Northleigh Primary is a semi-rural school, nestled at the foot of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. The school already held Gold Artsmark status before being invited to pilot the new Artsmark scheme, which demands a long-term whole-school commitment to arts education. Ruth McManus, Northleigh’s Arts Co-ordinator, explains their approach.
“We have always tried to have arts at the heart of our curriculum and go that extra mile to ensure excellence in our arts and cultural teaching. When it came time for us to renew our Artsmark Gold status, we were asked to pilot the new system: It’s much more rigorous, and looks for the development of the whole school over a sustained period of time. One-off projects aren’t enough – to win Artsmark, the school has to show a meaningful and long-term commitment to arts education.
“At Northleigh, the arts has the same importance in the structure of the school as maths and English. The school has its own Arts Co-ordinator – me! – and our teachers are very open to creative learning. We often frame the curriculum around the arts – for example, all of KS1 recently used the BBC’s Ten Pieces project as a theme for a term’s learning.
“I based our case-study for Artsmark on our work with everyBODY dance, an aerial-dance company that specialise in work with the community, children with disabilities and young people. We rigged up ropes in the school hall and offered all our KS2 pupils the chance to have a go at aerial dance. Our younger pupils came along to family days, so they could try out the ropes with their parents – they had great fun pretending to be superman! Our teachers could engage in CPD as well. It was a great example of a whole school approach to a project.
“We then went further and linked with a special school in Worcester, so our pupils could work with their pupils to create a performance. Many of these pupils had special physical needs and so our children had to learn from them, understanding what it means to have physical disabilities. The group went on to perform their aerial dance piece in Worcester Cathedral as part of Voices and Visions, which was a spectacular event. We will continue to work in this way, offering our facilities to other groups in the area when possible so that everyone can have the chance to participate in aerial dance.
“We are proud of the work we do here. Artsmark isn’t just a badge for us, it’s not a tick-box exercise. Hand on heart, we believe that the arts are important to children and make them better people. The arts are embedded across everything we do and they enrich and enhance everyone’s experiences of school.”
Ruth McManus, Artsmark Co-ordinator
Northleigh Primary School, Malvern, Worcestershire
“Ruth at Northleigh has described Artsmark as being ‘Aspirational and inspirational’ and I have to agree with her. The sense of joy and exploration experienced by the pupils at Northleigh is testament to what the arts bring to a school. Artsmark is an integral part of the planning and development at Northleigh School.”