Final Top Tips from A New Direction's Artsmark Consultants

Artsmark consultants Lynne Brackley and Sonia Hyams reflect on their time supporting Artsmark schools in London and offer some final top tips for having a productive Artsmark journey.

27 June 2023

A New Direction is proud to have played a part in the development of Artsmark during its time as a Bridge organisation. Since 2011, we have loved supporting schools across London on their Artsmark journey. Some of the highlights are described in our blog.

From September 2023, Goldsmiths University will be providing support to schools nationwide. Artsmark has proven to have tremendous value to the schools taking part and we look forward to seeing the programme grow from strength to strength.

We asked Lynne Brackley and Sonia Hyams, our experienced Artsmark consultants, to reflect on their time supporting Artsmark schools in London and offer some final top tips for having a productive Artsmark journey.

For the last seven years, we’ve been Artsmark consultants for A New Direction. We’ve led the schools’ development training, co-created resources and taken hundreds of calls from schools across London seeking support at different stages of their Artsmark journey.

Budgets are getting tighter and we’ve been through a global pandemic but raising and sustaining the profile of the arts remains a strong driver in many settings. It’s great to read about the richness and range in provision and to talk about creativity in action. It’s no mean feat to steer a school to an Artsmark award; at times, teachers have felt the pressure and we hope our support has made the process easier and maybe even enjoyable!

As we take our leave, we offer some top tips as a parting gift.

The framework is your best friend

You will be introduced to the Artsmark Framework at your Artsmark Development Training session but don’t let that be the only time you spend quality time with this document!

Revisit the framework on a regular basis as this will help you audit your Artsmark offer and assess your setting’s progression across two years. It will help you identify any gaps and any areas of the framework you are delivering really well.

Learn more about the Artsmark Framework

Strategy not stuff

We love reading about all the exciting and innovative workshops, visits and arts provision happening in your setting, but do ensure that you make time to think how these individual projects and programmes contribute to the strategic plans for your setting. Artsmark was designed to contribute to whole school improvement so consider how you will demonstrate impact in your school development plan, curriculum design, staff development programme and quality assurance.

A whole-school trip

At the beginning of your Artsmark journey, we ask you to bring a member of SLT to the development training. This will be the start of gathering your troupe of Artsmark advocates who can make a real difference in your setting. Aim to include all your stakeholders in your Artsmark plans from the beginning so that students, teachers, SLT, governors, parents and the wider community feel part of your journey and contribute to its success!

Network all you can

Use every opportunity to develop partnerships and connections outside of your setting. This could be with schools, arts organisations, local cultural education partnerships and local businesses and charities. These relationships will help you develop your own offer and provide opportunities for you to share your expertise with others. Playing an active role in networks is particularly important if you are aiming for the Gold and Platinum Artsmark Awards.

Don't diss the system

Systems sound boring and some of them probably are. However, setting up your own system for capturing and documenting activity and for monitoring and evaluating impact will save you a lot of time and an emergency rescue mission at the end of the journey. After two years, it’s a fair bet you won’t remember everything you did and the impact it had. Neither will you have a bank of evidence you can draw on when you come to write your statement of impact. Set up a system, agree a framework…and stick to it!

Evidencing and Evaluating Impact Resources

No prizes for fast-finishers

‘Does it have to take two years?’ asked (quite a few) school Artsmark leads over the years. Well, no, but how can you show ‘impact over time’ if you don’t give yourselves time? It’s not just about getting a badge. Enjoy, share and value the journey. Enough said.

Leave a trail

You’ve been asked to take over the role of Artsmark lead but you didn’t attend the training, you can’t find any notes/documents and there’s a year to go before the statement of impact deadline. OK, that’s an extreme case but it’s happened. Even embarking on a new Artsmark cycle with no reference to a previous one isn’t ideal. Keep the process transparent and easy to follow for your successors. Set up a good system. Or did we mention that already?

So, there we are. With these gems from our swag bags, we take our leave. Like you, we’ll carry on advocating for the arts in education even though we’ll be wearing new hats. It’s been a pleasure to come with you on the journey so far. You’ll still be able to see some great Artsmark resources on our website and engage with our schools programme so keep in touch.

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