Isambard Community School, Swindon

Isambard Community School opened in September 2007 in a brand new, PFI building in northern Swindon. As the school has developed, so too has the housing estate around us. We have always had creativity at our heart and successfully applied to become a specialist arts college in our second year. In our third year, we applied for Artsmark Gold which we have held ever since.

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We have always embedded creativity across the curriculum. We have special timetabled periods for intensive arts and media activities which are called Artsblasts. The staff recognises the value that Artsblast brings: it is a chance to develop new working relationships….it brings out different qualities in students….it is a chance for out-of-the-box thinking and a chance to work outside your comfort zone (staff feedback October 2013).

How do we encourage staff to celebrate ‘working outside their comfort zone’? At our annual off-site conference each year, we model the sort of activities we want our students to engage in during Artsblasts. We divide our staff (teaching and non-teaching) into their House groups establishing a competitive edge. We set them a creative challenge that requires problem solving, team work, creativity and, most importantly, performance! Over the last few years they have performed samba music, the Harlem Shake, produced a group photostory, a short film, a large-scale art work and performance poetry. There is always a highly charged atmosphere, huge enjoyment and most importantly, high quality output from the winning groups.

The impact of this is that the place of our arts offer is understood by our greatest advocates: the staff. Their enthusiasm and participation extends beyond the conference into our Artsblasts, our Talent Shows, our House Assemblies. They are a highly energetic and creative bunch of people and they model this to our students every day.

Ofsted recognised the impact that our arts provision has had on Isambard in both our 2009 and 2011 inspections:

The arts dimension of the school exposes pupils to a wide variety of cultural activities… The creative ethos in the school is already having a positive influence across all learning areas. (Ofsted March 2009)

Students benefit from the good curriculum, particularly from the sometimes exceptional opportunities to engage in the creative and performing arts......The school’s specialism has a significant impact on provision in the creative and performing arts as well as more widely. For example, the Arts Blast activities which take place twice a year involve subject departments working together creatively to provide integrated activities that are highly valued by students. Extra-curricular provision is strong, particularly in sport and the arts, and well attended. (Ofsted, October 2011)