Guest blog from Lyndsay Muir, previously the schools consultant for Lincolnshire, discussing how Artsmark is the recipe for school success.
I’m Lyndsay Muir and I have been the Artsmark consultant for Lincolnshire for several years, bridging the very tail of the ‘old’ artsmark with the launch of the current ‘new’ version. This has been an exciting and dynamic time as we said goodbye to the ‘spreadsheet-esque’ approach and a prominent ‘hello’ to the new version, designed by, with and for schools. Three schools in Lincolnshire were in fact part of the ‘pilot’ re-shaping of Artsmark – St Helena’s C of E Primary School, Willoughby, QEHS Secondary Grammar in Gainsborough and Priory Ruskin Academy in Grantham (who have just achieved their Gold Artsmark Award – congratulations!).
We wanted a professional development tool for the arts in schools and it needed to work, for us in Lincolnshire especially, across a large number of small rural primary schools, spread across a vast geographical area as well as larger secondary schools and the state selective grammar schools which we have too. We hoped for it to be forward looking, focused on enhancing the quality and impact of the arts. Above all we looked for it to celebrate the amazing work of children, young people together with that of their extraordinarily dedicated, passionate and imaginative arts teachers.
So, does it do this? I think the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ And crucially what the Artsmark process has built in is the need for some proper time and space for asking questions about what’s good about what we do already and what we might aspire to do better. That’s a crucial part of an Artsmark development day and, like any good recipe, it’s a case of being inspired to create something delicious and nutritious, but also gathering the ingredients together and making a strategic plan to bring it to fruition. That’s why it is so vital and so valuable that the development day involves both strategic leadership with knowledge from what we used to call the chalk face (am I giving my age away?)
On development days that I’ve facilitated, I have seen lead teachers delighted to re-discover, working alongside a teaching colleague, what brilliant arts work is already happening in their school. I’ve seen staff light up with the sense of meaning and value in their work. I’ve particularly relished the chance to pay testimony to the value of arts experiences in my own life – to describe a moment which has remained a touchstone for both my personal and professional journey in life thus far: my solo voice, as a child, sounding the end of the autumn term and the beginning of the winter break. What was powerful was that it was my voice and my voice alone (and that, unaccompanied as I was, I stayed in tune!) What it meant for me was that I felt acknowledged, listened to, affirmed.
So asking ourselves about our own arts experiences, what’s powerful about them and what they mean to us is a useful benchmark, perhaps, in guiding us as educators in thinking about how we might enable children and young people in our schools to enjoy, relish and benefit from such moments. If that sounds ambitious, then great – who aspires to mediocrity?!
It might take a bit of organising – particularly when resources are stretched – but it is possible. Lincolnshire One Venues (LOV) connects professional arts across the county to maximise the ‘reach’ of this provision and is a great point of contact, as well as other great partner organisations too. TMC invite representation from LOV at our development days and this has helped connect teachers and schools with what is on offer, be that a conversation, guidance, a venue tour, access to arts activities or even a show.
Sometimes, as a consultant I’ve been able to suggest a connection – both Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) and Lincoln University have courses in the arts, sometimes with specific modules, such as ‘children’s theatre’ or indeed ‘theatre for young people’. Last term Waddingham Primary went on a trip to BGU to see a production and get a tour of the technical side of the theatre, the result of an email exchange and finding resources for travel costs. This is a direct result of the Artsmark process, which asks questions, prompts and enables developments.
Sadly, as of September 2017, after a long and privileged period as Artsmark consultant for Lincolnshire, my work as a Senior Lecturer at Bishop Grosseteste has become my main job and this, along with part time research towards a Professional Doctorate at Manchester University, means that it is time to pass the baton on.
So I’d like to say a big thanks to all the schools that I’ve worked with through TMC – I’m still about in Lincolnshire and beyond now working through BGU with trainee secondary drama teachers and undergraduate applied drama students: we’re always on the lookout for placements!
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