How are schools engaging in Hull City of Culture?

Steve Moffitt CEO of A New Direction in conversation with Drew Rowlands Development Director for CapeUK.

26 April 2017

(Image courtesy of BBC website)

Steve Moffitt (CEO, A New Direction): Could you describe the work of CapeUK – how long have you worked with the organisation and what is your role?

Drew Rowlands (Development Director, CapeUK): In addition to being the Arts Council England Bridge Organisation for Yorkshire and Humber, CapeUK's mission is to nurture potential through inspirational access to creative, arts and cultural opportunities, utilising 20 years’ experience being at the forefront of creative learning.

I am the Development Director at CapeUK and have been with the organisation for 3 years. Prior to this I had spent 25 years in secondary education including roles as a Local Authority Advisor for Drama, Advanced Skills Teacher, Director of an Arts College, two Deputy Headships and a brief stint as a Head Teacher of a through school in Dubai. I am currently chair of a multi-academy trust in Bradford and vice chair of a through school in Leeds.

SM: What are your observations of how schools are engaging with the Hull City of Culture programme – what have you noticed, what are you seeing on the ground?

DR: CapeUK have been nurturing relationships with Hull City of Culture since I started 3 years ago. To begin with, this was centred on developing an understanding of what our roles were and how we might support each other. From the ongoing dialogue, and through a strong arts teachers network in Hull, which CapeUK had cultivated, City of Culture were able to gain a detailed understanding of teachers' needs and an overview of the education landscape.

As a result, City of Culture developed the ‘No Limits’ programme for schools, and with our support, promoted to schools across the city – eventually securing 100% sign up. This programme offers schools 3 levels of opportunities including online, a core offer and an enhanced offer. The online and core offers are free to schools, and the enhanced offer comes with a small cost attached.

Through my work with schools in Hull, I have observed high levels of awareness across schools of what is happening with City of Culture both from adults and pupils, with City of Culture magazines often in receptions advertising events and articles/stories of what is happening.

When I arrived at one of the schools who are working with us as part of our Royal Shakespeare Company and Paul Hamlyn Teacher Development Fund programme, I was stood in reception with members of Northern Ballet, a composer and a story teller – all working with different year groups, focusing on using the City of Culture programme to support teaching and learning and the delivery of school curriculum. On two other occasions, I have arrived in schools whilst other cultural organisations were in working with pupils.

On another occasion, I was sat in a staff room as teachers returned from a choral singing competition their pupils had been engaged in. The energy and passion of the conversations about what had taken place were effusive.

In several schools, a member of staff has been given responsibility for co-ordinating City of Culture activity, evidencing a commitment from leadership to make the most of the opportunities on offer.

I get a sense that there is overwhelming positivity towards what is on offer, and whilst I think it’s fair to say that schools feel inundated or even swamped with opportunities, they recognise the uniqueness of the opportunity and are therefore embracing as much as possible.

However, there is still a clear understanding that Hull’s educational standards are low in relation to Ofsted standards and attainment tables and therefore school leadership, from my observations, are using many of the opportunities to support the development of effective teaching and learning within the context of driving whole school development.

As part of the core and enhanced offer of No Limits, teachers from all schools have access to a CPD programme. This is comprised of inspirational workshop sessions in which local arts practitioners and organisations have created an authentic experience geared towards stimulating ideas to be developed in the classroom. There are 7 themes - with beginner and advanced sessions in each theme. This has resulted in 70 sessions being delivered across 12 months, with each session open to 30 teachers at a time. CapeUK were successful in gaining the tender to deliver this programme and have ensured truly imaginative sessions that reflect the City of Culture programme, whilst supporting the delivery of the curriculum.

SM: Why do you think schools are so engaged?

DR: I think schools have been so engaged due to the preliminary work that took place in the years leading up to 2017. Not just by City of Culture team and CapeUK, but also through the local cultural footprint of organisations; the Local Authority and the local media. Our Cultural Education partnership in Hull has gained significant impetus in the last 12 months and has attracted key players.

SM: How does this compare with the Liverpool 2008: European Capital of Culture and your experience of working in a school? What was your relationship as a School Senior Leader to significant cultural education opportunity happening in your city?

Being European Capital of Culture, Liverpool saw significant infrastructure developed over a number of years. I remember what was called the ‘Big Dig’ resulting in a skyline of cranes for a number of years both before and after 2008.

Liverpool introduced a number of themed years in the lead up to 2008 with each year having associated events and programmes attached. There were small pieces of stakeholder engagement in relation to identifying what these might look like, but I don’t recall being asked what would benefit education and young people.

When Liverpool achieved the status I was an Assistant Headteacher in Knowsley, and one of my feeder primary Headteachers was Mike Storey who was also leader of Liverpool City Council and the person behind the application. I was therefore in a position to feed a number of ideas and issues regarding schools and young people into discussions. However, my view of Liverpool Capital of Culture was that it was bigger than any one sector of the community. It was very much about the development of infrastructure and building a mindset of Liverpool as the ‘can do’ city in terms of culture, large scale events and business. I think it was and has been successful in achieving this, but I remember feeling that Capital of Culture was just for Liverpool City Centre.

