How we use arts and creativity to boost student and staff wellbeing
In our second Artsmark in action blog we hear from Alexis Pelling, Artsmark Lead at Cheam High School, a secondary school in Cheam, Surrey. Alexis talks about how arts and creativity are central in managing pupil and staff wellbeing alongside sharing their fantastic wellbeing initiatives that took place over lockdown. So, pop the kettle on and take five minutes to get inspired by Artsmark in action!
At Cheam High School our aim is the pursuit of excellence for all. We strive to develop individual potential in a stimulating and inspiring school that is at the heart of the local community. The arts play an integral part in the school community and students are given a range of opportunities to explore, discover and access, whether they are studying arts subjects or not. Having recently been awarded Artsmark Gold, we are exceptionally proud of our students and our staff.
How arts and creativity support wellbeing
The arts play a fundamental role in the day to day wellbeing of staff and students and was even more important during the recent national lockdown. At Cheam High School, we use the arts to support the new LIFE curriculum, giving students the opportunity to problem solve and explore themes and issues in a safe and practical learning environment. The arts are also used to help our students build resilience, confidence, self-esteem and courage.
During lockdown we embraced online home learning and the arts played a pivotal role in engaging, promoting and encouraging positive mental-health and wellbeing. Not only were the arts faculty setting meaningful lessons across all year groups, achieving high levels of engagement, but whole school projects were also initiated including the examples below.
Arts and wellbeing initiatives over lockdown
- We ran a whole school nature photography competition where students and staff were encouraged to take pictures on their daily walk or exercise to promote a love of nature. This was a mindful task and we were inundated with entries.
- Students were invited to attend online theatre screenings, museum tours, art exhibitions and music events. These were then discussed and reviewed with their peer groups.
- Staff were invited to take home a ukulele to develop a new or existing skill.
- Student and staff artwork were shared and celebrated via social media.
- Year teams created virtual assemblies, lip sync videos, toilet roll challenges and mental health and wellbeing daily tasks.
- Numerous competitions were also launched with the Big Easter Family Quiz bringing families together to form teams and take part as a whole school community.
Supporting our school community
Since the start of the Autumn term student wellbeing has been improved by running timetabled meditation and mindfulness sessions, promoting positive mental health alongside giving students a ‘safe space’ (part of the Diana Trust Anti-Bullying programme) and a sense of responsibility and purpose.
We also have a dedicated member of staff who co-ordinates the wellbeing programme for staff and the arts feature heavily within this. We offer a range of sessions including time in the recording studio, art classes, photography, drama team building, mindfulness, photography, reading and attending school productions.
Returning to school
We understand the pressures, anxieties, concerns and, in some cases, excitement about returning to school and we endeavoured to ensure the transition was smooth, supportive and mindful. The Tutor programme has introduced a dedicated session where tutors read to their tutees for 20 minutes a day, promoting a love of literature, whilst oracy skills are developed using a series of ‘would you rather’ questions. Bespoke intervention packages have also been designed to support students and the arts are used as part of this to build confidence and self-esteem.
We are living in uncertain times, however we are exceptionally proud of our students, their families and all of our staff for building such a supportive school community.
So, if you’re still wondering, why are the arts important? We will leave you with this from Lucy Lui, Chair of Ignite, a Brooklyn Academy of Music Education programme.
Art can transform lives. It gives us the power to question, to confront, to explore and to challenge how we think about the world.