Developing a Network: We’d been working on a variety of arts projects which led to us working collaboratively with other special schools in Coventry; this was a very positive experience. As a result of this in 2016/17 the Coventry Performing Arts Service and Arts Connect supported six special schools in the city to set up an arts network to share opportunities, resources and develop leadership expertise. The Coventry Special Schools Arts Ambassador Network was born and the opportunity to work together towards Artsmark followed.
Focusing Arts Provision: As Artsmark Arts Ambassadors our clear objectives have helped to give our arts provision focus and direction. In the case of Sherbourne, we were keen to develop a continuity of opportunity throughout the school. We found that there were some fantastic things going on in pockets in the school. We wanted to highlight this activity and ensure our skills and resources were being spread equally across all age and ability ranges.
Developing a Commission: We decided at our Artsmark and Arts Ambassador Development Day that we would like an artist to go into all six of our schools to work on a project exploring how our students felt about their place in Coventry. We wanted the work to be celebrated at an exhibition and to be inclusive. We identified digital media as an art form that we needed to develop our skills in. We put together a commission brief for a suitable artist and Arts Connect helped us advertise this nationally. Being part of a network allowed us to share our commission funding, with each school putting some money into the pot and Arts Connect matching that.
Artist in Residence: In early January 2017 artist Sophie Mahon was employed to work with us on the project. Over the following months she visited Sherbourne a number of times. She worked directly with our students and then alongside staff in school to deliver workshops and share her digital media skills. Sophie also ran a staff CPD training session for representatives from all schools in the network. As well as enabling the staff to work creatively with her, Sophie trained some of our older Key Stage 5 students to support her in her work with our younger students. This gave our older students a range of transferable leadership skills and increased self-esteem.
Student Arts Ambassadors: We wanted to develop young people as Arts Ambassadors, this included some of the students who had been trained by Sophie, but we also identified other students from every key stage. We chose students who engaged well with the arts and who supported and encouraged others to take part. This was hugely positive for the students chosen as it gave them a real drive and a sense of purpose to continue their work in the arts. These students then worked with Arts Connect to become our trained student Arts Ambassadors.
The Final Exhibition: We hosted the network celebratory exhibition called ‘The Rainbow Convention’; it created a real buzz around the school. Students from across all Key Stages were able to visit the exhibition and see their work alongside that of many other students across Coventry.
Being Part of Something Bigger: Our students face many challenges as they grow up, so to see this level of collaboration from across Coventry helps them feel they are part of something bigger. For the staff involved, we were able to develop our digital creative skills in an area that we wouldn’t previously have felt confident working in.
Continuing the Artsmark Journey: The Coventry Special Schools Arts Ambassador Network will continue to develop with discussions starting about a dance project in 2018. We plan to submit our Artsmark case studies in autumn 2017 then continue to develop links within the network beyond our Artsmark journey.
Sam Kendall, is a Key Stage 5 teacher at Sherbourne Fields an all ages special school in Coventry. He is the Expressive Arts co-ordinator and the Arts Ambassador for the school as part of the Arts Ambassador special school network. He is working towards an Artsmark Award.
“Our students face many challenges as they grow up, so to see this level of collaboration from across Coventry helps them feel they are part of something bigger.”
Sam Kendall, Teacher, Sherbourne Fields School, Coventry.