The British Ceramics Biennial takes over Stoke On Trent’s former Spode factory every two years, showcasing cutting-edge work by some of the UK’s leading ceramic artists. The BCB’s schools programme allows young people to get hands-on experiences with clay throughout the year, as Katie Leonard, Education Project Manager, explains.
“We run schools workshops throughout the year, not just at festival time. Our tagline says it all: get clay under the fingernails! Our artists go into schools for three to five day residencies and they work with pupils to make really ambitious, creative pieces. We try to link the work with the curriculum, so for example, one of our recent schools was running a healthy eating module with its pupils. We looked at the things that can contribute to enjoyment and pleasure in eating, including quality tableware, and the class went on to make platters that were fired and glazed.
“Our schools work always starts with a CPD session for teachers, to help improve their confidence. We also look for opportunities to share skills and resources, for example asking our secondary schools if a nearby primary school can use their kiln. It’s about igniting interest in ceramics and the process of making.
“During festival time we are heaving with visiting schools groups. This year a generous HLF grant has allowed us to run a project about World War One and we are creating an imposing installation in memorial to those who gave their lives. Visiting schools have worked with the artist Stephen Dixon to create their response to this piece, including clay flowers to represent the 5608 soldiers from the North Staffordshire Regiment who lost their lives in the war, and ceramic dog tags inspired by pieces found in the Spode archive. The project has allowed us to put over 600 pupils from Year 3 to Year 10 through Arts Award.
“We have found that teachers want to work with ceramics throughout the year and in a meaningful way. In Stoke, the ceramics industry is our heritage and so is a great education tool. Using ceramics, we can look back at our history and we can also use it to look forward, thinking about all the innovative ways ceramics are now used in arts, in science and technology. They are a means to raise aspirations and pride in our city.”
Katie Leonard, Education Project Manager
British Ceramics Biennial
“Katie and the team at BCB have put a phenomenal number of young people through the Arts Awards – this means that along with ‘getting clay under their fingernails’ all of the young people have gained a valuable, national qualification celebrating their creativity.”