By 2008 I was a Deputy Headteacher and there was more on offer during that year, but I would say this was ad hoc rather than a strategic way of supporting schools and young people.

SM: All schools in Hull are engaged in Artmark - this is an opportunity that City of Culture has financially supported and encouraged and Hull is one of the few places in the country where all schools are embarking on the Artsmark journey. From your observations how is this working?

DR: We have been supporting schools through the Artsmark process via bespoke briefings and Development Days etc. The vast majority have now had their Development Day and are either working on their Statement of Commitment (SOC) or are on their journey. It took longer for the 12 secondary schools to engage that it did the primaries, but 7 are now on their journey.

It’s difficult to assess how central City of Culture has been to their Artsmark plans, however, a focus of each Hull Development Day has been teasing out how schools can utilise the City of Culture as a central strand for how they develop their Arts provision over the coming 2-3 years. I would say this experience has reiterated my observations that schools are identifying opportunities that will support them in improving standards and enhance teaching and learning.

SM: Cape UK are working with the RSC on a Paul Hamlyn Teacher Development Fund pilot – from what I understand this has captured the imagination of all the participating teachers involved. Why do you think this programme is working so well? What ingredients do you think arts organisations need to offer to schools to enable a successful partnership that not only produces high quality artistic outcomes but also exceptional learning opportunities for the young people and teachers involved?

DR: Fundamentally, improvements in school standards are achieved not by pupils, but by the people who teach them. It is only by investing in continuously enhancing what a teacher can do, and crucially, their confidence to do it, that we might achieve a system that moves forward rather than stagnates. With the unprecedented change that we have, and are still seeing in education over recent years, it is now more important than ever that we equip our teachers with the skills and confidence to adapt to this fluidity. However, with the crisis in funding facing schools, staff development is sadly one of the first things to be cut.

I think we have been mindful of this in our work with PHF and RSC. I think our programme has been so successful due to a number of reasons. Firstly, the educational experience of the team who have been delivering. In addition to my own experience of teaching and school leadership, Rachel Gartside from RSC is an experienced teacher and middle leader, Maria Evans has considerable experience of schools and education, Pat Cochrane has been a senior leader in FE and led CapeUK until recently. Between us, this means we have a comprehensive understanding of pedagogy; the curriculum; what effective pupil progress looks like; of Ofsted and accountability, and of the reality of teaching on a day to day basis. We are therefore able to frame the training to address teachers’ needs and articulate precisely how the training might be used to enhance their overall practice as well as the teaching of Shakespeare. Hannah, the other RSC practitioner, and Vicky from Chol Theatre bring their performance experience as well as their ongoing experience of working with schools. As part of our reflection on the programme, we are coming to the conclusion that in fact, we could all be classed as educationalists as well as artists.

Secondly, the expert way in which the RSC rehearsal room techniques are scaffolded make it easy for teachers to be able to make connections between the technique being learned, and their practice within different contexts – it makes it easier for them to apply the technique to different areas of the curriculum.

The realisation that the process being experienced is exactly the same as that of the actors within one of the leading theatre companies in the world, gives the programme a certain status and therefore enhances the confidence in teachers that they are part of a quality programme.

Arguably the most important element is the Learning to Enquire action research process, which we have implemented as part of the process. This has led to teachers being challenged to identify an area of exploration and then gather evidence to gauge impact. Simply put, it is, in my opinion, the most effective way for individual teachers to improve standards. It causes them to identify specific teaching strategies, think and reflect on classroom practice, be conscious of evidence and where it might come from; its form. It challenges them to adapt, and most importantly to focus on impact and the reasons why outcomes happen. In essence, it underpins outstanding practice. Supporting this process during the training sessions as well as through mentoring/coaching visits to schools to observe practice and offer challenge has been another key ingredient of success. It has enabled teachers to take risks within a supportive environment and gain feedback and ideas for development.

The dynamic between RSC, CapeUK and the school staff has been excellent. There is a real sense of comradery, and all sessions have been underpinned by large amounts of laughter.

SM: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London is about to launch his London Borough of Culture flagship programme – what advice would you give to the GLA Culture team about how they can support the conditions for schools to "best" engage in such an extraordinary offer?

DR: Consult, consult and consult again! What are the priorities facing teachers; what are the priorities facing schools; what the priorities facing young people; what are the priorities facing families – then find out how any programme might help address these priorities and look to co-construct an offer with these groups where appropriate.

Think about all levels of the school community – pupils, teachers, teaching assistants, other support staff, middle leaders, senior leaders, governors, parents. Have an offer for all.

Ensure transparent communication – once a programme is agreed, make sure everybody knows about it and can see the relevance for them.

Frame the offer in terms of school improvement, staff development, raising standards, wellbeing, employability etc. This is about making sure schools see the relevance to them.

Be innovative, authentic and cutting edge!

SM: Thanks Drew, that has been incredibly informative, useful and interesting - and good luck with the work you are delivering as part of City of Culture.