School Outreach Programme 2021-22: Overview
Background & Introduction
In May 2021 Sculpture at Kingham Lodge hosted its fifth exhibition. From our second show in 2014 we have encouraged local primary and secondary schools to join in by funding materials and artists to make sculpture, and transporting students to see the show. Witnessing their work alongside that of professionals and engaging in the highly interactive experience of visiting Sculpture at Kingham Lodge has been hugely rewarding for the students.
Every year the show has grown and following the increased money raised in 2021 we launched an ambitious programme to promote art in local primary schools, kick started by two private donations specifically for outreach into schools.
The National Picture: from the 2020 RSA report*, assessing arts-rich schools
A nationwide problem is that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds are not able to be involved in the arts, given that many young people only take part in cultural learning activities such as music and theatre during school hours. The Social Mobility Commission and the Sutton Trust have found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to take part in extra-curricular arts activities.
In 2018 the Tracking Arts Engagement and Learning (TALE) project by the RSC and the University of Nottingham, asked RSA Fellows and the wider public to nominate any schools that they considered to be ‘arts-rich’ defined as: “All students, whatever their heritage, status or family income, have access to and participate in arts and cultural education. The school sees arts subjects and cultural education as vital to the compulsory school curriculum.”
The resulting research showed the national experience is that the artistic environment of schools is enhanced by creating art-rich spaces; dedicated rooms for art and music where children can practice in breaks and also be used for Special Educational Needs art therapy. Some schools have made partnerships with arts professionals and volunteers and exhibited student work in public halls and local shops.
There have been concerns raised about subject ‘deep dives’ in primary schools under the new Ofsted framework, given that primary class teachers teach across the curriculum rather than focusing on a specialism. This is compounded by the lack of trained specialist teachers at secondary and primary levels. One way of dealing with this can be skills audits of staff, which identify teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) who are practicing artists or arts educators or had previous careers in the arts. Their expertise can be employed to deliver curricular and extra-curricular activities and to offer continuing professional development to other staff who had minimal opportunities to learn about arts teaching during their initial teacher training. There are clearly potential opportunities to develop these skills in primary schools by working with specialists in local secondary schools.
*Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce
Is creating art-rich schools compatible with higher academic standards?
In 2017, the RSA launched ‘Learning About Culture’, the UK’s largest ever study into understanding the value and impact of arts based learning, particularly for children experiencing deprivation. The evaluators’ report was published in September 2021 and can be summarised by saying that many school leaders spoke about an improvement in exam results or Ofsted outcomes that they attributed to their school’s commitment to the arts. Often Ofsted inspectors made the same connection. In talking about these improvements school staff spoke of ‘transfer benefits’, i.e. how participating in the arts has led to improvements in other subjects, especially English and maths. Staff and students consistently cited the benefit of personal development, increased confidence and improved motivation at school.
There is conflict between the very short national curriculum for art (nine bullet points) and the OFSTED requirement that children have to be given a rounded cultural experience that must include specific art lessons, not just topic related art such as drawing in a lesson about Vikings or Romans.
Our initial findings in the North Cotswolds
Schools are allocated a budget of just £2 per child per term for art. This minimalist budget means that even when art is attempted, the lack of resources limits scope. In many schools, time to teach art is squeezed out by core subjects, which is compounded by a lack of teacher training, so ‘non-arty’ teachers simply avoid it. Furthermore, we were told that during lockdown it became clear to teachers that some families do not have paper and pencils or crayons for children to even attempt artistic expression at home.
2021-22: Our Outreach
We wrote to 21 local primary schools early in the academic year to ask them how we could best support their art education. Offering to tailor our funds to their needs, because we acknowledged that each school’s experience of art would be different. We wrote proffering no-strings attached money, logistical support and bags of enthusiasm! It took two terms to build links with everyone and get individually tailored programmes in place. Staff shortages were generally the cause for our struggle to reach the right person, highlighting that schools are battling a number of issues that prevent engagement no matter how good the offer is.
The feedback has been incredibly positive. The children love it, the staff are delighted and we have even heard from parents who are very appreciative that their children are so enthused about a school subject!
By the end of the summer term 2022 we are running weekly after school art clubs in 3 schools, we have fully re-stocked the art cupboards in 3 schools, run termly art competitions (we funded the prizes) in about half the schools and paid for amazing artists to workshop with the whole school in 13 schools in the spring term and 13 schools in the summer term.
In addition we have partnered with Bloxham and Kingham Hill Schools who have generously opened their art departments to share expertise, networking opportunities -and food – as teacher training opportunities open to all staff in our schools. This was in direct response to the request for more teacher training in art expressed to us in our initial outreach conversations with schools.
Another fruitful partnership was with Chipping Norton School where the dedicated outreach team (the fabulous Robyn Bissett and Sarah Fisher) worked with us to offer all year 4 students in their partnership primary schools the opportunity to do a pottery workshop. We paid for the artist, Alison Townley, materials, the all important snacks and in some cases transport.
