Arts Award club blog: Nicola Rowell, Gospel Oak Primary School

With much trepidation I started running an Arts Award Club at school. I had done my training, felt full of enthusiasm and was raring to go. That seems a long time ago but after some trial and error I have found a way that works for both me and the children. Initially I wanted to offer the club to those children who never get to do any clubs, I ran it at lunchtime and all was good on the first week, 20 keen children from year 2 upwards. Only as time went by, boys disappeared to football, lunch took longer and longer because the lure of hanging out with friends was stronger than completing an art project and we got down to a hard-core group of 12.

I decided to rethink, still targeting a mixed group but from year 3 up, running the course as an after-school club. I selected the children from my own assessments of art across the school, those who had an aptitude or interest and on the advice of the teachers who had a deeper understanding of which children may benefit from engaging with the award process.

We worked through the three parts of the award, looked at art around the school, talked about where they encountered art in their lives. Lots of discussions and ideas were shared, we made art maps and where possible showed our favourite art, through pictures, using computers and actual objects. We linked our work to the whole school Take One Picture work so that we could ease in with a common theme. Children made art works, wrote and made links with the art work. We started to link these ideas to each child’s personal interests and everyone produced a portfolio of art based and inspired by artists that they were interested in. We had fashion designs for rap stars, sculptures influenced by trips to galleries and some paintings too. I supported their making links and helping them connect the creative things that they liked.

Every child put in time at home as well as the weekly club times, parental support and access to materials varied enormously but the end results were down to the challenging work and enthusiasm of the children. Many had produced stunning images and written accounts that showed great levels of interest and thought, fulfilling the requirements of the award. For those few that hadn’t put in enough time or effort I created a school certificate for participation so all the children that came were awarded a certificate in the whole school assembly.

I was lucky that on negotiation with GOSA, our parent school association, they were keen to support the participation in the awards and pay for the certificates from Trinity. As an ongoing activity they are willing to pay year on year so that is not a worry as the course progresses.

Despite the day to day organisation and time management, running the course is a pleasure as the children really want to make the best of it and offer really different insights into the arts as they perceive them. It is also very rewarding to see the hidden talents emerge when given a free run of what they want to do, incorporating rap, graffiti as well as well-known old masters. As ever in schools, time is the most tricky aspect of the award, both preparation, runing the club, giving feedback and suggesting new paths of thought and, of course, assessing.

The children are really proud when they get their certificates and feel like they have achieved something important as well as developing their interest and practise in art. I would recommend the running of an arts award club, it is hard after a day in the classroom to brim with the energy needed to harness the creativity of the children but the rewards in seeing their understanding and talents shine, the pleasure when they get an award make it all worth it.

Nicola Rowell, Year 1 teacher, & Arts Lead, Gospel Oak Primary School