Art Therapy and Creative Mentoring: What's the difference?
We caught up with Claire Parker, a HCPC registered Art Psychotherapist and TMC Creative Mentor, to talk about the differences between Art Therapy and Creative Mentoring.discover more >
For Candleby Lane School in Cotgrave, creativity is listed as one of their eight key values. It therefore comes as no surprise that the arts take a position of prominence in the school, with a range of arts activities made available to all children all year round. However, in staying true to this value, the school have gone one step further by making art one of three ‘subject drivers’ that are championed each term, and from which all other subjects are taught. As Charlotte Ford, Year 6 Teacher and Senior Leader at the school explains…
in terms of the curriculum, art is really good at enhancing other subjects, so the way we plan our curriculum is through subject drivers, and the summer term we plan as an art driver… across our whole school, from nursery up to year 6, the whole summer term, everything is linked to art.
What this looks like in reality includes: ensuring coverage by having a set number of lessons each week that focus on art, working with visiting artists, visiting cultural venues, and tying other subjects into the arts. For a whole term, art becomes embedded across all other subject areas. This of course is in addition to the year-round provision of extra-curricular activities and filling community spaces throughout the school with art.
But just how is this achievable in the face of competing priorities, limited resources, and the potential lack of confidence that the arts can trigger in teaching staff?
Whilst Charlotte concedes that prioritising art in this way was met with apprehension by some colleagues, by the end of its pilot term, the consensus was that the summer term was by far the most enjoyable, and the one that everyone looked forward to the most the following year. The astute will be quick to recognise that reluctance in others often comes to down to a lack of confidence, something Charlotte was able to remedy with a series of support sessions delivered through staff meetings and additional CPD opportunities. Through such sessions, it became possible to break down barriers, provide inspiration, and share examples of good practice that could be easily adopted and taken on by colleagues. Above all, positioning art as a term-long subject driver ensures consistency beyond that which can be achieved in a week, or through one-off projects. Charlotte reflects that it is this continuity that builds the confidence of both staff and pupils.
In terms of resourcing, Candleby Lane share the same challenges as most schools in relation to finding the budget to cover supplies, artist fees and trips to cultural venues.
When we plan these summer drivers, we want to ensure the children all have those experiences, we don’t want to limit it and say it’s just this year group and this year group, because that’s not fair. And obviously there’s only so much money.
Rather than see this challenge as an obstacle, instead opportunity is created. Staff have begun reaching out to local secondary schools to tap into the expertise of subject-specialists within those schools. Not only this, pupils at local secondary schools who are developing their own skills in the arts are being given the opportunity to share their interests with their primary peers. In this way, past pupils can revisit Candleby Lane and develop their own leadership skills, and important links are made to further support transition to secondary education.
In addition to using pupil premium, financial contributions are also invited from parents on a voluntary basis, with any amount of support appreciated regardless of size. The school has found parents to be keen to support their children’s creative experiences in this way. The position of prominence given to the arts by the school is, in part, a reflection of what parents and carers feel to be important for their children. By staying true to their values, the school is demonstrating that they recognise the importance of creativity and culture in children’s education, and parents respond well to this.
Parents are willing to help with that because they understand the impact and how much children have enjoyed it.”
In terms of impact, there can be no denying the sheer enjoyment experienced and witnessed by all. Charlotte emphasises how championing the arts as a school is a matter of equity.
We know that a lot of the children in our catchment don’t necessarily have those experiences, they might not have ever been to a gallery, they might not have used paint and different media, even down to things like a dance club.
Children are being given creative opportunities that they might not otherwise have access to, they are able to talk with confidence and enthusiasm about their learning, and their confidence and growth mindset have been positively influenced. The school has witnessed pupils’ knowledge and enjoyment of art improve greatly, particularly in relation to the use of sketchbooks. Charlotte reflects
We used to have children saying ‘well I can’t do it’…they’re presented with a blank piece of paper and it becomes overwhelming…children are so confident with their sketchbooks now. They take complete ownership, they are confident at talking to adults…they can articulate their knowledge now.
By positioning art as a subject driver, the message is sent loud and clear that art is important. For a whole term, it becomes ‘first priority’ for everyone. And it is a powerful message to send; whether teacher, pupil or parent, there can be no denying that culture and creativity is valued and celebrated in this school, and beyond. In fact, all 30 schools in the Flying High Trust take on this approach, which means hundreds of children and young people are being given the opportunity to thrive creatively for more than just one ‘special’ week each year. As Charlotte puts it
An arts week is great, but going beyond this is even better.
Read our other stories and watch our Artsmark celebration videos to discover how all arts, culture and creativity have supported schools and their students.
Does your school support children and young people who are experiencing disadvantage? Find out more about how our Creative Mentoring service can help your young people to develop their sense of self, purpose and belonging – and encourage them to re-engage with education.