Creative Arts – Their Place in the Whole School Curriculum

we have had a couple of arts-based school trips this week. Year 11 went to the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford to research for their GCSE Art project work and the music department ran a trip to see ‘Stomp’ at the New Theatre, Oxford, on Friday night. Next week, nearly 200 students will take part in performing arts workshops run by international group Gen Verde. These will culminate in a public concert in a 1,000- seat auditorium.

Why are we doing all this?  It’s not going to have a direct impact on our English & Maths results. It certainly doesn’t make a jot of difference as far as the EBacc is concerned. Nevertheless, we do it because it’s important.

Arts provide a way for pupils to express themselves and fulfill their creative potential. A curriculum missing the arts cannot represent all that pupils are capable of expressing or achieving, nor can it prepare them to take up their role in society. Who would want to live in a society bereft of art, literature, theatre or music? It’s important therefore that we don’t view arts in school as an extra; a ‘desirable’ but not an ‘essential’. We know that children can be mathematicians and musicians, scientists and sculptors, astronomers and actors – they shouldn’t be forced to choose. The arts should not be in competition with maths, science or any other subject. An appreciation of the arts, and opportunities to explore our creativity enable us to be better writers, mathematicians, scientists, historians, etc. In short, the arts enable us to be better people, because artistic creativity is part of what it means to be human.

If we need to be pragmatic, the arts are also a major contributor to the UK economy. In 2013, the Arts Council reported that the Arts and culture industry had an annual turnover of £12.4 billion, bringing nearly £6 billion of gross added value into the UK economy (you can read the report here). Earlier this year, the Department for Culture media & sport estimated that the wider creative arts, media and entertainments industry accounted for 1.7 million jobs and was worth £76.9 billion a year to our economy (read more here).

So arts in education allow students to develop their creativity and reach their full potential as whole individuals, they enrich society and enable us all to lead more fulfilled lives, and they form a key part of our economy. Their absence from the the EBacc makes a mockery of the concept. It’s an omission that schools must address: The Arts may have missed out at the DfE, but we can’t let them be missing from the experience of the children we teach.

I welcome your comments. I’d also like to hear how schools integrate arts into the curriculum.

I’ve also written about the place of practical science in the whole school curriculum here.


Don’t Call It Appraisal – Building Better Performance Development

No, we don’t call it appraisal, and we try not to use ‘performance management’ either. One  of my responsibilities at school is to organise the annual performance reviews for teaching staff. We take he view that the primary purpose of this exercise should be developmental – we aren’t just measuring how well teachers do their job but learning what works best and using objectives to develop our practice as teachers in order to secure better outcomes for children. We also use reviews as a great opportunity to say thank you to colleagues for their hard work and commitment over the past year.

This year I have given a lot of thought to how we can better align school priorities and the requirement to base performance reviews on the Teaching Standards with the objectives for each colleague. We have linked objectives to the standards since 2012 (using a facility within the School Aspect online management package we use), but for 2015-16 we have chosen to link a couple of objectives, which align with school priorities directly to teaching standards. 

We have three objectives for all teachers and a fourth for those with a TLR post or on the Leadership Team.

A. Promote good Progress and Outcomes by Pupils. An objective focussed on elements of this teaching standard and linked to the levels of progress of pupils in a group, the size and nature of which depends on the role of the teacher.

B. Teaching to Meet the Needs of Pupils. An objective focussed on elements of this objective and designed to improve the progress and attainment of disadvantaged pupils is a school priority. This objective is to close the gap between disadvantaged pupils (i.e. Those who receive the pupil premium) and their non- disadvantaged peers. Again, the size of the group depends on the responsibilities of the teacher.

C. A personalised CPD objective derived from the teachers self review against the teaching standards and reflection on the past school year. This may derive from the review of objectives from the previous year or from an NQT final assessment. In some cases the development area may be proposed by the reviewer.

D. A leadership objective centred on an area of responsibility dependent on the teacher’s role. St Gregory’s is a faith school and this objective aligns to one of four areas:

  • Spiritual Capital
  • Mission Integrity
  • Partnership
  • Servant Leadership

For each of these objectives we record the key actions, intended outcomes and timescale. We also agree the success criteria and evidence that will form the basis of the review. CPD requirements for fulfilling objectives are also recorded. There is an interim meeting part way through the year to check progress.

That is what we are planning for this year. I’m interested in how this compares with what other schools do and welcome any constructive comments.