One significant feature of our extended Artsmark journey has been how the collecting of evidence on the impact of the arts school has shown just how many lessons were influenced by the arts. One of our generic priorities is to involve as many of the school’s stakeholders as possible. Our Parent Hub communication system is a platform to share arts events with parents and governors on a regular basis. Indeed, with having many of the musical events broadcast via zoom, it appears that many more parents are able to support than by simply inviting them into school. Many classes use the platform to showcase not just completed artwork or performances, but also some of the work in progress.
There are many examples of parts of lessons shared with parents. In reception, the music co-ordinator often introduces real instruments so that the four year-olds can experience first-hand, what sounds can be made, using patterns and all the musical elements as a guide and how it feels to make them. As teachers, we see this all the time and now, with the images / videos shared on Parent Hub, the parents are also empowered to become involved and share their pride with their children about these experiences.
Another example, at the other end of the school was the recent Composing project undertaken by the year sixes. After some lessons on the structure of ‘Twelve Bar Blues’ (where they also learned performed many of these in a band format) the children were given an image and a poem taken from the wonderful book, ‘The Lost Words’, by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. With a little experimentation, the children then selected the appropriate sound world to represent the character of their chosen creature, and set about fitting these sounds and patterns into the structure. The children used a combination of musical and graphical notation (using manuscript paper set out in 12 bar format). These were added to, each week and backed up by iPad recordings of the work in progress, so they could see for themselves, their team’s progression, taking ownership and being positively critical about their own work and that of others. Most pleasing was the authenticity and originality shown throughout. The children’s obvious pride and enjoyment of the experience meant that the teacher input was minimal (simply maintaining the structure eg. suggesting the odd ostinato). An amusing moment occurred when some children discovered the ‘novelty’ sounds on the keyboards. As these sounds were funny, they couldn’t believe their luck when the teacher not only allowed them, but actively encouraged them to fit them into their composition and to take charge of their own work.
We have used these ‘lesson’ examples to show how the arts are embedded into the curriculum, but we also have so many class drama / music productions throughout the year (Harvest, Christmas, World War 2, Egyptians, Stars In Your Eyes competitions, Art exhibitions, personal musical performance assemblies, leavers production) that reinforce the importance of the Arts in school.
What is the IMPACT of Music?
Since our first award of Artsmark Gold in 2006 and its many incarnations, one constant has been the recognition of the value the arts have on our children’s journey through the school.
Excellence and innovation
Empowering our children to take charge of their own achievement is one of our underlining goals and we constantly strive for excellence. We believe that the outcomes of the children’s work in the arts should be judged by the children themselves and we have plenty of evidence to show this. From lesson observations, listening to the children’s viewpoints, parent comments and sharing of good practice, it is clear that the innovation and adaptability of our staff and superb leadership from the arts coordinators, carries our ethos forwards.
The details in the arts (through structure in music, technique in art and perspective in drama) develop through time, we know that the children have to have an original platform to use as a starting point. What we observe and encourage throughout the school is to value what our children can bring from themselves. Our teachers don’t want 30 identical pieces of artwork on view, but outcomes which reflect the authenticity of the children’s personalities.
Exciting, Inspiring, Engaging
Because of its embedded nature, it is clear that our children and their parents have bought into our philosophy in the arts. We hear many comments from former pupils about the wonderful arts at our school and indeed, many of the children hear stories from older siblings who tell stories of exciting memories and inspiring arts-related achievements from their time at Woodheys.
Positive and inclusive experience
It is a source of great pride at Woodheys that the evidence from our school leadership team, lesson observations, co-ordinator reports, parents, governors, partner organisations (e.g.Trafford Music Centre) Ofsted, ex-pupils and many more sources, means that our promotion of the arts have undoubtedly resulted in a positive and inclusive experience for all the children in our school.
Actively involving children - personal progression.
Among the many benefits of our Artsmark journey has been the shift in focus from ‘league table’ statistics to what is important for our children. Like other schools, we have a school council, but ours has a voice that is listened to. Many of their recommendations refer to elements of the arts and this is often taken on board by our staff in planning more child-led experiences in lessons.
Belonging and ownership
As mentioned above and in section one, the children are very involved in the outcomes in the arts. In drama lessons, the dilemma resolutions are always the children’s – one particular example was in a year 5 drama structure based on The Pied Piper; they had to decide for themselves whether the PP was seeking ‘Justice’ or ‘Revenge’ by taking the children.
Artwork on display always has a name attached and, in the children’s collaborations in drama, dance and music, it is the children who are acknowledged as the driving force.
What is the impact of Artsmark journey on staff?
Many of our lessons in the arts are taught by specialist teachers, though certainly not all. As mentioned in section two, the change in teaching (because of the pandemic and only certain year groups allowed into school in small ‘bubbles’) which relied heavily on remote on-line teaching, did have the advantage of the class teachers being able to join in with exemplar arts lessons from the specialist co-ordinators – essentially a practical INSET lesson every week. As school life has returned to a degree of normality in recent months, this knowledge has indeed instilled much more confidence in delivering the arts to their own classes. Indeed, while collecting evidence for this statement of impact, the teachers enthusiastically (and from experience) related the many arts activities whey had accomplished in some part due to taking part in the exemplar lessons. Additionally, our Art Co-ordinator has hosted some TTSA art sessions for teachers across the borough. These provide guidance in art techniques, practical class and resource management, assessment and how to plan for collaborative project work.
One significant example of a positive commitment to music in school has been the emergence of the Woodheys Big Band, made up of eight teachers throughout the school. The band meets every Friday evening, has a wonderful camaraderie and respect, has a repertoire of 25 numbers and consists of a full rhythm section (drums, piano, keyed bass and guitar), trumpet, saxophone and singers. They have performed concerts for the children in the hall (where they were seen as rock stars!) and for the staff and will showcase their wonderful talents at future TA events throughout the year. The feedback from our school community has been universally supportive and the waiting list for instrumental lessons in school is testament to the current interest level.
We do believe that our efforts in the Artsmark Journey did indeed prove to be a catalyst for this achievement.
There are a number of drama resources in school, which have been particularly well used in History lessons, and many more teachers are prepared to refine their artistic learning alongside the children in lessons. Historically, the leadership team has always been an advocate of the arts in school and it is clear that taking part in the Artsmark journey has reinforced their commitment to its values and outcomes for our children.