15 years centre stories | Formby High School

15 years centre stories | Formby High School

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BY: Guest Writer
03 Aug 2020

For the second in our series of posts looking at centres who have positioned Arts Award at the heart of their arts offer, in celebration of our upcoming 15th anniversary - we are very pleased to re-connect with Formby High School former TES Creative School of the Year. 

In this post, we hear from the school's Community Arts Coordinator and Arts Award adviser, Victoria Harrocks. Following on from her earlier blog – Everyone’s an Artist - Victoria speaks to us about how they use Gold Arts Award to encourage their students to develop experimental and challenging work.

We have several years’ experience delivering Gold Arts Award and due to the popularity and success of the course, we have added Bronze to our curriculum and Silver to our extra-curricular offer.

The Gold Award is an imaginative way for students to take ownership of a project, explore the arts and learn how to present their chosen genre. Delivery of the course is always under development as we build new partnerships and resources, and consider the inter-connectedness of subjects and ideas.

Throughout Gold Unit 1, we encourage our students to take initiative in finding their own sources of information, style of academic writing and informed debate. Seeking out opportunities to participate in the arts is mandatory. We place great emphasis on the importance of educational and cultural sectors working in partnership and our contacts are growing in number. We engage our PTA, LCEP and Friends of Formby High to gain experiences which will develop life skills.

Developing a resource bank of arts professionals engages students in real-life situations. Through our annual careers fair, a special effects make-up student gained work experience with a cosmetic scientist. Our local theatre employed an architect student as an assistant, teaching ‘Lego’ building to children. We are orientating our young people to gain experience as arts practitioners, youth leaders, community artists and cultural venue workers.

Gold Unit 2 is about two goals, developing the chosen art form to showcase and equipping the individual with a commercial awareness in creating an event. Students learn about the arts in context, with skills directly applicable to a business environment. Then they review the reality, commenting on the pitfalls and successes. It doesn’t matter if there are failures along the way; we tell our students to expect this, especially if they want their work to be 'edgy'. Progress is about learning resilience and working hard to improve - as we have gained confidence in teaching the course, we have encouraged our students to create with individuality and conviction.

In our most recent showcase, the audience enjoyed an interdisciplinary performance. The project fused script writing and physical theatre. A cast of 13 performers animated the storytelling. It was both experimental and successful. Students have the freedom to explore the skills developed in Gold Unit 1 to produce challenging and worthwhile work. Sometimes this work is enlightened with a societal message informed by the arts issue essay.

We have noted positive knock-on effects; as art form development supports other subjects through creative thinking, the processing of information and analysis. Students develop informed opinions, theories and judgements based on their investigation. The course develops considered young people.

Each cohort has encountered like-minded others to become an ecology, linked together in support of their collective art forms. Recently a film student directed a pop video for a songwriter and last year a photography student photographed fashion design for a student who has secured a place at The London College of Fashion. There is great collaborative strength and creativity in the cross-pollination of art forms.

At all levels, projects are open-ended and are now facilitated through blended-learning. Delivery is through Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Class Charts and school contact, although this is currently limited. We are now experiencing a form of hybrid participatory arts. Our school community enjoys a weekly 'live lounge' with music students contributing live performances. Our annual ‘Summer Showcase’ is now a ‘Virtual Arts Festival’. Our Gold Arts Award students are central to this new concept of virtual arts. We have a virtual choir and a virtual dance project. A showreel film made collaboratively by our Gold students to document their creative learning was also included in the festival.

Student playing guitar online
Blended learning has provided a platform for very enriching experiences. We have organised Microsoft Team meets with our cohort hosted by specialist industry professionals. Recently a film production expert from North Star Digital, delivered an online tutorial to embed skills for Unit 1. As a consequence of current times, we all have a deeper understanding of digital technology. Moving forwards there is great potential to commission meta resources with specialists, delivered through digital training systems. These can be pre-recorded and if relevant, live on for other cohorts in the future and serve as cross-curricular lessons.

We have plans to link up with schools in Abu Dhabi and Australia to digitally share work and skills training, thus expanding the cultural experience. As long as the education process becomes more easily facilitated by technology, I believe it will increasingly play a key role in delivering Arts Award.

In order to keep up with the world, today's young people will need to deal with change and become resourceful. They may need to invent new products and ideas, and reinvent themselves as they grow up in a time when everything is in flux. I would recommend Arts Award to any educational setting because the activities promoted by Gold Arts Award encourage the pursuit of knowledge and personal growth. This embeds new skills, compliments thousands of jobs and enables your students to fly high.

Examples of recent virtual projects at Formby High School:

  • Digital gallery of photography undertaken as part of Formby's Virtual Arts Festival 
  • Digital art gallery of work created by Year 12 students
  • Part of the Virtual Arts Festival,  debut performance of Formby's Virtual Orchestra performing 'Bittersweet Symphony' - recorded by students, staff and the community from home, arranged and engineered by the Music Department.
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