Making a song and dance of the core curriculum

25th January 2013 at 00:00
Prince Charles backs initiative to get artistic mentors in schools

Your pupils may be excellent at maths but do they really need to sing about it? A scheme from Canada, being introduced to schools in England with royal backing, suggests that they do.

The initiative, which will encourage primary pupils to compose songs about punctuation and turn geometry into dance, aims to show how art can help to boost results in core academic subjects including English, maths and science.

The scheme - being introduced to 16 schools in London this September, with planned expansion to schools in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds from 2014 - provides artistic mentors who will help teachers to deliver the core curriculum using a creative approach.

Aimed primarily at primary schools with high numbers of pupils who are eligible for free school meals or who speak English as an second language, it is based on a successful Canadian programme witnessed by the Prince of Wales on a tour of the country last year.

His charity, the Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts, which arranges school trips to museums and art galleries, has arranged for the initiative to be launched in the UK by children's arts company Artis, which will provide the mentors to work with teachers in schools.

"It's always inspiring for children to work with artists to find new ways of communicating their ideas. What is particularly inspiring and different here is that impact will be on teachers," said Jeremy Newton, chief executive of the Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts.

"The methodology seems to have been very successful in building teachers a new skill base and giving them the confidence in using new approaches in the classroom," he added. "This is a programme that is close to the Prince of Wales' heart. He went to see it in Canada and was knocked out by what he saw. He is very committed to seeing this idea come to the UK."

The Artis Impact scheme is based on the Learning Through the Arts programme run by the Canadian Royal Conservatory of Music. A three-year study of 7,000 pupils found that those who had taken part in Learning Through the Arts performed better in some aspects of maths than pupils in a control group who had the same initial ability and the same socio-economic status.

The scheme arrives in the UK as arts organisations are concerned that creative subjects are being squeezed out of the curriculum because of a focus on test results.

Rebecca Boyle Suh, chief executive of Artis, said the programme would allow schools to approach the core curriculum in a different way. The organisation usually works directly with pupils but is keen to shift to working with teachers. The idea is to encourage teachers to experiment with their own ideas about more physical and creative approaches to delivering lessons.

Before its main launch in September, the scheme is being piloted in two London schools later this term, one of which is Harbinger Primary School in East London.

"When you are trying to get results up, sometimes there is a temptation to narrow the curriculum," headteacher Mandy Boutwood said. "I think the best way to get results up is to encourage partnerships that widen the curriculum, to make it more accessible and more creative.

"Sometimes teaching things in isolation means children can't see how that fits into real life, but if you do a 360-degree turn in dance, for example, and do that physically, you can see how degrees work on a practical level."

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