UNlocking Experiences

UNlocking Experiences

Greater Manchester’s Poetic Declaration of Human Rights
December 16, 2021
The Case for Culture
January 19, 2022
Curious Minds has been working with United Learning Trust (ULT) to support students and staff in their Academy schools as they began the process of reconnection post-lockdown.
ULT is a national academy chain with schools in our region as well as further afield. The UNlocked project has seen several hundred pupils from ULT schools across Manchester and Salford, experience the thrill of visiting a cultural venue. It is also creating career enhancing opportunities for members of the Trust’s teaching family.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic - but with schools reopened to all pupils and restrictions slowly easing - ULT’s CEO, Sir Jon Coles, approached Arts Council England. His aspiration was that young people in the Trust’s Manchester and Salford secondary schools should have opportunity to experience a cultural venue, and what it had to offer, as part of their re-orientation journey.

Sir Jon wanted both pupils and staff to simply ‘get out and enjoy themselves’ after lengthy periods of uncertainty and change. In his unique response to this time, he was recognising the particular pressures being felt by schools and their population. He also wanted to trial a model that could be replicated by other schools to address this challenge.
Creating links
As the North West region’s sector support organisation for cultural education, Curious Minds relished the opportunity to lead on this work. We were able to utilise our expertise and local knowledge to broker and support partnerships between the individual schools and suitable local cultural organisations. The arts have the power to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary and lift people out of their everyday lives, as well as to entertain, question and provide challenge about the ways we see and experience the world. They have a key role to play in supporting people to get through these unprecedented times.

Manchester is rich in cultural venues, so Curious Minds brokered a range of visits for the participating schools, as well as funding the initiative. At the time, cultural organisations were in the early stages of re-opening and finding ways they could re-engage with larger groups of people. This created opportunities for them to test new approaches.

Some examples of the visits that took place include:

Manchester Camerata

Manchester Camerata hosted a musical event at the spectacular venue of The Monastery in Gorton.

120 Students of Irlam & Cadishead Academy and William Hulme Grammar School were treated to a performance, workshops and careers conversations led by musicians and the Camerata team.

HOME in Manchester

The venue had developed a temporary outside theatre space in response to the ongoing situation and 280 students of Salford City Academy attended an outdoor performance of a Midsummer Night’s Dream prior the end of the summer term. Their enjoyment is evident in the photos below.
Sadly, a significant rise in Covid numbers in schools at the end of the summer term and beyond meant that not all schools and year groups were able to take up the opportunities and experiences that had been programmed for them.
Forging stronger bonds
Curious Minds continues to work with United Learning Trust’s Head of Music and Performing Arts, Catherine Barker, to further the capacity of ULT schools to develop and deliver arts and culture as an aspect of Education with Character.

We have now begun to deliver our flagship SLiCE® (Specialist Leaders in Cultural Education) leadership development programme to a nationwide cohort of ULT middle leaders through a blended training model (combining online with face-to-face sessions). These colleagues will examine ‘Cultural Capital’ as their research focus; interrogating what the term really means and identifying ways to develop and deliver cultural capital in a teaching environment. Through the programme, they will develop competencies in commissioning, cultural production, project management and building partnerships, to further enhance what their schools can offer.
Curious to know more?
If you would like to talk to a member of the Curious Minds team about the partnership model adopted with United Learning Trust or to find out more about our SLiCE® Fellowship, please get in touch:

Jude Bird

Executive Director of Learning & Workforce


Emma Bush

Director of
Sector Development


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