15 years centre stories | Cranborne Middle School

15 years centre stories | Cranborne Middle School

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BY: Guest Writer
14 Sep 2020

In celebration of 15 years of Arts Award, we are continuing to highlight centres where Arts Award is central to their provision. We are delighted to turn to Cranborne Middle School in Dorset where we hear from the school’s Art Leader and adviser, Claire Everett about her reasons for starting Arts Award and how the programme has grown to a yearly cohort of 70 across Explore, Bronze and Silver levels, supporting the school’s rich extra-curricular offer.

It all started with a postcard
I remember the moment very clearly, as it truly changed my working life. It was January 2011 and, along with other local middle schools, I was attending an Art CPD session at our feeder upper school. Toward the end of the afternoon, we were all given a postcard by the teacher running the session. The design of the postcard was fun, modern and fresh, and the text invited us to learn more about something called Arts Award.

The flicking of the switch
I suddenly had one of those ‘lightbulb moments’ and my mind began racing. This was JUST what I had been looking for - a way to raise the profile of the arts in my school and I knew that it could not be a one-person job. Our school has always had an excellent reputation for our extra-curricular offer: The termly club list is packed with over 20 clubs per week for our children to choose from. At that time, students’ extra-curricular artistic achievements did not command the same amount of attention as other subjects. I wanted the arts to be ‘up there’ along with sports and I knew that Arts Award could be the vehicle to help get us there.

My headteacher sensed my passion and drive from the very start and gave me permission and funding to attend the training and begin with my first pilot cohort of three pupils, at Bronze level. Those three children are now 21 years old and have gone on to be successful young people in their chosen fields.

I often reflect on the initial cost of that one day of training and the value it has added to our school. To date, over 500 pupils have achieved their Arts Award in the last nine years; we have ‘Arts Award families’ where whole sibling groups have achieved different levels of the Award as they have moved up through the school and many Year 5 pupils will tell me when they plan to undertake their chosen level in the years to come!

Keeping it switched on
What characterises our Arts Award offer at Cranborne Middle is that we actively encourage independent projects for Part C of Explore in Year 5; Part A of Bronze in Years 7 or 8 and Unit 1 of Silver in Year 8, in a myriad of art forms.

If you were to be a fly on the wall of one of my Arts Award sessions, you would hear a lot of chatter: between me and individuals, or between small groups, or even pupils excitedly talking to themselves as they search Google for just that right image or for that song, or artwork or technique. The buzz is palpable as pupils are pushed on to meet deadlines and present their work in creative ways. Each young person has full ownership over their projects, as well as full accountability.

We collaborate too, and the award is woven through our school performances, concerts and productions. We have gone on trips to local arts venues and our upper school.

Shining the light even brighter, year on year
For me, that lightbulb hasn’t gone out, it’s only got stronger and now it’s been joined by other lights: my colleague is now Discover and Explore trained and she has run Explore to our Year 5 in the summer term for over five years. I share and delegate tasks to tutors and other colleagues and ask for cover when I need it-so important during assessment and moderation season!

We hold an annual Arts Award Celebration Exhibition Evening every July, where each achiever has time on stage and their families come to see them presented with their certificate. Over the years, I have invited back Arts Award alumni to present certificates and this is a powerful moment; for me, for the achievers and for the former pupils themselves.

Claire’s top tips and advice
At Cranborne Middle School, Arts Award is open to every pupil who has an interest in the arts and is willing to commit to building their portfolio. The age group (9-13 years) and the range of special educational needs of our young people have presented a challenge in terms of the more independent aspects of the Awards (research, connecting with artists and arts venues) and so this is how I support them:

  • I use the Arts Award resources and have created/developed many of my own for each part, in order to elicit the depth of detail needed to meet the criteria.

  • I model and show previous examples of each part, including how to create video and written diary entries; I never assume they know how to do this.

  • I encourage and reward independence but never use sanctions for late/missed deadlines, although I do check in with parents and carers if a pattern emerges. 

My final piece of advice? Keep the workload personally manageable, keep your autonomy and review and evaluate your Arts Award offer as part of your subject or faculty improvement plan to fully integrate it into the life of the school. This advice will ensure that, as the years progress and your offer widens, your offer remains fresh, engaging and exciting and ensures that the light continues to burn strongly.

Connect with Claire and her Arts Award offer
If you’d like to find out more, follow Cranborne Middle School on Twitter @CMSArtAward. Feel free to ask for any advice or ideas for link ups or projects.

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