Artsmark Case Study: Strengthening arts provision

Marta Dobrowolska from Ripple Primary School shares her top tips for engaging students in the Artsmark process and increasing teacher confidence around the arts

8 September 2020

Image credit: Ripple Primary via Twitter

Why did you resgister for Artsmark?

We knew that the Artsmark award would provide recognition within the school and make a positive contribution to school life in the long term. Pupils will have opportunities to experience success where they might have felt they have failed in other areas of the curriculum, with art being the only subject area which is not primarily based on the ability to read and write. Artsmark was a catalyst, enabling pupils to transfer their newly learnt art skills to other areas of the curriculum, making them more likely to engage and take on challenges.

As one of the largest primary schools in the UK, with a school population of over 1,000 students across two sites, we wanted to provide an exciting range of learning opportunities for our children and a very high level of support for our families. We recognised that, although there were already strategies in place, there were also missed opportunities to promote culture and the love of art.

In order to overcome this and maximise learning opportunities and experiences for all pupils, a protean team of staff members with various skills sets was formed. This team aimed to raise the profile of the subject, inspire pupils and staff, raise pupils’ aspirations, and incorporate arts and culture into every student’s life and learning.

We hope that through gaining the Artsmark award we will further develop our broad and balanced creatively driven curriculum – giving pupils the opportunity to become creative individuals academically, socially and emotionally with knowledge and understanding of diverse cultures.

1. Involve students’ ideas

At Ripple Primary, children take responsibility for their learning and arts provision. Our pupils play an important part in planning arts and culture, and their ideas are shared regularly during school council meetings. Any ideas or concerns raised by the pupils are shared with the Headteacher and appropriate action is taken.

Every year, a delegated team of school art ambassadors share their views and gain more ideas at Young People's Conference and the cultural educational challenge organised in our borough. Thanks to this process, the children are more confident to share their ideas and perform in front of an audience.

I really enjoyed our poetry lessons at school. I liked reciting my poems. That made me ready to perform on stage in front of my parents
- Anna, Year 5 student

2. Invite parents and carers to share in success

The school forms positive partnerships with the parents who play an important role in the school development and progression of the arts. We run a high-quality end-of-the-year Dance-a-Thon and Arts Evening with the children, who perform to parents, carers, governors, and the wider community.

Parents are invited to school to celebrate children’s successes, and are involved in family projects such as 'My Family, My Culture', 'Build My Robot', 'Easter Bonnet Competition', 'Designing a vehicle for Santa' and many more. This leads to greater parental involvement and thus, a bigger impact on the children’s learning.

The feedback from our parents revealed how much they enjoy seeing their children succeed in many areas. They not only love looking at their children's artwork but also want to be involved in our school life.

3. Use visual diaries and displays

The art/DT books stay with the children throughout their time at school and are seen as arts visual diaries. This clearly demonstrates development over time and is a measurement of progress, as most assessments are verbal and based on individual outcomes.

There are an increasing number of artworks being displayed around the school, such as sketches, paintings, drawings, sculptures, models of pyramids, and robots. The creative environment to stimulate pupils’ learning is evident in all year groups. Some corridors have been turned to Egyptian tombs or investigation areas with ‘wanted’ posters, and some classrooms have been turned to enchanted forests or botanic gardens.

4. Establish partnerships

The school established partnerships with other local schools, art hubs and arts organisations. The increase in engagement has resulted in better behaviour and attitude for learning. We have also noticed an increasing number of after school clubs, for example theatre, pottery, recorder, choir, dance and sports clubs.

5. Empower your staff

Staff confidence in teaching the arts has developed, and teachers are now willing to experiment with new techniques. The creative curriculum appears to be more valued and important as it caters for all ages, abilities and languages.

This is evident in the training provided, along with the evaluation and monitoring process. Staff have opportunities to attend courses, training and INSETs related to further development of arts and culture. Non-teaching staff also feel more confident to deliver creative activities such as line dance, speech in action, or observational drawing. All staff keep evidence of arts experiences which can inform future planning.

Staff and pupils now talk positively about the arts and the impact they have on the school as a whole, and SLT encourage, support and implement the decisions proposed by the curriculum team, ensuring that this legacy is protected. There is a clear commitment to high quality arts and culture that is reflected in the school development plan as we aim to factor in opportunities for inspiring and engaging art-related experiences.

I think that internal and external CPD opportunities empowered our school's teachers to improve the creative curriculum and inspire children to experiment more with different techniques
- Michelle Hughes, Art Coordinator

Ripple Primary School is based in Barking and was awarded Artsmark Gold in 2019.

Artsmark is the creative quality standard for schools, accredited by Arts Council England. It provides a clear framework for teachers to plan, develop and evaluate arts, culture and creativity across the curriculum and beyond.

A New Direction supports London schools throughout their Artsmark journey, offering expert guidance, advice and training.

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