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Barnsley Arts Award Collaborative

Six Barnsley Primary Schools embed Arts Award into the curriculum, working in partnership with the local creative sector

Arts Award Activity at Hoyland Common. Image courtesy of IVE

This case study celebrates an innovative partnership across local schools and local arts to develop the Arts Award, increasing children’s agency, engagement and creativity along the way. Written by IVE.

This is one of 25 case studies highlighting the value of arts in schools and education settings, curated by arts education researcher Sarah B Davies. The suite of case studies illustrates the research The Arts In Schools: Foundations for the Future, by Pauline Tambling and Sally Bacon, due to be published in 2023.

About the project

In 2019, Fusion (Barnsley’s Local Cultural Education Partnership) and IVE launched an initiative to bring primary schools and the creative sector together to embed Arts Award into the curriculum. Supported by IVE, Bridge Organisation for Yorkshire and Humber, school budgets and the Arts Award Access Fund, six schools were recruited. Two teachers from each school came together to train as Arts Award Advisors and spent time together to plan how Arts Award Explore could be delivered in each setting and agree a timeline, moderation dates and regular opportunities to share learning, collaborate and support one another.

The creative sector was invited to attend an Arts Award briefing which led to a menu of offers to schools that would support their delivery of Arts Award, including school trips, creative activities and chances to meet artists.

The schools collaborated to produce a Barnsley themed Arts Award Explore Logbook which provided a place for pupils to collect evidence and document their Arts Award journey. It also showcased Barnsley’s cultural destinations and gave prompts to schools and pupils about where they could go locally to find out about artists and arts organisations.

262 children, aged 8-11yrs, achieved Arts Award Explore. A celebration exhibition and event was hosted in a theatre space, where children from all the schools showcased their work, either exhibiting or performing. Barnsley’s Mayor, family members, teachers, fusion partners and other interested schools attended to help celebrate their achievement; it was a fantastic occasion!

What worked well

Collaborative Approach

A success of the initiative was its collaborative nature. It was devised, developed and delivered by a network of like-minded school leaders working in partnership with Fusion and Barnsley’s creative sector. The whole experience was underpinned by mutual support and guidance across the sectors involved. Different partners worked to their strengths and experience, taking on tasks to ensure everyone was making good progress and each school and partner achieved what they set out to do. The positive impacts of this were;

  • A variety of perspectives supporting key decision making.
  • Individuals’ expertise was utilised, resulting in a high-quality work.
  • Responsibilities were shared.
  • Greater understanding between Sectors.
  • A borough-wide approach, resulting in children and families taking a greater interest in local culture and heritage.
  • A feeling of being in it and making a difference together.

Schools, teachers, creative organisations and artists developed strong relationships through the initiative and have continued to collaborate on other work. Following the initiative, new schools joined some of the existing schools to expand their Arts Award offer to introduce Arts Award Discover at KS1 alongside continuing with Arts Award Explore in KS2. They started this second phase in March 2020 just as the pandemic shut everything down. Despite the significant challenges schools were facing at this time, four schools continued with their Arts Award plans, supporting each other and also reaching out to creative organisations for support. They have successfully taken over 100 children through Arts Award Discover during the pandemic. In Autumn of 2022, the LCEP and the schools will relaunch Barnsley Arts Award Collaborative, to bring more schools and partners on board.

Child-Led Approach

All schools reported that a child-led approach was incredibly worthwhile. They observed:

  • Increased levels of engagement in learning.
  • An improvement in behaviour.
  • An increase in confidence during their Arts Award journey.

Each school cited several instances of a child exceeding expectations as they were given ownership of their own work,

“One of our pupils watched a short clip of his film and wasn’t happy with it, so he then did a view of the world he is in from a fly’s perspective. Watching the excitement from him and the joy he had when he showed the film to the rest of the class was definitely a magic moment.” (Springwell Special Academy)

Some schools reported that the child-led approach had a positive impact across the entire class,

“The ‘magic moment’ was our challenging cohort of Year 3 children achieving the Arts Award and feeling that sense of success. I remember walking into the classroom and seeing the entire class engaged in their creative projects, taking risks, trying something new and working collaboratively. All of these things were areas in which this particular class struggled. The broadening of horizons and the raising of aspirations was also a big part of our success in piloting the project.” (Kings Oak Primary)

“… children spoke with such passion, pride and positivity about the journey they had taken and the final product they had produced. All children spoke about how freeing it had been to choose their own learning and make key decisions on their own. They wanted to stress that it had increased their independence and confidence to make decisions and have a go in other aspects of their life.” (Ward Green Primary School)

What was challenging

Bringing together a large number of partners from different sectors required coordination and good communication. IVE brought in a programme coordinator to oversee the initiative and to act as a central point of information and support.

What can others learn?

The Celebration Exhibition was an important part of the pilot and brought everyone together to recognise and celebrate the children’s achievements; this was a great way to involve families.

“The Celebration Event was invaluable and gave many of our children, who have very little access to the arts, the opportunity to be part of something special and be able to share their work, we expect that this will have a lasting impact on them.” (Ward Green Primary School)

Furthermore, it provided opportunity to advocate for the importance the arts and positive impact the initiative had on children and young people’s confidence, creativity and engagement in school.

The success of the initiative inspired a collaboration between several of the schools as they prioritised Arts Award in Lockdown,

“In the pandemic I think it was important to give our children the opportunity to access a creative experience within the home environment/through online learning.   At this point, these experiences would not have been available elsewhere. I think the Arts Award was a great vehicle to support this and it worked well for our children by engaging them in something other than academic learning.  They were no longer accessing after school clubs either so this enrichment was important.” (Hoyland Common Primary School)