Image credit: Simon Way for A New Direction
Now more than ever it is important to make sure that arts and creativity do not fall to the bottom of school priorities. Not only do they support pupil wellbeing in these challenging times, but with after-school clubs likely cancelled and the pressure to catch-up on core subjects means the time allocated for the arts may be squeezed even more.
Do you love the arts but feel it might be undervalued in your school community and that you could be offering your students more? Or perhaps your educational setting has a fantastic arts provision, but you feel it doesn’t get the attention it deserves? Maybe you feel like your arts offer doesn’t yet include the opinions of the students, or utilise the skills of parents and carers?
Tom Underwood from Garratt Park School, Hannah Peaty from Soho Parish School, and Aminah Adeyemi from Eastbury Community School have compiled their ideas below on the best ways to start promoting the arts through your students.
1. Start with consultations
Before getting started promoting the arts, find out what children, parents, and staff already think, and what suggestions they have around your school’s arts provision.
- Hold a focus group with a small selection of children to discuss their understanding of the arts and what they think about the arts offer in your school. There are suggestions for questions in point 5.
- In addition to the focus group, hold a wider class forum to give the whole class a chance to share their ideas. This would be best focusing on a few key questions, such as: What are the arts? Do you think it is important for us to learn these things at school and why? How could we make children more aware of the importance of the arts?
- Ask staff to complete a baseline questionnaire (see point 5 for suggested questions)
- Send home a questionnaire for parents and carers to find out what they think too. This would also be a good opportunity to gather information about student participation in arts events outside of school, and to find out if any of your parents have arts experience that they could bring to the school. For example, you might have parents who could come in and share a creative skill or support arts workshops through their professional connections
2. Plan activities to promote awareness in class
So now you know what your students think, but how can you encourage the students to become advocates for the arts themselves? A few suggestions from our teachers are:
- Arts bingo – ask children to find someone who can play an instrument/can quote a line of Shakespeare/can sing a pop song etc. To take this further, children could create their own bingo cards with their ideas.
If you need to minimise walking around the classroom due to social distancing, try a more traditional approach of selecting students to call out an idea from their card to the whole class, and ask those who tick it off to raise their hands. Another idea could be using a maths lesson on data to create tables or graphs after surveying the students as a class
- Mantle of the expert – play a drama game where students argue the case for the arts while ‘in role’ as an artist, an actor, a musician, a dancer and a poet
- Class conversation starters – at the start of each day ask your students a different question, e.g. If I was the Arts leader in school, what would I change?
- Conversation café – position trickier discussion questions around the room for children to talks about in small groups (see point 5 for ideas of questions). Have large sheets of writing paper or post-it notes so everyone can contribute, and time how long is spent on each question to keep pupils on task. Not essential, but why not really run with the café theme and provide beverages and flowers on tables to give the ambience of an actual café?
You may need to limit this activity depending on your class’s social distancing rules. Instead of the groups moving around the tables, you could provide different ‘courses’ of meals to each group in the form of a different question every few minutes!
3. Include the whole school and wider community
It isn’t just your own class you will want to share these thoughts, questions and ideas with. In order to promote more widely you could…
- Create a display which promotes the arts
- Lead an assembly to introduce and promote the importance of the arts (or, if you have a pupil arts council, ask them to do this for you!)
- Organise a careers event and invite arts professions to increase awareness and raise aspirations in the arts for your children. This could be a good event to invite parents and carers to either as presenters or to find out info to support their children
- Host a student-lead arts week. You can find out more about how to plan one of these in our previous blog – 10 Tips for Teachers: How to plan a student-led arts week
4. Create a student arts council
A student arts council will help you develop arts activities to engage your pupils, whilst also creating a group of enthusiastic children to advocate for the arts. They will be able to support running assemblies, delivering whole school arts projects, organising an arts week or event, and providing feedback and ideas on the arts offer in your school setting.
Hold an assembly with your pupils to introduce the idea of the arts council, explaining the responsibilities and desirable qualities for applicants. Provide them with application forms which ask about their skills and ideas and elect members based on their answers.
5. Ask the right questions
Some suggestions for useful questions to start the conversations around the arts with students:
- What are the arts?
- Do you think it is important for us to learn these things at school? Why? What is the value and benefit?
- Do you think the school highly values these subjects?
- Can you think of examples of how we do this across the curriculum?
- Can you give an example of an arts-based activity or project that you participated in at school that you really enjoyed and enriched your learning of a topic or skill? This might be a performance, school trip or workshop that you took part in
- Why did you enjoy it and what did it help you to learn?
- Do you think all children in the school are aware of what the arts are and why they are important?
- How could we make children more aware of the importance of the arts?
- Do you have any ideas of how we could celebrate and promote the arts within our school community?
- How could we create ambassadors for the arts in our school?
- Do classes have regular opportunities to go on trips and take part in arts-based workshops inside and outside of school?
- What is the impact of these opportunities do you think? Does it enhance your learning?
- Are teachers, children, governors and parents/carers all aware of the different projects and creativity going on across the school each half term? How could we improve this?
We have also compiled a list of statements for a staff questionnaire, where you would then ask them select responses on a scale from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’:
- The arts are valued highly at our school
- Teachers, children, governors and parents/carers all are aware of the value of an arts rich curriculum
- Children are ambassadors for the arts in the school and know what that means
- Classes have regular opportunities to go on trips and take part in arts-based workshops inside and outside of school
- Teachers, children, governors and parents/carers are all aware of the different projects and creativity going on across the school each half term
- I think it should be part of the arts policy and offer that every class should have the opportunity to go on a trip or take part in a project related to each area of the arts each year
- My class has participated in the following visits/projects so far this year: (please list)
If you are looking for a way to link creativity to a Recovery Curriculum, take a look at our free Reset resources which include drama, visual arts, poetry, storytelling and design activities.
If you have tried any of the suggestions on this list and want to share the experience with us, please get in touch.