As winner of Creative School of the Year at the TES Awards and an Artsmark Platinum school, Formby High School have have a strong record embedding the arts into their work. Victoria Harrocks discusses how their Gold Arts Award delivery has contributed to a vibrant creative faculty, providing students the opportunity to work as artists.
Here at Formby High School, we offer a rich creative curriculum which includes Art, Music, Music Technology, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts. We strongly believe that the creative arts empower individuals through artistic engagement, providing personally important life experiences. Arts Award compliments and completes our creative menu, as students are encouraged to explore their own passion to progress their learning journey.
Delivering Gold Arts Award is also an organic process which considers the fun and social aspects I believe are key in arts engagement. This approach of practical, enquiry-based teaching is designed to stimulate learning so students have the desire to explore and acquire knowledge independently. Learning is shaped around a holistic approach, which is not geared to testing. It suits many students who are seeking to express their individuality, discover new methods and take ownership of their learning. With such a wide choice of topics that take us on a learning journey together delivering Gold Arts Award is really rewarding. When the project starts, neither the student nor the teacher, knew the direction the project will take. However, as things evolved students became really involved in taking ownership of their arts practice.
Throughout our delivery we found that students respond to four key areas: creative, technical, contextual and critical development. A topical approach brings this teaching alive because it can be experimental (and sometimes very messy). Through this design students discover their own creative voice and the technical skills with which to express themselves.
I encourage the cohort to be original and imaginative, to build on their interests and to experience the arts. Often, the real challenge is to seek out quality arts and cultural opportunities for students at budget or no cost to keep the course accessible. So, we begin the course by visiting university open days, galleries and exhibitions to motivate students to discover their art form. We then consider how they can take control by creating a personal brand in their chosen field, which can result in realistic industry practice.
Delivery takes place during sixth form enrichment time and the course has grown in popularity year on year. The class is always a hive of activity with students developing new skills, creating work and collaborating. We have group meets with discussions on events and arts issues, one-on-one progress talks and sometimes just a class of students all getting along sharing their work, photographing, sewing, drawing or even choreographing. As students can select diverse topics, there can sometimes be many activities happening all at once, creating a real buzz of excitement.
Use what’s available
Once I have discovered which direction the students are headed, I speak to the parent-teacher association (PTA) to discover if there are any parents matching the specialisms chosen by the group. It’s amazing when you discover what a rich source of talent lies within reach and for free, and most parents are happy to help! Through this process students are made aware of jobs they never even knew existed. So far, we’ve been fortunate enough to be supported in our projects by professional photographers, a couture designer, a fashion lecturer a costumier and an international Irish dance champion!
To gain leadership opportunities, I look to the resources available within our own school and local community. Our students have gained work experience as Young Leaders with our feeder primary schools, whilst we simultaneously extended our outreach programmes. We’ve provided students with the opportunity to run lower school performing arts clubs, culminating in a performance of our students in the Music for Youth festival. We also handed over the organisation of GCSE and A Level ‘show and tell’ events to our Arts Award students thus developing leadership, management and organisational skills.
Spread the word
Consequently, Gold Arts Award has gained a reputation in school for enjoyable trips, exciting workshops and relevant work experience opportunities. This reputation is important for the course’s continued success and raising participation in the Arts, which as arts educators we know is an ongoing challenge. It also helps parents, education professionals and employers recognise the value of the course. As a facilitator you have the power to instil this message to your students by encouraging them to experience the arts, to build life skills and even create arts projects with societal impact. In my opinion Arts Award creates independent, curious and creative young adults.
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