Arts and Creativity at Swiss Cottage School
Article 29 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child says that “All children and young people have the right to education which tries to develop their personality and abilities as much as possible”.
Article 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child says that “All children and young people have the right to play and relax by doing things like sports, music and drama.”
We have a commitment to providing all learners at Swiss Cottage School, with their “Cultural Entitlement”. By this we mean access to opportunities to meaningfully engage in a range of art forms, and explore human creativity and heritage. At Swiss Cottage, we aim to address barriers to cultural entitlement, associated with factors such as deprivation, ethnicity, family capacity, and disability.
Through our curriculum, and our arts and creativity offer, we also aim to create the conditions for ‘Cultural Development’. We want any encounters with the arts, to enable deep learning, and facilitate personal growth. As a school, we consider arts and creativity in relation to SMSCD (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development). According to OFSTED guidance Cultural Development is shown by pupil’s by:
- Understanding and appreciation of the wide range of cultural influences that have shaped their own heritage.
- Willingness to participate in, and respond to, for example, artistic, musical, sporting, mathematical, technological, scientific and cultural opportunities.
- Interest in exploring, understanding of, and respect for cultural diversity and the extent to which they understand, accept, respect and celebrate diversity, as shown by their attitudes towards different religious, ethnic and socio-economic groups in the local, national and global communities. (OFSTED Subsidiary Guidance, January 2012).
Arts and Creativity in the Curriculum
We are an exceptionally large, all-age special school, accommodating learners from across a wide range of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We have several different curricula running through our school therefore, enabling us to provide each individual with a truly personalised curriculum offer.
Arts and Creativity play an important role through our various curricula as follows:
The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework: This is followed nationally, by all children under five. At Swiss Cottage, we extend this phase of education for an additional year. Within the framework, one of the areas of learning is ‘Art and Design’. In addition, a range of artistic and creative approaches are employed as a tool to support development across a range of early learning goals such as those associated with ‘Communication’ or ‘Personal and Social Development’.
The Formal Curriculum: An adapted National Curriculum, which addresses life needs, for learners with moderate difficulties. As part of this, learners have an ‘Expressive Arts’ programme, which includes specialist lessons in Art, Drama, Dance, Modern Foreign Languages and Music. In addition, various art forms are used to enable learning across the curriculum. For example, drama and role play are used within Personal Social Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE), enabling learners to think through important issues such as peer pressure and e-safety.
The Semi-Formal Curriculum: Life Skills based curriculum, for learners with severe learning difficulties, working significantly below the national expectations for Year 1, whatever their age of Key Stage. As part of this, we have defined our own curriculum area ‘My Creativity’ which has input from both class teachers and specialist teachers. Various art forms are also used to enable learning and progress in other school-defined areas within this curriculum. For example, in ‘Me and My Community’ learners may be developing important life-skills such as booking tickets or using a cloakroom, to go to an exhibition.
The Informal Curriculum: A curriculum which promotes ‘Connecting and Responding’, for learners with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. Within this, music, sound, movement, and a range of sensory or artistic materials are used, to promote those key developmental milestones, which typically happen within the first year of life.
Post-14 learners: Where learner move into a more age-based ‘Post-14 Curriculum’ to prepare them for independent living beyond Swiss Cottage School. As part of this, we have a curriculum area ‘Leisure and Choices’, through which learners explore personal interests, which are often related to the Arts. We also offer Arts Award to acknowledge the related achievements of Post-14 learners.
Arts and Creativity Partnerships
We consider it essential to have professional artists interacting with the school, to extend learner’s individual talents and strengths, and build the capacity of teaching teams to exploit the full potential of the arts, as a tool for learning and development. We also see it as a way of connecting our learners with wider society.
A team from across the school works to ensure that we are accessing any available funding and/or we are a partner school for local arts organisations currently delivering on any projects that would be beneficial for Swiss Cottage learners. In addition, as a teaching school, we support the professional learning of arts and heritage sector professionals through hosting focussed learning walks and opportunities for joint practice development. We therefore now have strategic partnerships with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Camden Arts Centre, ‘Shape’ (a disability arts charity), the Roundhouse, and Camden Music Hub. These partnerships give us access to artists-in-residence, peripatetic music teachers, and placement students taking community arts graduate and undergraduate courses. In the interests of safeguarding any visiting professionals are subject to DBS checks and are supported through a period of induction.
Access and Inclusion in the arts
At Swiss Cottage School, we see access to the arts as an entitlement. However, we also believe that there is a significant difference between merely being physically in a space where there is artistic and creative activity, and actually meaningfully engaging with it. To ensure that all learners access arts and creativity meaningfully, we personalise our provision, around the needs of each individual. In doing this, we invest in “matching” available artists and arts organisations to particular learners or learner groups. We also work with our partner arts organisations to refine strategies for addressing barriers to access, such as those associated with sensory processing difficulties.
As we are a school for learners with complex needs, after-school provision requires a substantial infrastructure, which includes specialist transport and escorts to take learners home. This means that not all of our learners access after-school and holiday provision all of the time. A variety of arts activities are offered at lunchtimes and fundraising focuses on growing our extended school offer.
Monitoring and Evaluation of Arts and Creativity
To evaluate how well we are meeting learner’s cultural entitlement we:
- Analyse central records related to trips, visits and internal school events.
- Build evaluation into our trips and visits planning cycle.
- Capture learner voice through consultation activities and our learner council.
- Create space to discuss any artistic or cultural experiences that have happened within a school week, during Friday weekly evaluation sessions (8:30am -9:15am).
To assess learner’s cultural development we:
- Track progress against personal learning intentions for the curriculum areas ‘My Creativity’ (semi-formal curriculum) and ‘Leisure and Choices’ (post-14 curriculum).
- Using post-it notes in the classroom, to record which art forms or artistic materials have been effective in supporting learners holistic development. Post-it notes then feed in to pupil portfolios (Learning Journals) and class team reflections and records.
- Provide a range of related accreditation pathways for Post-14 learners, through which evidence of learning and progress is collated.
- Have dedicated pages for arts and creativity on each ‘Learning Journal’ for each individual pupil. Learning Journals are multimedia profiles, which capture significant achievements across the curriculum.
- Use the ‘Sounds of Intent’ framework for Music to inform the setting on personal learning intentions and the analysis of learning journals.
Fig 1: Expressive Arts in the Formal Curriculum
Fig 2: ‘My Creativity’ in the Semi-Formal Curriculum