How Artsmark led one school to Arts Award

How Artsmark led one school to Arts Award

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BY: Guest Writer
11 Jul 2019

This week on the blog we hear about Starbank school’s journey from their Artsmark statement of commitment to delivering almost 180 Explore in their school in 2019. We spoke to the lead adviser Amanda, to find out more.

A journey to large group delivery

IMG_1100Starbank is an Ofsted outstanding all through school across three sites in Birmingham. They came across both Artsmark and Arts Award at the annual curriculum Tea Party held by Arts Connect West Midlands at the mac in Birmingham. Off the back of making their statement of commitment for Artsmark, which aimed to improve the arts offer by increasing extracurricular activities and links to external arts organisations, Starbank decide to start delivering Arts Award.

The school started with smaller amounts of delivery at Discover level in 2017 and 2018, through an after school club. In 2019, they decided to step up their Arts Award delivery because they wanted to embed Arts Award into the curriculum to make it part of every pupil’s learning journey and so went for a whole year group delivery of Explore. Year 4 was selected as they already had weekly music service lessons as part of their curriculum offer, they also already had two separate art units and a trip to New Gallery Walsall planned into their curriculum map, so the school was able to build on what they already had in place. The visual art topics were both linked to the ancient Greeks (the Year 4 history topic.

The school did small tweaks to their existing short-term plans to ensure the curriculum allowed opportunities to cover all sections of Explore. The official Awards Award explore logs were purchased for use, in addition to the usual school sketch books. This was done to scaffold the project as it would largely be delivered by class teachers rather than trained Arts Award advisers, so using the logs would help to give the teachers guidance.

Another change made was to the class assembly schedule, all of the Year 4 class assemblies were moved so they fell at the end of the second visual art unit. The assemblies were all tailored to Arts Award, rather than a specific school topic to ensure the Explore criteria for Part D was met.

In order to fund the change, the school applied for the Arts Connect West Midlands, Arts Award progression scheme, securing a £500 award. The rest of the delivery was funded through the school budget. The senior management team has now created a specific Arts Award budget within our school funding.

The benefits and challenges of going big!

Scaling up delivery has supported advisers at Starbank to raise the profile of the arts in the school, it has also Aayan 2supported them to successfully achieve Artsmark Silver, recognising their commitment to the arts across the school.

Students have also felt the impact of engaging with Arts Award both in terms of their confidence and their motivation to continues with arts learning as Amanda told us.

‘Pupils feel so proud to have earned a nationally recognised qualification! At the end of the school year we will be hosting a huge celebration assembly to celebrate their success. Pupils have told us they are inspired to continue learning instruments and making artwork and that they would love to progress onto higher Arts Award levels when they move through to secondary school.’

Scaling up to delivery at this level isn’t without its challenges though, even though Starbank has six trained advisers, they still had to have a number of class teachers deliver who weren’t trained themselves. This meant the advisers had to brief the class teachers on what they need to do and what evidence to collect and then had to keep a very close eye on delivery, regularly meeting to review the project’s progress. In fact, this regular review is Amanda’s top tip for success with a large cohort.

‘If working with a large group, we found regular internal moderations really useful. These moderations supported advisers and inspired us to strive for even higher quality outcomes.’

Onwards and upwards

IMG_1099We asked Amanda what was next for the school.

‘Next year we hope to repeat the success we have had this academic year. We will again be offering Arts Award Explore to Year 4. We are tweaking it slightly as we are now more confident in our own ability to deliver the award successfully.

We are planning in an Arts Award day which will allow pupils time to create an original final outcome for Part C, in a medium of the choice, using skills developed in Part A. This will give them more ownership over their final piece.

We are in the early stages of thinking about how to increase our Arts Award offer and whether or not we will be training some of our secondary staff at the higher levels.

We do want to reapply apply for Artsmark over the next year and are aiming for Gold, so perhaps this will be the start of our next adventure.’

To find out more about Starbank school check out their website at If you are planning your delivery in a primary school we have many more blog posts giving you example of how you can delivery successfully. Or check out our range of key stage two resources mapping to the literacy curriculum.

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