Artsmark – Exploring the Arts in your school

18 February 2015

On 29 January, 100 teachers gathered at the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre for an afternoon of presentations, activities and conversation focused on the arts in education. 

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The event had three areas of focus:

  • An update on the changes to the Artsmark programme
  • A series of facilitated exercises to help schools think about, talk about and evaluate their school’s strengths and challenges around arts provision
  • An opportunity for teachers to engage directly with professional arts organisations at a ‘marketplace’.

The session began with information about changes to Artsmark.

After more than a decade of success in encouraging schools to raise the bar for their arts programmes, Artsmark is currently being refreshed by Arts Council England so that it can be as effective as possible in helping schools to achieve their ambition of ensuring all children and young people have access to high quality arts and culture. In the most recent round, 2013-14, London led the country the number of schools achieving Artsmark, and the percentage achieving Artsmark Gold.

Artsmark will relaunch in September, and before this there will be a pilot programme running from April to July. Details of both the pilot programme and the full re-launch will be available later in the spring. Any schools interested in participating in the pilot should email Laura Fuller to express interest. In the meantime, schools can still join the Artsmark network free of charge. The network provides case studies, specialist advice and best practice about developing and building arts and cultural provision.

For the rest of the afternoon, participants divided into six groups for two hours of activities focused on sharing practice, ideas and perspectives around arts provision. The main focus was to give schools some new tools to plan, deliver, monitor and demonstrate the impact of the arts. The activities explored some areas of interest both generally and in the context of Artsmark:

  • Quality How do we know if our arts provision is good?
  • Benchmarking/AuditingWhere are we now, where do we want to be?
  • Reflection and PlanningWhere do we go next?

As expected with such a large and diverse representation of schools, a wide range of practice and activity emerged from this exploration. But there were some themes and ideas common to most conversations:

- Assessing quality can be tricky, but focusing on Arts Council England’s Quality Principles is a great benchmark and starting point

- Being able to communicate broad value and impact was essential to gaining support for stronger arts provision among staff, parents/carers, and even pupils

- Having a clear sense of where, and how, the arts can serve a school’s development plan is important to securing senior leadership support

- Clear, constant documentation provides critical support for benchmarking and evaluation efforts, which in turn is essential to achieving the previous two aims. Documentation involving pupils – photography/film, music, artwork, creative writing – was particularly powerful.

The session concluded with each participant completing their own personal action plan, outlining what how they’ll take forward the lessons learned from the day’s activity.

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Following the session, teachers were invited into the main hall of the Coin Street Community Centre for a drink and nibbles, and to learn more about how professional arts organisations could support a school’s arts programme.

You can download below the list of participating organisations and their contact details.

Download AND Arts & Culture Marketplace participating organisations