How do we build connections between schools and the cultural sector?  

Highlights from our Masterclass session with Heart of Glass and collaborators

9 July 2024

Merseyside-based community arts organisation Heart of Glass delivered a Masterclass on Tuesday 25 June, inviting artists and cultural organisations who work with children and young people to reflect on their own practices when working with schools as part of communities.

Textbook Assembly Workshop at Theatre Portto as part of tthe Ellesmere Port Cultural Learning Exchanage Celebraation Event (Oct 2023)_credit Kate Houlton.png
Textbook Assembly Workshop at Theatre Porto as part of the Ellesmere Port Cultural Learning Exchange Celebration Event, October 2023
Image Credit: Kate Houlton

We heard from Artist, Educator and Consultant, Sarah Bailey, Danielle Lewis-Egonu, Thought Leader and CEO of a multi-academy trust in Kent and Kate Houlton (Children & Young People’s Producer at Heart of Glass). They discussed their collaborative approach to working with schools including a long-term project Textbook which invites educators to reflect and re-imagine the future of schools through creative inquiry.  

Heart of Glass brings together artists and communities to make collaborative art, and provide support, resources and opportunities to artists and anyone interested in socially engaged practice. It aims to create spaces where people can bring their different lived experience, knowledge and perspectives, in order to understand the world differently, together. 

“We believe that art has the power to bring us together, imagine new futures and create real change.”

In this session, after a quick drawing warm-up with Sarah, Danielle shared her insights about the current state of the education sector: the landscape has changed, and we need to learn to understand it as it is now, for example, by getting to grips with the workings of Multi-Academy Trusts. Unstructured opportunities for play and to be creative is not the norm now that has been lost in the fire. Culture capital has become a buzzphrase after being added to the Ofsted framework but we need to understand what this is because it is this that will have an impact. We can never underestimate the impact of children and young people having the opportunity to access rich experiences that they wouldnt otherwise have outside of the school environment. The impact is not always measurable in reading/writing and maths, so we need to think holistically and be brave to navigate our curriculums and settings in this way. Danielle was keen to point out that there are plenty of teachers and schools out there keen to connect with the cultural sector!

We moved on to consider what is important for nurturing future collaborations between schools, artists and arts organisations: building connections and language, and advocating for each other. We reflected on how to slow down the process and consider the poetry of schools. Some key reflections were: Curriculum isnt everything what else is happening here? Who is school for? What kind of spaces are we creating? How do we care for each other?

Kate shared an introduction to the Textbook project and how it evolved into Assemblies. Sarah then led an improvised reading from the Textbook, with the speakers taking turns to read sections they chose aloud, tagging each other in, and sometimes repeating key phrases. Participants reflected on their responses to what they were hearing through drawing or notes, which they shared afterwards.

Sarah then led us through a group discussion to consider how our reflections might inform inquiries to guide our practice going forward.

5 top takeaways from the Masterclass

  1. Understand the context - The education landscape continues to change. Its important to understand current policy and structures. Consider your position in relation to these.
  2. Create time to learn to be together - How do we contribute to making spaces where we just practice being together? Especially people with whom we disagree.
  3. Understand your purpose - Being clear about our values and intention is important.
  4. Build in flexibility - Acknowledge and be sensitive to competing demands.
  5. Consider what capacity you have to be in a relationship with all partners - Do you want multiple relationships with schools or fewer, deeper collaborations? Whats best for your context?

Resources related to this event:

  • Copies of Textbook are available to loan from the Heart of Glass Lending Library, to find out more please email:

Actions moving forward what can you do next after the event?

  • Attendees were encouraged to explore and consider their starting point for work in schools. You might have multiple motivations, but whats the primary focus? Is it art form or social justice or something else? All are valid - it just helps to be clear.
  • Within this motivation, whats your question? Do you want to figure out how to involve parents in music education or are you wondering how to create spaces for quiet dreaming over lunchtime? Give yourself permission to learn as you go.