The teaching of the arts in schools poses numerous benefits to both pupils and schools alike. The Artsmark Award provides schools with the opportunity to embed culture and creativity in the curriculum, supporting staff to deliver inclusive lessons orientated around the arts.

Charlotte Jones is the Curriculum Leader for the Creative Arts at Newminster Middle School which is part of the Three Rivers Learning Trust in Morpeth, Northumberland. Recently Newminster Middle has been awarded its third platinum Artsmark Award and accreditation as a Music Mark School. In this article, Charlotte discusses the Artsmark journey and how the award has helped deliver a diverse arts curriculum at Newminster Middle School and in the Three Rivers Trust.

What is the Artsmark Award?

The Artsmark Award is the only creative quality standard for schools and education settings, accredited by Arts Council England. Artsmark is awarded at 3 levels; silver, gold and platinum, with each level requiring an assessment of the Statement of Commitment and a Statement of Impact the school submitted prior to the assessment. It is flexible and can be adapted to suit the planning cycle of the school implementing it, ensuring both staff and students can participate in arts and culture in the education setting.

An Introduction to Newminster Middle School

Newminster Middle School in Morpeth has maintained a high level of commitment to quality, arts-rich education through their consecutive years of achieving Artsmark Platinum status from 2017 to present. Newminster has over 500 pupils aged between 9 and 13 years old who actively take part in creative arts and music education. The school is supported by:

  • King Edward VI High School, (Three Rivers Learning Trust),
  • Music Partnership North,
  • Mushroom Works,
  • Dance City,
  • The Baltic,
  • Creative Circus,
  • Sunderland and Newcastle Universities,
  • Software City
  • The Customs House

They have taken on an advocacy role in sharing knowledge and detailing their Artsmark Journey through CPD, blogs, newsletters and conferences. This is all to showcase their experiences and support social, moral, spiritual and cultural learning of other schools in the North East.  Large numbers of pupils continue to be involved in their Arts provision which is key to the school’s inclusive core values to encourage individuals to go outside their ‘comfort zone’ which continues into other parts of the curriculum and school activities.

Newminster’s Artsmark Journey

Newminster Middle School has a pivotal role in supporting the journey of a young person through their school life. They work very closely with the feeder first schools and high school to build upon and enhance relationships by utilising expertise across the schools through their involvement in transition days, training teachers, moderation, meetings and attending various arts events. This was all of significant value to their Artsmark journey.

They succeeded in their Platinum status by creatively stretching students, advocating for quality arts education to embed this into teaching practice and making a difference to the local understanding of cultural importance beyond the realms of their schools. Because of this, students have experienced varied and substantial creative arts opportunities open to all; some involving the whole school community and others involving smaller groups of students. This has promoted inclusivity and helped to sustain and re-establish community links post-pandemic. All of this culminated during the Summer of 2022 when the Morpeth middle schools came together for a fantastic performance of The Lion King.

The schools’ collaborations with Music Partnership North throughout their Artsmark Journey’s has also provided a platform for developing musical performances, with both schools being able to fulfil the tuition offer of a full range of instruments for their pupils. Over half of students in the school play musical instruments and over 250 pupils from both the Morpeth middle schools are involved in this year’s upcoming musical, Matilda.

Student Engagement with the Arts

Notably, levels of student participation and engagement are high and have increased during Newminster’s Artsmark journey. Participation provides opportunities for all young people to take ownership of their creative experiences, build self-esteem and use their voice to impact and influence arts provision. The engagement of both boys and girls has become more evenly spread within the arts than compared previous years due to Artsmark. Beyond these activities too, the school continues to strive to retain engagement of boys in the arts as traditionally they have had less interest in them than the girls.

Throughout the five years of Newminster’s Artsmark journey, students have had the opportunity to:

  • Attend art workshops and songwriting events,
  • Perform to audiences,
  • Watch live performances,
  • Become a member of a choir
  • Enter a range of competitions,
  • Be publicised via the school bulletin, website, twitter and Facebook with articles about the creative arts events regularly
  • Be seen in the local paper, placing the arts at the heart of their community

Pupils are now more confident, creative and happy to experiment with ideas due to opportunities throughout their Artsmark journey. Singing in particular has become embedded into the culture of the schools with a slogan of ‘don’t be frightened to try something new’ promoting further engagement.

