Sparkwell All Saints Primary School

Sparkwell All Saints Primary School, from Plymouth, are a Silver Artsmark school. Opening in 2013, Sparkwell is a small school who started their journey with under 70 pupils and whose dedication to arts and cultural education would only ever be enhanced, not impeded, by their size.

What difference has the Artsmark journey made in your school?

It has ensured we think of all the elements of arts in our curriculum delivery and that we are more strategic in our planning. We already did a lot, but it has made us more strategic in looking at curriculum coverage and the opportunities we can offer and ensuring money is put aside by linking it to priorities in the school development plan.

Staff response to Artsmark

“It is great that we are encouraged to spend time on creative learning as the children really enjoy it and benefit in many ways from it.” – Teacher Y3/4.

Pupil response to Artsmark

“I love singing and I have liked doing new things like learning to play an instrument and how to do digital arts” – Pupil, age 9.

What was your favourite part of Artsmark?

Engaging with other professionals and allowing them to share their expertise and passion for creativity with the children. We worked with DAISI, who were great at finding us specific artists, including digital artists, which the children very much enjoyed. We also linked up with a secondary school, through a primary school we worked with on our Forest School, who sent out art teachers to deliver exciting, different workshops.

If you had once piece of advice for an education setting that’s new to Artsmark what would it be?

Go for it, we found that by reaching out to parents, governors and the local community we could access some generous professionals willing to give their time for free.

When you started your journey, you had just under 70 pupils. Would you say there were any advantages that you gained from being a smaller school?

The price point was a big advantage; some awards don’t have that and don’t recognise the challenges smaller settings face. Also, being a small school, just three or four classes, allows you to make decisions quickly. Things can be discussed and actioned quickly.

Were there any challenges you faced due to your small size, and how did you overcome or get around them?

Fewer pupils means fewer staff, which maybe results in having a smaller pool of skills, though we are lucky to have quite creative staff. By going out to local community, you can cover these gaps – we used a local community magazine.

You also said you were already doing a lot in terms of arts provision prior to signing up for Artsmark; why would you say the arts are so important to the school and your curriculum, and what drove you to sign up for Artsmark in the first place?

The arts give children a skill for life and develops their natural ability in being creative; they get to work together and expand their communication skills. The atmosphere in the school with lots of visitors was great; parents coming in made lots of really positive comments. The importance of the arts is central to my philosophy as a teacher and headteacher – it’s been exciting to join a young school at the beginning and know what ethos you want. We’ve never had people here who aren’t willing to take things on board.

We’re having an arts week to celebrate getting our Artsmark level and using it to launch our delivery of Arts Award. We’ll be providing something different each day; from a drama day, to a poetry day, including an artist coming in to do landscapes on the Wednesday.