Building cross-departmental connections with Arts Award

Building cross-departmental connections with Arts Award

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BY: Guest Writer
25 Sep 2023

Concluding our ‘Arts Award in the curriculum’ theme on the blog this month, Hayley Farbrother, Head of Art, Design and Technology at St Benedict’s Catholic High School in Warwickshire shares with us how, in her previous role, the art and music departments at St Bede’s Catholic Middle School in Worcestershire worked together to deliver Bronze Arts Award to all Year 8 pupils during curriculum time, enabling their pupils to explore a range of arts-based techniques and disciplines.

St Bede’s is a thriving Catholic Middle school with a fantastic reputation for the arts and ensuring pupils thrive in all areas of their lives. Due to the excellent provision they offer in the arts, St Bede’s has been a Trinity Champion Centre for 5 years now. As a Gold Artsmark school, their aim is to create the very best artists, designers, photographers, and musicians, and encourage pupils to creatively express themselves through their artwork, with a means to engage with and understand the world around them and their relationship with it.

Creating an art curriculum in collaboration

The art department works within the Creative HARTS faculty, which is made up of foundation subjects Music, Art, History, Geography, PE and RE. This structure allowed me to carefully design the art curriculum in collaboration with these teams to ensure all topics taught link closely to a range of subjects, enabling pupils to use their arts skills to reflect on and explore topics in greater depth. To ensure pupils follow a seamless curriculum from age 4 – 19, I built strong links with the feeder schools and planned the art curriculum in conjunction with the Multi-Academy Company (MAC) schools. Throughout the year, I often spent time delivering workshops to Year 4 pupils which allowed them to achieve Arts Award Discover before arriving at St Bede’s.

In partnership with the music department at St Bede’s, we worked together to deliver the Bronze Arts Award to all Year 8 pupils during curriculum time. With two hours per two-week timetable for both art and, music, the art and music curriculum are planned together and well sequenced.

Starting with Bronze Part C


At the start of the academic year, all pupils in Year 8 embark on their Arts Award journey with Part C. For me, this section is a great starting point because it builds pupils’ confidence and stretches and encourages them to take ownership of their work. All pupils are given their own sketchbook where they can document their findings and thoughts on their chosen artist or craftsperson. Following a checklist, pupils begin by researching and collecting facts on their chosen artist or craftsperson. They use their knowledge, skills and techniques learnt in lower school and transfer these into their own sketchbook. Pupils create collages, experiment with calligraphy to create an interesting title page, add photographs, facts, and their own opinion throughout.

As pupils progress through Part C, they start to draw portraiture drawings and experiment with different materials, for example, pencil, biro and paints and conduct their own research by creating a questionnaire or by interviewing family and friends to find out what others’ think about their chosen artist or craftsperson. Throughout their Part C journey, pupils show their own creativity and individuality throughout their sketchbook, and they are encouraged to use their own opinions and be reflective about their own beliefs and their own experiences with the arts.

Collaborating with Music and Feeder schools

Alongside Part C, pupils begin to work on Part A and B in their music lesson as well as collaborating with our MAC high school. As part of the music curriculum, all pupils are taught and learn new chords, vocal techniques, note durations and about war time music; including songs for hope which is the foundation to their Bronze Part A. Pupils are encouraged to participate and learn a new music skill and select a further area of music which they want to improve in. They have the opportunity to develop their skills in a wide range of instruments, including, the piano, ukulele, keyboard, drums and guitar. Throughout Part A, pupils work through a music booklet to record what they have learnt and how they intend to develop going forward. All work is teacher and self-assessed, allowing pupils to set their own targets and continually reflect on their journey while receiving feedback from their teacher.

Through a productive working relationship with our MAC school, all pupils experience a live theatre production. Forming Bronze Part B, this year pupils went to the local theatre to watch the performing arts musical ‘School of Rock’ which featured ex St Bede’s pupils. Pupils evidenced their experience by creating a newspaper article, describing the lighting, sound effects and writing about their personal experience of the show. A trip to the theatre allowed our pupils to experience a show-stopping theatrical performance.

Ending with Part D


To conclude their Arts Award journey, pupils finish with Part D by participating in several whole classdiscussions, small group and one-to-one discussions with me to decide on an arts skill that they wish to share with their peers. Through these discussions, we all work together to gain inspiration and ideas while pupils also build on their communication skills. Alongside this activity, I will always encourage pupils to reflect on all their art and music lessons throughout their time at St Bede’s by asking them to create a visual mind map of all the skills and techniques that they have learnt. This method is particularly strong because it allows pupils to actively think and make connections between different subjects, including design technology. The planning of the arts skills share is more structured, and pupils are provided templates to follow, and deeper thinking questions are used to encourage them to consider how they can successfully lead their workshop by taking into consideration any barriers they may experience. As an example, making sure they have booked out any equipment they may need, including space to deliver their workshop in. Splitting pupils into small groups of 4 –5, will rotate over several weeks to share their skills with each other. This year, pupils chose to share their skills in clay, jewellery making, drawing and painting techniques, acting, choreography and how to play a selection of songs on the piano and electric guitar. Throughout their Part D journey, pupils can push the boundaries of their creative disciplines by exploring new techniques in an inspiring, safe and supportive atmosphere.

The benefits of Arts Award in curriculum time

Teaching Arts Award during curriculum time allows pupils to have the opportunity to explore a range of starting points for practical work. They explore both digital and non-digital media; including photography, drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and artist analysis. Pupils learn to become independent, adopt resilience and focus on applying their technical skills and knowledge to their Arts Award that develops their self-expression in an appropriate manner.

To show commitment to the development of the whole pupil, beyond the arts curriculum itself, St Bede’s has extra-curricular activities running at lunchtime with an open-door policy. It is their mission to consolidate the learning that takes place in the Arts Award lessons, introduce new skills and techniques, and challenge and stretch pupils. Pupils have the opportunity to work on canvas, create large paintings and enhance their ceramic skills in preparation for Part D. They also have the opportunity to attend ‘St Bede’s Singers’ and have recently performed at the Palace Theatre in Redditch as part of the ‘School’s Gotta Sing’ concert. St Bede's closed the show with their fantastic rendition of 'When I Grow Up', 'Life’s a Happy Song' and 'Blinded by Your Grace'.

I am very proud that through the art curriculum St Bede’s pupils can achieve an Arts Award qualification. For further information on how the art and music curriculum is successfully delivered in St Bede’s Catholic Middle School, take a look at the school website where you will find the curriculum coverage across all year groups, which is broad, balanced and provides pupils with the best outcomes by the end of year 8.


Arts Award Bronze work by pupil Emilia at St Bede's Catholic Middle School

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