Q&A with Hayden Taylor, governor of 2019's Creative School of the Year

Published on: 
4 Nov 2019

Artsmark school, Admiral Lord Nelson School (ALNS) in Portsmouth, were named Creative School of the Year at the 2019 TES Awards. We spoke to Hayden Taylor about his role as an alumni governor with special responsibility for art, culture and creativity. 

What made you want to become a school governor?

I felt strongly that I wanted to give back to the school that gave me so much. The school has been keen to diversify its governing body, and that includes encouraging younger people to join as governors. At 22, one of my roles is to help bring down the average age of our governing body. I’m also encouraging other students to join the governing body once they leave school.

But I’ve gained a huge amount from the experience. It’s very rewarding and has been a great development opportunity too. I’ve had to learn how to chair a meeting, how to ask searching questions, how to read reports and data sets. And I’ve also made loads of contacts right across our community.

You have special responsibility for the arts in your school, what does this entail?

My role is to champion creativity across the school, to liaise with departments championing the arts – music, performing arts, fine art etc – to find out what they are planning and to feed back to the governors. It’s also my job to ensure that creativity stays at the top of the school’s agenda and we don’t rest on our laurels.

I also look for ways to connect with the wider community, how to link into city-wide arts projects and with creative young people from other schools.

How did ALNS become so creative in the first place? Whose idea was it?

It’s been part of our culture from the get-go. We’ve been an Artsmark school for 15 years (we were the first school in England to achieve our second Platinum Artsmark award) and there have been a number of governors with this role before me. We also have some amazing teachers, like Julia Wisbey our senior leader for curriculum and personal development, who make it all come to life.

But a huge part of it does come from the governors. We tell the school that we value creativity and want to see more of it. We want all the kids in the school to take part and benefit from creative initiatives and lessons.

What are some of the innovative ways that teachers use creativity in the classroom?

We have a broad definition of creativity which includes problem-solving often using real-life examples. Students work in groups to solve entrepreneurial briefs, sometimes as part of a maths lesson. For example, in a maths lesson, they start with a blank canvass and work together to find solutions to real life problems.

Another aspect is to make sure all the children have access to theatre and gallery trips, visits to colleges for art events and a wide range of after-school clubs, like the Challenge Club, performing arts, entrepreneurship group etc.

In naming you ‘Creative School of the Year’, what did TES pick out as the defining factors?

A couple of things they mentioned were the challenges in raising the cultural capital of young people in Portsmouth, where youth poverty is high. We’ve worked hard to develop our role as an ambassador for the arts in the city while also expanding pupils’ experiences with professional artists. The judges also appreciated how arts and performing arts at ALNS are connected to the school’s moral vision around rights for children.

Is that something that you’ll be developing?

Yes, absolutely. We’ve been named as a ‘School of Sanctuary’ as part of Portsmouth’s ‘City of Sanctuary’ initiative, which launched in June 2019. This has given us lots of energy which we’ll use to talk about being welcoming to refugees and creating a more inclusive community.

What advice would you give school leaders or governors in other schools that could help them use creativity more?

There are a few simple things they can do – simple but not easy:

  • It has to be part of your school ethos; the governors have to lead from the front and show how much they value creativity.
  • They have to place expectations on the head as well as supporting them.
  • Pick one governor and one teacher to work closely together to champion creativity in the school.
  • And engage with Artsmark – if you haven’t already – they have lots of great resources and ideas; just applying will be a positive reflective process and will give you focus.
Hayden Taylor

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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