Using the Arts to support personal development

Published on: 
8 Oct 2019

The new Ofsted framework (2019) holds schools to account to develop character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help students know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.

“But this is no news to us.” says Head of Sport, Art and Performance Laura Dreyer from North Durham Academy. “This is something we have been working on for some time.”

“The Arts have had a transformative effect on students at the Academy. I have seen students grow in confidence, develop communication skills and completely alter the way they behave due to their involvement in creative activities. The arts provide students with much needed self-worth.”

Laura leads the Creative Directorate at North Durham, who were awarded their Platinum Artsmark Award in 2017 and are currently in the process of planning their Statement of Impact for their next Artsmark Award. 

Tackling mental health concerns

Like the majority of schools across the country, teenagers at the school were reporting significant issues with friendships, body image and mental health. Due to the positive influence the Arts were having on pupils, the department started tackling personal development topics within lessons.

Learning Leader for Music, Bethany Robson, developed the curriculum for music. “We have a forward-thinking attitude in the music department, and are ambitious, pushing our students to achieve the very best”, she says. “We have always placed practical music making at the heart of our learning but tackling personal development through the arts was something very exciting.”

She continues. “Instead of simply teaching a Queen song, we studied the issues surrounding Freddie Mercury and how he dealt with his sexuality and HIV diagnosis. Before tackling a Lady Gaga song we explored how she struggles with her mental health and how this is portrayed in the lyrics.”

Improving life learning

Students are very positive about these life lessons. “I have always enjoyed my music lessons” commented a Year 8 pupil, “but I feel like I learn so much more in this classroom, not just about instruments and singers but about life too”.

It is an exciting time at the moment at North Durham. Local actors are currently working with us on a play representing life in the Stanley area, and students are using drama to express their world, thoughts and feelings on stage. Every day at the school is an open day, for any further information on their curriculum please contact them via Facebook or our website.



Laura Dreyer, Head of Faculty Sport, Art & Performance, North Durham Academy

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Cultural education gives children and young people the opportunity to develop their creativity, both individually and collectively, and that's why our goal is for every child and young person to have the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts.

Darren Henley
Chief Executive
Arts Council England

It's vital that children have the opportunity to learn and enjoy arts and culture from an early age. It develops their creativity, inspires future careers and enriches their childhood.

Artsmark Award does brilliant work in schools and education to ensure young people access a broad and balanced curriculum that includes high-quality arts and culture.

Michael Ellis MP
Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism
Department of Culture, Media and Sport