A school-network approach to youth voice for arts and culture 

How St Luke’s led a network of schools to champion pupil voice in arts provision

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This case study introduces the activity of a school network led by Platinum Artsmark school St Luke’s in Glossop, Derbyshire. Written by The Mighty Creatives.

This is one of 25 case studies highlighting the value of arts in schools and education settings, curated by arts education researcher Sarah B Davies. The suite of case studies illustrates the research The Arts In Schools: Foundations for the Future, by Pauline Tambling and Sally Bacon, due to be published in 2023.

About the school and its networks

“The arts are not an add-on for our school but integral to our pedagogy and vision.”

St Luke’s Church of England Primary School gained Platinum Artsmark Award in 2022. Since 2016 the school has led on networks or clusters to support up to 20 schools develop their arts and cultural provision, in an area where there is limited cultural infrastructure.

Through the TMC Group School Offer - a bursary designed to support arts provision across a cluster of schools - St Luke’s has supported 15 other schools to gain Artsmark. This has included planning arts events (such as pupil voice events), designing and leading whole cluster staff training exercises, and planning large collaborative events.

St Luke’s has supported the network of schools in the following ways:

  • Empowering children to become ambassadors for high-quality provision and learning – and take a leadership role in delivering continued professional development opportunities, e.g. running a workshop at the Derbyshire Headteacher Conference.
  • Development of cohesive whole setting planning for arts and culture, where all teachers feel ownership.
  • Facilitating curriculum development, demonstrating a commitment to high-quality arts and cultural provision that connects subjects and learning outcomes across all phases and links to the whole setting's pedagogy.
  • Leading vital work exploring “teaching for creativity” across the network.
  • Usings the arts to support children’s wellbeing through the pandemic, and the recovery, within school and across the cluster.

This work has earned the school a Be Mighty Be Creative Award. The school’s headteacher is an Artsmark Ambassador for The Mighty Creatives, helping to influence and impact work across the East Midlands region.

What has worked well

“Being responsive to the needs of the pupils and listening to what they are telling us is a strength of the school.”

St Luke’s has identified that their children have become more creative. Responding directly to the needs, wishes, and feelings of the children has ensured that the students feel actively involved in the decision-making of the school. Children now feel confident to lead other projects in school – for example, the school’s response to the war in Ukraine using creativity. The children asked to lead an assembly on the plight of the refugees, which included a drama they had written, alongside preparing fundraising activities.

The pupils also have a growing understanding of the arts and the number of different jobs there are in the arts, as evidenced by work around future aspirations. Many of the children aspired to work in the arts with an authentic and mature attitude, genuinely seeing a career in the sector – for example, in stage make-up or set design.

Training children as arts leaders has also proved to develop their wider leadership skills, such as listening to others’ ideas, negotiating, assigning tasks, and completing activities. In a recent cross-school arts activity, older children worked with younger children to design and execute work based on the ‘Take One Picture’ project. The leadership skills they demonstrated were noticeable by staff across the school, and the children will be using these skills to lead arts activities across the cluster.

What was the impact?

Through working across a network of up to 20 schools to develop arts and cultural provision and increase pupil voice, St Luke’s has achieved the following:

  • Supported 15 of their network schools to gain Artsmark and, as a result, supported the quality of arts provision in these schools for over 3,000 children.
  • Facilitated CPD and partnership across a wide range of settings.
  • Promoted pupil voice across a cluster-wide development, including the development and sharing of pupil voice resources for schools across East Midlands,
  • Trained children as arts leaders, which has developed their wider leadership skills.
  • Delivered notable impact on the wider network, including a new project where schools have been mentored to help them use creativity and improve their teaching for creativity.

Watch this video to hear first-hand from St Luke’s

What can others learn?

The impact on the wider community has been huge. Alongside strengthening the cluster of schools it leads, St Luke’s has also established a new project. Through this project, created and led by St Luke’s, three primary schools have been mentored to help them use creativity to look at development priorities and devise action plans to improve their teaching for creativity.

As a partner, TMC has learnt the importance of pupil voice through the privilege of watching St Luke’s journey come to life. Since then, TMC has worked with Sarah Bailey to produce a Pupil Voice toolkit. This resource, created in conjunction with St Luke’s, is a brilliant tool to help other schools consider alternative ways to listen to children and young people – using the experiences of St Luke’s pupil voice work. It features information on why creative approaches are important, sample workshops, a multitude of activities and exercises, and a framework for exploring pupil voice.

Download the Pupil Voice toolkit

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