Creative arts partnerships have been developing a wide range of events with local primary and secondary schools in the maintained sector, as well as linked activities and opportunities.
Significant outreach work has been undertaken extending our links with the wider community. It has been a special and enriching experience for all with art, dance, drama, and music offered within the partnership programme. Reciprocity is key with opportunities for student leadership, practical arts workshops, linked artist visits and sharing resources and knowledge.
Partnership engagement is seen in the broadest sense and we are keen to involve students where ever possible. Initially we have asked scholars from our subject areas to take a lead on working with their peer group, and we see this as an important aspect of the process.
The Iffley Academy
In 2018–19 a visual arts partnership was established with the Iffley Academy in Oxford, a community special academy for children and young people up to the age of 18 with complex special educational needs and disabilities. This association has continued and grown. The reciprocal and mutual nature of the partnership is important and one that both sides are keen to develop. The partnership is unusual for both our schools. It offers an openness for institutions of different natures and from two very different settings a desire to work together to help students from each centre gain greater social insight and awareness, confidence and acknowledgement of social diversity through creative experiences.
Miranda Millward, Arts Engagement Officer for the University of Oxford is responsible for the management and delivery of a large-scale Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) partnership programme with the Iffley Academy. She brought St Helen’s and Iffley together as we had both enrolled on an Artsmark and Arts Award programme, and St Helen’s has had a long-standing relationship with GLAM over many years. An aspect of the Arts Mark Gold to Platinum level to which we aspire is developing local cultural education partnerships.
Activities we have undertaken with the Iffley Academy in art, music and dance also include many reciprocal opportunities such as a session delivered by Iffley Academy’s art therapist to St Helen’s Sixth Form students studying psychology, and Tom Procter-Legg, Head Teacher at Iffley Academy, ran INSET on reflective practice for St Helen’s Heads of Section, discussing reflective skills, mental health and restorative approaches.
We run art workshops for Years 5 and 6 with three local rural primary schools and the Iffley Academy. Teachers from the schools continue developing the work with their students and inn February 2020 displayed them in an exhibition at St Helen’s, when students, staff and parents were invited to see the work exhibited. Artwork was submitted by 144 students. Artist Adrian Brooks gave a short presentation and feedback on the work to visiting parents, staff and students.
A photographic competition, ‘Plastic’, was held at St Helen’s in January 2020. 24 secondary students from local schools in the independent and maintained sectors submitted photographs for an exhibition critiqued by professional photographer Christopher Baines. Three winners from Year 7, Year 11 and Upper Sixth took part in a virtual photography masterclass with Chris Baines during the lockdown period.
Year 9 Textiles Club students worked with Judy Harris, a local quilter and former St Helen’s mum, earlier in the year to create ‘fidget quilts’ for the residents of Stowford House, a local care home for people with dementia.
It was an absolute pleasure in March 2020 to welcome students from the Iffley Academy for an afternoon of music-making with musicians from St Helen’s, Director of Music Ms Rakowski, and Head of Strings Mrs Walton. The visit was the culmination of three workshops between the two schools organised by the Creative Arts Partnerships team and we were fortunate to be able to hold it before lockdown just before the end of term.
Our students fully entered into the spirit of the endeavour. Although it was a totally new experience for both schools, students learnt a great deal from the collaboration and were surprised by what they all achieved, a culmination of having a go and trying something new and performing on the spot as the afternoon unfolded.
Dance workshops with our core partnership school, the Iffley Academy, have been a tremendous success. Dance specialists from both settings co-led dance workshops with 10 students from Iffley Academy and five St Helen’s Sixth Form dance students. The partnership was so successful they are currently developing ideas for further dance work between the two schools, with the ambition of preparing Iffley Academy students for a future gym and dance performance.
International children’s theatre maker Katy Costigan from Filskit Theatre worked with Lower Sixth drama scholars. During twilight sessions they developed ideas and initial improvisations which were then extended into a 15-minute performance, which will be performed to Year 5 and 6 students via video! This will be followed up with practical workshops and drama CPD for primary teachers which will be offered as a development from these workshops.