A New Direction has commissioned a series of case studies exploring how secondary schools are aligning their narrowing the gap strategy with providing opportunities for students to engage with arts and culture. This work builds on our growing body of knowledge around how more economically disadvantaged pupils can be supported to engage with arts and culture and the impact this has on their lives, as well as supporting the school system in London to develop its understanding of useful strategies for narrowing the attainment gap.
The research pays particular attention to how schools discuss the objectives and aims of spending their pupil premium, the role of arts & cultural within this, and how the impact of activity is evaluated and evidenced. For each school, interviews were conducted with a member of the senior management team, the school staff who manages the pupil premium provided (when different), and a member of school staff who has facilitated the programme of arts and cultural activity. Where appropriate, pupils were also interviewed to ensure a whole school approach to understanding the impact of the pupil premium.
The four case studies – St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls in Sutton, Graveney School in Wandsworth, Hampstead School in Camden and Stoke Newington School in Hackney – exemplify a range of approaches to allocating pupil premium on arts and cultural activity. In some cases, schools discuss the aims of their cultural interventions as specific to improving artistic excellence, whilst others frame it in the context of enrichment or cultural capital. However, whilst activity and approaches vary, four key themes emerge throughout the case studies which offer useful insights to schools and the cultural sector regarding how children and young people can be supported to access creative and cultural opportunities.
The case studies reflect the importance of cultural and arts opportunities to support the wider learning of pupil premium students and show how schools can have a role in enhancing cultural capital to remove barriers to accessing and understanding the wider curriculum.
2. Student Agency
The importance of using students feedback and engagement to shape activity and evidence impact is evident throughout the case studies. Specifically, there is a recognition that the complexity of the barriers disadvantaged children may face needs to be acknowledged and that opportunities and interventions need to be tailored to specific and diverse needs.
The studies exemplify that there is a wide range of data that can be monitored and reviewed in order to understand the impact of arts & cultural activity including behavioural and attitudinal data from staff observations and student feedback, levels of participation, as well as post year 11 and 13 destinations data.
4. Influencing School Leadership
Throughout the studies the importance of communication and dialogue between arts and cultural subject teachers and senior leadership on pupil premium strategy is highlighted. The case studies highlight how discussion papers, bids, and encouraging parental engagement can all offer useful tools for advocating for arts and cultural activity.