Children and the Arts: Start North West

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Children and the Arts: Start North West

Curious Minds is excited to announce that we are working closely with the national charity Children and the Arts to launch a new round of the fantastic Start programme across the North West. Cultural Education Leadership Manager, Laura Ferguson, sets out the opportunity for cultural organisations and describes her own inspiring experience of leading two successful Start programmes.



Start provides funding, support and opportunities to arts organisations, enabling them to form lasting partnerships with primary and secondary schools in their area. Start creates opportunities for children and young people who may never have accessed arts and culture previously to be introduced to local arts organisations, opening doors and opportunities to them.
Before joining Curious Minds, I led two Start programmes at two different cultural organisations across the North West - each for the full three years. The support which Start provides for cultural organisations enables them to work with an artist to offer a programme of multiple visits, outreach sessions, events and CPD for teachers, to ensure that a sustainable relationship is built over a period of up to three years. Having seen the lasting benefits and impact that the programme can have on the children, school and cultural organisation, I am delighted to see the launch of a new round of Start. The new round of Start will also enable children and young people to achieve their Arts Award and participating schools to gain Artsmark.

On both programmes, I worked with schools in areas of high levels of deprivation who had very little, if any, experiences of engaging with arts and culture. Many pupils had English as a second language and, despite having a cultural venue a stone’s throw away from their school, one group of KS2 pupils had never stepped foot inside. Many teachers were also unaware of the opportunities available to them. Through the programmes, the schools worked with artists, drama practitioners and forrest school leaders for the first time. They created sculptures in their playgrounds, went on adventures in a boat around an art gallery, experienced different cultures, jumped into paintings, interviewed historical characters and learned that creativity is limitless.

The experiences were cross-curricular, creative and supported each school’s individual needs. Over the course of three years, the children and teachers gained in confidence as they got to know their way around a venue, formed relationships with the staff and, in both cases, have brought their families back at the weekend to share what they’ve learned. For many of these families, it was their first experience of a cultural venue and it was wonderful to see them becoming regular visitors.

The programme provided time for teachers to work collaboratively with the venues to look at things differently, embed the visits into their wider curriculum, and develop their skills and confidence through CPD in order to create new opportunities for their school beyond the life of the programme.

For me personally, seeing the scale of the impact of the programme has been the biggest reward. I’ve seen first-hand pupils gaining in confidence, sharing their opinions without fear and develop a lifelong relationship with an arts organisation which prior to the programme wasn’t on their radar. One Year 4 pupil from a school in Lancaster will always remind me of the impact a programme like Start can have. After a year of visits working with an artist, visits to the art gallery and outreach days in school, I hadn’t heard this particular pupil speak, interact with her classmates or even made eye contact with her. Suddenly, on the last visit to the gallery, her hand shot up and she eloquently described how a Turner painting made her feel and what she imagined would happen if the painting came to life. To say that her teacher and I were shocked is an understatement!

During the 2016/17 academic year, Children and the Arts is working with 20 venues and will reach over 8000 children with transformative arts education projects. Cultural organisations based in (or willing to work with schools in) Preston, Rochdale, West Cumbria, Cheshire West & Chester, Bolton and Tameside are invited to apply by Friday 28 April 2017. For further details please see www.childrenandarts.org.uk/start-north-west.

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