In October 2018, Roebuck Academy became the first primary school in Stevenage to be awarded Artsmark Platinum award by the Arts council.
We began working on an action plan for achieving this back in July 2016, which centred on improving our music provision. However, due to the necessity of focusing on standards in reading, writing and maths, we were faced with both time constraints and a prioritising of staff training in core subjects, rather than the arts.
There were also budget restraints to bear in mind. If we were going to implement our action plan, we would have to think creatively.
I therefore approached other primary and secondary schools in the local area to gauge their interest. At our initial meetings we brainstormed various ideas linked to improving music provision, before auditing the skills of staff in all the schools to highlight where our collective expertise lay.
We then launched our journey with a ‘Let’s Celebrate Music day’, to give our Artsmark project a community feel. Planning the day helped to further strengthen the partnerships we’d established and disseminate the good practice we’d encountered. The day was a huge success, and has since become an annual event that’s embedded within our curriculum.
The partnerships we’ve formed with other schools have changed our approach to curriculum design at Roebuck Academy, in that it’s become more informed by the influences and vision of a wider group of teachers.
We now regularly work with other schools when planning whole school arts events, and have been able to incorporate new practices and activities, such as DJing and electronic music composition, with the help and expertise of key staff.
Collaborating on projects has enabled us to share arts resources across schools, while also affording opportunities for pupils to develop their peer support and social skills and grow in confidence.
Our goals with these partnerships became wider in scope over time, and have now expanded the opportunities we can give our pupils and staff far beyond what we had originally envisaged.
We’re also extremely grateful for the help we’ve received from the team at Stevenage Music Service, which included visits from young composers who served as aspirational role models for our pupils.
A further benefit of the partnerships is that local secondary schools now plan and invite us along to to various special days throughout the year, which has helped ease our children’s transitions into secondary school.
We hope to form combined secondary and primary school councils in the near future, and channel the positive impact of our collaborative work into other aspects of our curriculum, our CPD provision and other subjects, such as science.
Clare Elson is a teacher at Roebuck Academy.