharing ideas and interests and working to break down the barriers to accessing the rich cultural offer of the North East.

Artsmark was a whole school team achievement; everyone played their part. From senior leaders to apprentices, enthusiasm and willingness to ‘have a go’, try new things and share ideas has allowed us to be successful. This continues to be instrumental to our success – we work to instill this mindset in our children.

Artsmark is a great vehicle for keeping the arts in focus, at the heart of our provision. We want children to know that their ideas and responses are relevant and valued.  Being part of the Artsmark community helps us to articulate this. 

How are you supporting your pupils to achieve Arts Award?

By enjoying the journey with them. This is an exciting way to work. We encourage our pupils to have a go and to understand that making mistakes is part of the thinking and learning process. Arts Award really promotes enjoyment and achievement, not just in the arts but also in the transferable skills which pupils develop. These include communication, willingness to try new things, sharing new skills with others.  Some of our pupils arrive at school feeling that they have ‘failed’ in their learning. It is essential to build self-belief and esteem to enable learning to happen.

Arts Award gives us the opportunity to celebrate children’s learning in the arts and in their personal, social and emotional development. Pupils gain increased confidence in their ability, make choices and reflect on their learning.