Woodfield School's journey to Artsmark Gold

4 June 2019

Deepa Vekaria, Art and DT lead at Woodfield School, tells us how the Artsmark process has had a valuable and inspirational impact on her school

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Woodfield School is an outstanding special school. We offer places to pupils from 11-19 with a wide range of learning difficulties. The curriculum is practical and engaging, and our teachers have high expectations that challenge and meet the needs of our pupils in this multicultural school. We have expertise in a range of teaching methods to meet the needs of pupils with Autism, Moderate Learning Difficulties and Severe Learning Difficulties.

The Artsmark journey has had a valuable and inspirational impact on our school. Forging partnerships and collaborative ways of working have led to significant accomplishments over the past two years and have played a key role in the success of this journey. We realised early on that being flexible and adapting our approach would help pupils' confidence, engagement and build new skills. Pupils and staff needed time to learn, experiment, explore and share in order to embed meaningful and valuable change, in a positive and sustainable way.

We have built partnerships with Camden Arts Centre (CAC), participating in a two year project called 'Get the Message', which increased creative opportunities for our pupils. KS4 pupils have been able to make artwork in studio spaces, access a range of resources, and work with professional artists to develop new skills. As a result they have had their work publicly shown within the gallery each year, gaining confidence and a sense of ownership within a cultural institution whilst also enabling a sense of discovery and embracing open-ended approaches.

We were also the first SEN school to participate in a Crafts Council project called ‘Make your Future’. As part of A New Direction's SEND network, we were able to share practice and recommend other SEN schools for them to work with for the following year.

We are always striving for excellence and innovation, and are always looking for ways to improve. Thanks to Artsmark, there has been a systematic change in shared leadership, and we have established a culture of collaborative working with both staff and pupils; developing an open approach that allows success to come through. We have developed strong cross-curricular links with other departments and will continue to develop, support and share skills with one another.

The ongoing support that we have received from establishing new partnerships with CAC, Crafts council and the SEND Network over the two years has been invaluable, and they have all played a central role to the success of our Artsmark journey. Our school is invested in continuing to establish new partnerships, and we value the importance of being part of a growing and very active network. Our pupils have become more confident in being able to express themselves through attending regular workshops, developed new skills by working with professional artists, and developed team building skills and confidence and through exploring and experimenting with a range of different medium and techniques.

We have enhanced our learning environment by creating large displays which gives pupils and staff the opportunity to work together. We will continue to develop KS3 students' leadership skills by delivering art assemblies where KS4 pupils will mentor younger pupils to support them with developing essential leadership skills. We will also continue to seek more opportunities to collaborate with other schools and share practice, and involve the wider community to work on meaningful projects. We're also planning to submit a proposal for a community art project as part of Brent London Borough of Culture 2020.

We feel honoured and proud to have been awarded the Artsmark Gold. I hope that more schools register as our journey has been inspirational from the start. We look forward to continuing to build on the progress that we have made and set new goals, working towards the Platinum criteria for the next stage of our journey.

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