The outdoor stage at our primary was completed just in time for the start of the new school year in Scotland, in August – and it was a fantastic surprise for the pupils to return to after the first lockdown.
Despite having relatively little green space where we are, we had previously run a number of outdoor projects. There was a miniature garden for learning in the playground and a book treasure hunt for pupils at home during lockdown.
Then came the chance to work with the Edinburgh International Festival on its Play On: Stages project – a project that seeks to build stages in the playgrounds of primary schools in Edinburgh in place of the stages left empty in August 2020, when the festival should have taken place – which was a really exciting opportunity for us to further develop our outdoor spaces.
Coronavirus and the arts: The arts will fuel education's Covid recovery
Expressive arts: Why all pupils need access to arts education right now
The outdoor stage is a fantastic addition to the school’s creative resources and has helped us to embed the arts at the heart of our curriculum. The children really enjoy imaginative free play on the stage and making up performances for their peers.
The stage is set for pupil creativity
The stage allows us to take lessons outside and gives the pupils a professional performance space. We are really looking forward to a time post-lockdown when we can share our performances with the wider school community.
Pupils have enjoyed using the stage both during lessons and in their free time. During playtime they have been putting on talent shows, doing gymnastics demonstrations, playing hide and seek and using it as part of their den building. In lessons, the stage has also been used for pupils to give presentations to the class and for drama performances.
Primary 1 pupils performed their class nativities on the outdoor stage, which were then filmed for families to enjoy at home. As pupils are currently only allowed to sing outside, these filmed nativity performances would not have been possible without the outdoor stage.
Our pupils also designed a glorious backdrop for the stage, which was turned into a wonderful design by the Royal Lyceum Theatre’s workshop team. The designer selected theatrical and festival concepts from the ideas submitted by our pupils, identified a common theme of nature and flowers and added our school motto, “Be kind and be fair”.
Our pupils were so excited to see their ideas recreated by a professional designer and the finished backdrop adds a beautiful splash of colour to the playground. It has really transformed the outdoor stage into a piece of art.
Another benefit of the project is the fantastic relationship we have developed with the Edinburgh International Festival learning and engagement team, who have consulted us throughout every element of the project and provided bespoke digital education resources to help our teachers introduce pupils to the stage and the different art forms that feature at the festival each year.
Once guidelines permit, we are really looking forward to the next step of the project when artists can visit the school – and use the stage as a platform for even more inspiring creative engagement with the pupils.
Faye Calder-Kelly is headteacher of Hermitage Park Primary School, in Edinburgh