An Introduction to Race Leys Junior School

Nestled in the heart of a small Warwickshire town is Race Leys Junior School who were the founding member of the Griffin Schools Trust.  Weaved through all of the twelve Trust schools, are the three pillars of; Wide Horizons, Proud Traditions and High Achievements which influence the curriculum decisions and diversity, involving the implementation of the Arts across curricular areas.

Griffin Arts Festival

Collectively we hold a trust-wide two-week celebration of the arts in our Griffin Arts Festival (GAF) commonly known as GAF. During this time our children engage in high-quality arts experiences through cross-trust activities, partnerships, and professional organisations. This gives our children the opportunity to engage in something more significant than the core curriculum and enjoy the arts in new and exciting forms.

We publicly recognise the importance of the arts in all our lives and allow this reach to extend beyond the classroom into families and across school communities.

Each year GAF takes on a new theme, this year our theme was Changemakers. Our GAF coordinator, Hayley Foster, based our art on the popular film The Greatest Showman. To launch this festival our school was transformed into a circus for the first day with a big top circus tent on site with two professional clowns providing a skills workshop. This theme was chosen as we believed it represented changemakers well plus explored the topics of identity and empowerment as personal development areas.

Our children took part in a range of art-based activities relating to the theme, these included using recycled materials to create fashion. This linked with our cross-curricular work on climate change and the importance of us all doing our bit to recycle. Additionally, children took part in a social drama workshop led by a drama teacher from our partner secondary school.

Inspiring Students with the Arts

Across our school, we develop engaging, motivated, and thinking children by learning with legends throughout history. At the heart of educating our children is our goal to inspire them and widen their horizons. To capitalise on the characteristics of effective learning, Legendary learners provide the opportunity for our children to become independent learners whilst understanding the importance of inspirational legends throughout history. Our children regularly learn about legends such as Rose Parks, George Eliot and Albert Einstein. Our children strengthened this area of their learning through GAF week by creating art based on our legendary learner icons. Our GAF celebrations ended with a whole school recital with the children performing This is Me alongside our sensory choir who learnt the chorus in British Sign Language.

Another wonderful arts opportunity that we expose to our year 3 cohort is Chance to Dance. This gives primary school children from across the country who do not have access to ballet their first opportunity to engage creatively with ballet, connecting closely with the inspirational choreographers and dancers of The Royal Ballet. Chance to Dance aims to broaden and diversify the pool of young people with potential in ballet, and to provide pathways to nurture and develop talent. Finally, as part of this, a small number of the cohort are selected to further their ballet experience and receive additional training which results in a performance at the Royal Opera House.

Student Arts Ambassadors

Each of our subject areas is supported by ambassadors, these are children who show a strong interest or talent in this area. Children elect themselves and throughout the year participate in special events and trips to further their understanding and knowledge of their interests.

Last academic year, we were delighted to take our Arts ambassadors to London alongside our music teacher to see the musical Frozen and how productions work backstage. This rare opportunity gave our children the chance to experience multiple areas of the arts including acting, music production, clothing design as well as much more. We believe that these leadership roles enhance our children’s wellbeing by providing them with the very best opportunities that we can offer. In turn, we believe that these moments will create lifelong memories that may shape their future choices and outlook on the world.

Our Head of School is passionate about allowing children to experience a variety of learning in our music lessons. Alongside a specialist music teacher who leads our choir, we also have free instrument lessons for all of our year 5 cohort. Initially, they will learn basic skills on the recorder progressing to a flute after half term. We are incredibly excited to share their learning with our families in our Christmas performances as they perform alongside the main cast and accompany the choir. In addition, we have secured additional funding for 20 pupil premium children to receive free private instrument tuition.

A image depicting two primary school aged children in class completing an art project with the help of their teacher. A demonstration of teaching the arts in primary school.

Empowering Students

Learning a new skill empowers our children, gives them a great sense of achievement and allows us to transfer their resilience in learning how to play an instrument to daily life and increases their wellbeing and outlook on life. It allows them to believe that anything is possible and that nothing is out of their reach.

The arts greatly inspire our year 6 children and form much of their final year, alongside preparing for SATS exams! An alternative art style forms part of the Year 6 common room recently redesigned, it is now host to a wonderful piece of graffiti that is contemporary and inspiring. Displaying an art that is not normally seen in school stretches our children’s imagination and possibility.

 Within the first week of their new academic year, our Year 6’s kickstart their literacy topic by visiting Harry Potter Studios. Here they see the magic behind the story and are then able to transfer this experience to their writing in English as well as their imagination whilst reading the book.

 All of our Griffin schools create a bespoke environment which enriches learning and inspires, awe and wonder. Each area of our school provides a unique opportunity to be transported into a literacy and cinematic world creating an immersive culture where children can thrive.

Creating an Artistic Environment Across the School

Our library is the heart of our school, with a Wizard of Oz theme which forms the first term of work for our year 4 children. Each area was selected by our Junior Leadership Team, a group of children from each class that make up our pupil voice. A unique feature of the library is the addition of a book vending machine. This has reinvented our reading and provided a great amount of interest. Children read at home and are rewarded for doing so three times a week. This reward is in form of a raffle ticket entry to our weekly prize draw resulting in the winner being able to select their chosen book from our vending machine. Our library is the hub for reading with cosy spaces and a wide range of exciting and inspiring reading books.

Our year 3 area is based upon the theme of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This classic tale inspires not only our children’s reading but also launches our cross-curricular journey alongside the arts. Within their first term our children use their learning and knowledge from the book to design their own chocolate as part of design technology and then, which is their favourite part, create this chocolate bar in class.

Peter Pan inspires our Year 5 learning with a cross between learning and art throughout the first term. Children begin to use new media such as oil pastels to create art pieces relating to the text. Likewise, we develop our children’s ICT knowledge through movie-making linked with drama whilst recreating key moments in the book. Finally, and as previously mentioned, our year 6 children visit Harry Potter world to extend their learning. This greatly inspires the children as the area is fully transported to the Harry Potter theme. With dress up areas and interactive displays, the children can use the environment art to further their written work and artwork.

At Race Leys, we see the importance of implementing the arts across the whole school and can see the impact in the desire, uptake, and passion for this area within our children.

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Since 2010, there has been a 40% fall in GCSE Arts entries. Children need to be engaged in the arts from an earlier age to encourage uptake in the subjects. Race Leys Junior School explore the importance of arts education in the curriculum, sharing how they have implemented a whole school approach to teaching the arts.

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