What we have achieved has only been possible thanks to the wonderful artists we work with. They say they have all absolutely loved it, and we happily believe them! They have found it rewarding – and the hard work (that it definitely was) was worth it!
The first artist we worked with was Emma Cox, whose talent and engagement with children was obvious to us when she came to hang the exhibit she had made with Bledington School at the Sculpture Show in 2021. ‘Blossom’ was a colourful masterpiece that wowed our visitors and inspired many to go home and recreate it with their children and grandchildren (or housemates, in the case of a visiting group of university students!). It was chatting with Emma and the head of Bledington School, Jill Kewley, who inspired us to put into plan our thoughts on a much more comprehensive outreach programme.
Emma has teamed up particularly successfully with artist Abigail Boisot to go into schools and teach charcoal workshops (spring term) and watercolour workshops (summer term). Wonderful feedback from their experiences, that made us laugh and cry showed the power of what they were doing. Children that had been identified as ‘trouble’ in their normal lessons became calmer and more focused. Children threw their arms around the artists expressing their gratitude in hugs as well as boosting their egos by suggesting they were ‘The best artist ever’ and so ‘you must be famous’. It doesn’t hurt to have a few boosts to confidence every now and then! Yet there were emotionally challenging times too. Meeting with children that clearly had no experience of any artistic engagement and are so cut off from creative opportunities they barely knew how to comprehend the artistic freedom on offer; they would not allow themselves to make mistakes because of the pressure they feel under to be perfect. Yet more who are identified as having a range of special educational needs but no one has thought to – or been able to- use art as the therapy tool it so obviously is.
To help with the increasing number of schools in the summer term we worked with Alison Townley who delivered the hugely appreciated pottery workshops in conjunction with Chipping Norton School. Alison introduced us to Cally Bond who helped with the bigger pottery workshops as well as delivering her own pebble art workshops in schools. The ‘closest to home’ artist is Eleanor Campbell, based here in Kingham, who has drawn on her product design background to deliver workshops designing and making packaging for an apple.
A very special ‘guest artist’ joined the North Cotswold Partnership of schools (Cold Aston, Longborough and Lower Swell) in the form of Kay Singla, one of the artists who exhibit at Sculpture at Kingham Lodge. Kay generously views it as part of her artistic calling to donate her time to teach school children about sculpture and so it was our enormous pleasure to work with Kay and the schools art lead, Lucy Thomas, to facilitate the opportunity.
To all the artists we work with, we are especially grateful for their time and enthusiasm, and we know the children and teachers are too.
Perhaps most importantly we are trying to understand how best to create a sustainable programme for the future. We have offered to pay for a subsciption and associated resources to Kapow Primary, which offers fully planned lessons progressing through the subjects from years 1-6. Access Art is another alternative to this that we are looking into. We are also offering to match fund for schools that want to invest in more expensive long term hardware such as pottery wheels and external mark making boards. We will continue to work with Chipping Norton School on opportunities that benefit from their space and are hard to recreate in a primary setting and hope to make links with other secondary schools in the area. We are working with Oxford Brookes University School of Education to facilitate their trainee teachers to practice teaching art by delivering workshops.
There will be more opportunities, for sure, as well as continuing to deliver the amazing art experiences that are already being so well received.
We estimate we will have spent £20,000 in this academic year. Reaching over 3,500 children across 22 schools we believe we have transformed art engagement for many of them and in the few schools that already had an art programme we have been able to increase their art delivery and broaden their experiences.
If you would like to support our work there are two important things you can do.
Come to our shows! The next show will be from Saturday 20th to Monday 29th May 2023. If you are not on our database, please join our mailing list. Our money has been raised through the sale of sculpture, refreshments and donations on the gate – so thank you if you have visited us over the years.
You can donate specifically to the schools outreach programme by BACS to S/c 20-03-84, A/c 23486923, Ref: SCHOOL.
For this, thousands of children say ‘thank you’.
Don’t just take our word for it; here are some quotes from the artists and teachers we work with:
Artist Emma Cox said: “The first two weeks of art club have gone really well. The kids love it! They don’t want to leave. In fact, we got told off by the Head yesterday for over running by 5 mins and they all did a big ohhhwww at the end!”
Gill Bray, Art lead for St Mary’s, Chipping Norton “The resources arrived after a couple of weeks and are now being used and appreciated.”
Lucy Thomas, Art lead for Cold Aston on the whole school workshop “The children in KS1 had a wonderful time during their charcoal workshop today. They were all engaged and produced wonderful work”.
Michelle Hastings, Head of Great Rollright following a teacher training day with Kingham Hill School “I had a truly wonderful day on Tuesday and not only learnt a lot but also thoroughly enjoyed myself!”
Robyn Bissett, Community Learning Coordinator at Chipping Norton School on a highlight for her “…the child who told his teacher that he did not want to come, that pottery is not his thing, and then proceeded to be SO enthralled by the whole experience.”
And finally…from a precious little cherub: “I loved using the charcoal without reproachful adults worrying about our cleaness(sic)”