How creativity supports our school community
Horningsham Primary School received their Artsmark Platinum Award in May 2019. They are a rural school based in Wiltshire with around 80 pupils aged 5-11. In our latest Artsmark in Action blog, Headteacher, Carole Andrews shares with us how they kept arts and creativity at the heart of their school during lockdown and how this helped develop a strong school community.
It goes without saying that lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic has been an incredibly challenging and difficult time for all schools. In particular, the practicalities of curriculum provision alongside the emotional wellbeing of the whole school community including keeping everyone safe, supported and with a continuing positive mindset.
It’s interesting to be asked how and if we have been able to still maintain our arts delivery during this time – for Horningsham School, it would have been unthinkable not to. Creativity is a core value and expectation in our school and this unique time has challenged us to build on this to provide a supportive and workable remote and on-site learning community that is still vibrant, engaging and inclusive.
What we learnt from lockdown
- Work thematically
Working thematically is a key approach for us and this has continued throughout the pandemic with whole school weekly topics. This enabled families to access the same focus for all their children at home, with some common practical activities and projects that would make supporting children in different classes more manageable for parents. Our parents are used to creative homework projects and made full use of our cross curricular learning opportunities mapped into weekly project overviews complete with online links to virtual learning sites and activities.
- Create learning challenges
Integral to each weekly focus were creative and arts related challenges and activities. Creating arts challenges promoted widespread community engagement with all staff and families taking part. It also had a far wider impact on wellbeing and community identity that we had not anticipated, bringing us closer together during a time we were apart.
- Think outside the box
Our creative projects included portraits and celebrations of significant people in history with children uploading drama videos of them as a historical figure. One that inspired us all was a black and white grainy film created by a family with their reception child dressed up as Neil Armstrong recreating the iconic first steps on the moon! Creative challenges and projects were not only engaging for all, but far more inclusive than we could have anticipated – enabling whole families to work together as well as all members of staff to engage.
- Celebrate your achievements
We used our secure learning platform to share project outcomes in our weekly Celebration Assembly video served to inspire others for the next week and the response from our families grew in both contributions and quality creativity.
Our weekly gallery in our Celebration Assembly video highlighted artwork, dancing, singing, design and creative project work undertaken at home and by those on-site.
- Be open to new opportunities and skills
Our staff skill set inevitably developed during this time – we have become far more adept at creating films and using technology to overcome potential barriers. Zoom class sessions to share and celebrate stories, learning and feelings were key to keeping us together. Additionally, online family art workshops led by staff were successful in creating art together whether we were on-site or still at home. Use of video became widespread for inspiring and sharing achievements. For example, recreating our own film versions of ‘Jabberwocky’ and ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ and a whole school dance montage.
Returning to School
When we returned to school in September all pupils and staff took part in a two-week whole school wellbeing project using Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse as a prompt. This project promoted a positive mindset for pupil’s and staff on their return to school with each class creating their own illustrated wisdoms to see them through this next stage of the pandemic.
Each class explored the book using the illustrations and text as starting points for discussion encouraging pupils’ empathy and understanding about their own and others’ viewpoints. We we’re inspired by Mackesy’s book to express these emotions through writing and drawing. Each child created a conversation piece between a child (them) and the bird their class is named after. This culminated in a collection of wisdoms for the whole school titled ‘The Child, the Robin, the Woodpecker and the Owl’. Our eldest children developed this further by combining our unit of Special Books in RE with their Anglo-Saxon topic creating their own Book of Wisdom in the style of the Book of Kells.
We have also adapted our classrooms to help creativity thrive safely, ensuring all children can still have opportunities to design, create and present their work – be it dyeing wool and weaving as Anglo Saxons or creating clay dishes and diyas for Diwali. We have developed our focus in lockdown of maintaining great community spirit and school identity as we returned back to the classroom.
The main challenge of the pandemic for our school was to keep creativity at the forefront when managing the changing guidance and challenges posed by the restrictions. For us it’s been about looking at what we can do rather than what we can’t – it may mean approaching things differently, but the arts will always be a wonderful vehicle for delivering a rich curriculum and supporting everyone’s well-being.
Find out more about Horningsham’s Artsmark journey here.