I’m an ex-student of Admiral Lord Nelson School (ALNS) in Portsmouth, the first school in England to be awarded two Artsmark Platinum Awards. I’m now on their school governing board and a firm believer in the positive role our school plays in the community. At 16, I established my own organisation, Unloc, which supports over 100 schools and colleges in the UK to inspire young people to become leaders and change makers.
I joined the ALNS governing body to give back to the community I was once part of but, more crucially, to support and build on both our local and national presence as a leader in arts education and global learning.
What inspired your school to establish a dedicated governor for the arts?
When ALNS first applied to become an Artsmark school, the governors were very supportive of the whole process and wanted to ensure that arts events were well attended by all members of the school community, including governors. We also wanted to ensure that the governing body had a proactive and engaged voice on the arts and cultural vision for the school, in collaboration with the performance faculty. Several different governors have held this role throughout the 15 years we’ve been an Artsmark school, helping to ensure that the arts remain highly valued by all.
Why is arts and cultural education so important for your students?
I strongly believe that arts and cultural education is the right of every child. Performing arts and access to cultural opportunities that widen horizons and build aspiration is a part of our belief system at ALNS. We’re a Gold Unicef Rights Respecting School and this belief in the rights of children forms the heart of our ethos. Part of this is young people’s rights to a high-quality education that helps them develop their skills, talents and beliefs, and arts and culture play a key role in this personal development.
The delivery of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development at ALNS has always been outstanding, and has been recognised through several external parties, including Ofsted. We want our young people to have diverse experiences, be global citizens and have the confidence and self-belief to aim high and achieve their goals. Providing these experiences for our students through the arts has always been a vital part of our school agenda. The success that these students experience through arts and culture is key to their wellbeing.
How have you supported staff development in the arts and what impact has this had on retention?
We boast a huge range of opportunities for our staff to develop their interests in the arts. All staff can run their own clubs in any area that interests them, and we run a programme of learning sessions for both teachers and support staff that includes teaching through play and creative learning.
Teachers are invited to participate in numerous creative events that take place throughout the year, and many do. The specialist team of performance and art teachers have opportunities to develop their own skills and areas of interest through CPD, and some have developed their own leadership practice through these opportunities.
As governors, we encourage frequent sharing of good practice internally and with other schools, and our staff are equally committed to developing the quality of arts across our city.
Consequently, staff retention is superb and we believe this is due to the ethos of the school and our senior leadership team who have been in place for many years promoting the value of arts education. Our arts team is deeply passionate, motivated and enthusiastic about their subjects and this clearly filters through the school.
In your role as school governor, how do you support school improvement through the arts and cultural education?
Governors are part of the school improvement planning process and ensure that the development of the school is outward facing and collaborative where arts provision is strongly embedded.
The governing body believes in a creative, engaging, broad and balanced curriculum with a range of opportunities for young people to access the arts both during and outside the school day. For example, our growing network of partners including local theatres, performance venues and local colleges, provides a variety of vibrant activities for our young people to engage in outside of the school environment.
I’m a strong believer in the ability of the arts to boost academic performance across the board, too. The transferable skills built through access to the arts are incredibly valuable. The ability to articulate and express an opinion with confidence is a skill the labour market is crying out for, and the strong role of the arts in our curriculum ensures we’re working towards meeting that challenge.
What impact has this had on your staff and students?
Our students have flourished and our whole community is aware of the school’s reputation for high-quality arts and culture and the opportunities to celebrate this are diverse and frequent. We’re fast becoming a national leader on this agenda and are keen to share our learning and experience with other schools and stakeholders, reinforcing our commitment and strong belief in the value of the arts.
It’s vital that governors play a role in arts education, it brings so many benefits and should be embedded in the school ethos. After all, young people have the right to play and take part in a range of cultural and artistic activities, as stated in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Hayden Taylor is a school governor at Admiral Lord Nelson School in Portsmouth
Find out more information about the Artsmark Award here