Aspiring to Artsmark as a governor
When I first heard that Bourne Westfield Primary Academy was going for Artsmark status, and needed a governor to provide strategic challenge and support for the school on its journey, I was only too happy to volunteer.Having worked in the education sector for the past 15 years as a PR consultant I have seen time and again, the reputational value for a school in acquiring Artsmark status and the opportunities it brings for both pupils and teachers.
I can also testify first-hand to the impact of arts and cultural education – it’s not just aimed at people like me who end up in the creative industries, it can help all young people to unlock their creativity, enabling them to become more rounded and articulate individuals. So you could say I’m a fan.
As a school we are striving to achieve Artsmark Platinum status this year. Our plans have been 12 months in preparation and we are extremely lucky to have our Arts Director Becky Beavis, who is passionately dedicated to the development and ‘hands on’ delivery of our overall arts strategy. Without her, we would not have progressed against our strategy towards Platinum status as much as we have done.
Here are five aspects of our Artsmark journey that I would encourage other arts governors to consider in their first year:
Do you have a ‘Becky Beavis’ type figure in your school who has the drive and energy to bring the arts to the fore and importantly, bring colleagues along with her? If not, I suggest you need to find that person or people. In our school we have designated arts leads who take overall responsibility for the planning of art in line with curriculum policy, and who liaise with year group teachers and teams on implementation.
Is Artsmark status directly referenced in your school’s vision? Creative arts is in our School Improvement Plan, and also mapped as an inclusive part of wider curriculum teaching. There is an expectation that art pervades all other aspects of the curriculum, but particularly English through dance and drama. Children enjoy creative curricular lessons and visits, an opportunity to work with specialists and professionals from across the arts, and a broad range of before and after school clubs. There is a particular focus on Pupil Premium children to support their engagement and attainment, especially in English.
What is your school’s action plan for achieving Artsmark status? For us, we already had an enviable reputation in our locality – as was evidenced by the award of ‘Music Department of the Year’ by Lincolnshire Music Service – but we needed to extend this expertise into other areas, especially art, dance and drama. External partnerships have been a huge part of our strategy. For example, our partnership with the Royal Opera House outreach projects has ensured that children access quality cultural activities. Year 4 pupils participated in the Nutcracker project which involved the children choreographing a ballet and Year 5 in a ‘Create and sing Carmen’ dramatic singing programme.
Confidence and skills
Are you investing in the development of staff in the delivery of arts and cultural education? We undertook an initial audit of skills competencies covering art, dance and drama and organise termly CPD to reflect individual needs. For example, a session was recently run on the use of sketch books and critique. Making time for staff around their development in these new areas is paramount in = improving your Artsmark journey.
Tell people about it
How are you communicating your arts strategy and related initiatives? Reputation is formed by a combination of what you do plus what you say. We bid for, and won, The Mighty Creatives’ Creative Learning Award which brought external recognition and independent endorsement of the activities which are driving our Artsmark bid. A full off-timetable annual Arts Week alongside many collaborative partner activities and workshops from outside professionals also brings a clear opportunity to engage parents.
Finally – and going back to the core ‘challenge’ of governance – whilst achieving Artsmark is the end goal we need to understand how the overall arts strategy impacts the children. I’ve asked for, and the school’s leadership team is providing, meaningful data (including the raising of academic standards in writing) about the impact of all these activities on learning. Make sure this challenge is there.
If you want to find out more about supporting a cultural education in your school as a governor, you can download Arts Council England's guide for governors on Cultural Education.