St. Joachim's Catholic Primary school is situated in the heart of London's Docklands. The school was awarded Artsmark Gold last year – below, Nursery Teacher & Art and Design Technology Leader, Lindsay Corbin, tells us about their Artsmark journey.
What made you register for Artsmark in the first place? Why are the arts important to you as a school?
I registered for Artsmark to help me to evaluate the school's current arts provision and to further improve the subjects. As a school, we taught most art subjects in isolation, so in conjunction all curriculum leaders we sought a more holistic approach to the arts with a view to improve the whole curriculum. The Artsmark journey allowed us to work as a school team to achieve our goals.
Artsmark is about celebrating what you’re doing well and addressing the challenges and gaps in your arts provision. How did the Partnerships section of the framework help you develop your school’s arts offer?
I feel the strongest area of our arts provision was in the partnerships we formed with various organisations. The partnerships sections helped to reaffirm and consolidate the importance of building partnerships. They have all impacted significantly on improving our curriculum, teaching and learning. We did however lack the knowledge of dance partnerships, and Artsmark partnerships helped us to seek out advice and available opportunities.
What were the challenges you faced along the way in developing partnerships? How did you get everyone involved? Did anything unexpected happen along the way?
Some partnerships were not as successful as others. We found that a lot of the dance organisations we booked were not authentic, overpriced and had a low impact. Finance would definitely be one of the major setbacks.
Getting everyone involved was a positive for us, as the majority of staff highly value the arts as a means to improve the curriculum. Our teaching assistants and teachers run very successful after school clubs in the arts such as art, drama, dance (Bollywood), creative writing and music.
How did the pupils benefit from your partnership working?
Through partnerships, the pupils are exposed to the arts in different forms. Funding within the Borough of Newham through the Every Child a Musician initiative offered each child in KS2 the unique and wonderful opportunity to learn how to play an instrument in groups of 4-6. The children were also formally graded with recognisable accreditation.
All children were also involved in a Crossrail project with esteemed artist Sonia Boyce. She visited our school, talked to parents, collected work and has designed a wall to be placed along with the Crossrail link in our area. The designs will include the children’s work and quotes. This was particularly beneficial for the children, parents and wider community as they worked with an artist to have their work displayed in their local area.
What did the award mean for your pupils, teachers, families and wider community?
The award signifies the excellent art and design opportunities the school provides for children. The children can see the impact of their work and contributions around their local area. Families and the local community are also aware of the impact of the arts. One parent commented, “I’m very impressed with the variety of opportunities the school has to offer. My child was able to play the violin with a qualified instructor."
Parents of some children in KS2 classes were also invited to a dramatisation of a Dickens Walk through the City of London, led by own drama specialist teachers.
What advice would you give other schools thinking about registering for Artsmark?
Apply, Apply, Apply! Artsmark is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on current arts practice and to use the Artsmark journey, advice and partnership links to further improve the curriculum in all areas. It helped us to firmly embed the arts in the curriculum and create a more inclusive, exciting, creative learning experience for children.
A New Direction supports London schools throughout their Artsmark journey, offering expert guidance, advice and training.