The Regional Impact of the Artsmark Award

Regionally, Artsmark has enabled the school to have great involvement in promoting the arts on both a local and national level by actively participating in the Northumberland Local Cultural Education Partnership; speaking at conferences for Arts Award, CBNE and recently Government Events (providing CPD to confidently teach arts subjects); as well as developing films for Artsmark and Arts Awards. Newminster are now regionally recognised as a flagship school due to their successes with Artsmark. They are regularly called upon to support other schools with Arts Award, planning assessment, choirs, ensemble expertise and use of music technology in the curriculum. 

Artsmark has created a CPD empowerment opportunity for staff and has further encouraged staff to participate in Arts Award training to give staff confidence in the arts to ultimately stretch and challenge students through confidence building, raising aspiration including promoting Arts as a career, risk taking and personal development.

Collaborating with other Schools in Morpeth

Newminster’s joint musical with Chantry Middle School, The Lion King, saw huge numbers of pupils attend rehearsals and subsequently more staff were required to support. As both schools wanted to accommodate the demands of the performance and ensure that every student who wanted to had the opportunity to dance, the schools employed two local dance teachers and a past pupil to support which contributed to additional costs.

Historically both schools had a Creative Arts Department fund which ensured financial viability of arts provision which was largely self-funded from ticket purchases for performances. Due to the challenges of the pandemic, performances weren’t able to be held in person thus the fund became depleted, which meant additional costs such as the need for support with the Lion King performance weren’t always feasible. In order to mitigate this, both schools looked into other means of funding and after attending training on how to apply for the Paul Hamlyn Grant, it became clear that they were not eligible for the funding. Other means of attaining funding for the department were then explored and these included other grant opportunities, borrowing from other accounts until ticket money was recouped for performances and speaking at conferences and events where the department may be paid.

How Artsmark has Helped the Schools

Artsmark has become a key contributor in terms of school core values and in meeting its long-term goals; giving an inspirational lift more widely within the Three Rivers Learning trust and encouraging cross-school cooperation.

Both Newminster and Chantry have established strong partnership links with feeder schools and have been successful in building the Morpeth Music Partnership, which will be involved in putting on Morpeth’s One Big Performance soon. The aim is to develop leadership skills and offer staff coaching to fully act as the link between the feeder first schools and the high school.

In Summary: A personal reflection about Artsmark

‘Since starting my role as the Curriculum Leader of the Creative Arts at Newminster Middle School I have gained confidence in both my teaching and my leadership through the Artsmark Award structure. It has provided me with a really excellent basis to look at the provision we are offering our young people and see where the gaps are and opportunities to extend arts experiences. This is an ever evolving process and collecting students’ thoughts and opinions (voice) is key to keep the opportunities authentic, current and relevant.

I now see every occasion as an opportunity to explore the arts with a view to involving and engaging as many young people and members of staff as possible. 

It has been a pleasure to watch the personal progression of the young people in the Morpeth Community through the arts opportunities they have been involved in throughout their journeys through the Morpeth Partnership of schools with many of them pursuing careers in the arts or keeping the arts as a hobby in later life.’

Charlotte Jones, the Curriculum Leader of the Creative Arts at Newminster Middle School

How useful was this article?

Please click on a star to rate it

The teaching of the arts in schools poses numerous benefits to both pupils and schools alike. The Artsmark Award provides schools with the opportunity to embed culture and creativity in the curriculum. Charlotte Jones, the Curriculum Leader of the Creative Arts at Newminster Middle School shares how the Artsmark award has helped both staff and students take part in arts subjects across the school.

Register FREE to access 2 more articles

We hope you’ve enjoyed your first article on GE Insights. To access 2 more articles for free, register now to join the Government Events community.

What you'll receive:
2 FREE articles/videos on GE Insights
Discounts to GE conferences and GovPD training courses
Latest events and training course updates
Fortnightly newsletters
Personalised homepage to save you time
Need unrestricted access to GE Insights Now?