London’s renowned Saatchi Gallery is known for championing the work of previously unheard-of artists, offering a springboard to fame. Living up to this reputation, in March this year the gallery will feature work by some of the UK’s youngest and least-publicised artists – displaying creations from a cross-disciplinary project completed by Year 4 learners at NACE member and Challenge Award-accredited Pencoed Primary School.
 
Titled “Creating our Welsh identity”, the project started with a focus on learners identified as at risk of underachieving, including the more able – but its success led to elements being rolled out across the entire year group, and the school.
 
Class teacher Chloe Maddocks, who coordinated the project, explains more…

The context:

Promoting creativity and creative thinking is part of our school vision, and we recognise these as key life skills. However, this was an area we felt we could develop further.
 
We developed the “Creating our Welsh identity” project with the aim of raising academic attainment, improving learners’ self-esteem and confidence, and developing their creative skills – combined with a focus on numeracy and links to the year group topic. We also wanted to explore learner and staff perceptions of what it means to be creative, and to develop this thinking and awareness of broader creativity.
 
Having scoped out the project, we successfully applied through the Arts Council of Wales for a grant of £10,000, to be split between Year 1 (2016-17) and Year 2 (2017-18).

The project:

Running for the duration of the spring term, the project was linked to the Year 4 theme, The Stuarts. Initially, we selected 18 learners, targeting those at risk of underachieving. Due to the project’s success, we subsequently adopted some of the broader approaches across the rest of the year group and throughout the school.
 
At the start, learners did some research around the history of the Union Jack. Exploring symmetry, measuring and shapes, they then created their own version of the flag using fabric and donated materials, incorporating aspects of their own identity. Members of the community volunteered to teach learners to use a sewing machine, so they could stitch on their initials. The group also created personal identity drawings, based on research into the history of their family, incorporating words and symbols that represented them inside an outline of their body.
 
Numeracy was embedded from the start, right through to the end. We incorporated this in planning so all 60 learners within the year group were also taking part in the numeracy tasks. We looked at which National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) strands we could include, as well as planning our maths, language and topic lessons around the project. Focusing on real-life problems and tasks that reinforced specific numeracy strands – pricing activities, comparing costs from different supermarkets, profits and budgeting – allowed learners to relate to the importance of numeracy in everyday life.
 
More able and talented (MAT) learners were selected to act as leaders of certain parts of the project and were given the task of planning and coordinating the celebration event. All activities were differentiated to provide appropriate levels of challenge, and weekly evaluations allowed staff to tailor sessions to meet learners’ needs.

Learner engagement:

During the project we worked alongside Haf Weighton, a textile artist from Penarth. Haf brought some lovely ideas and had a wonderful working relationship with both the adults and children involved. She was selected by the learners themselves through an interview process, inspiring them with her style of art and her passion and love for her work.
 
Throughout, the learners were a key influence in determining the project’s direction, and were particularly active in devising the final outcome – the afternoon tea party. I had weekly conversations with them, in which they were able to evaluate their own work and the work of Haf, as well as discussing ways for the project to develop.

Celebration and exhibition:

To celebrate their work, learners hosted an afternoon tea party for parents and carers, sharing the project outcomes and showing off what they had learned throughout the topic. Around this event, learners had the opportunity to:
  • Work alongside a candle maker
  • Work alongside members of the community to create cushions and print
  • Research what types of foods would have been served at a Stuart tea party
  • Research the history of afternoon tea
  • Take a trip into Pencoed village to purchase food
  • Work out pricing, budget and profit
  • Be filmed and interviewed by Heno, S4C
On the day of the party, parents and carers had the opportunity to sit in on either a literacy or numeracy lesson, tailored to the theme of the Stuarts.
 
Through Haf’s connections, we’ve also been able to reach a much wider audience. The artwork created was displayed in our very own exhibition in the HeARTh Gallery at the Llandough Hospital. Haf also shared details of the project at the Knit and Stitch Show in London, and – after the success of the project was shared online through our school website and Twitter – the prestigious Saatchi Gallery was very interested to work alongside Haf and to share the learners’ work.

Impact:

The impact for learners was far greater than we initially anticipated. All made progress with their weekly Big Maths scores and overall numeracy skills. They were also able to see the benefits of numeracy in everyday tasks, benefitting from the cross-curricular approach.
 
As well as developing a multitude of literacy, numeracy and creative skills, there was also an improvement in learners’ general confidence, wellbeing and self-esteem. For MAT learners, independent thinking and problem solving improved, and all learners felt a strong sense of pride and achievement in their work. Opportunities to see their work displayed, and to share their learning with parents and carers, provided inspiration to broaden their horizons and aspirations for the future.
 
There’s also been a wider impact, as we’ve shared the excellent practice across the school. In addition, the project has raised awareness about the importance of creativity among learners, staff and parents, showcasing how much can be achieved.

Next steps:

We are now in our second year of this project, and intend to continue running projects in this way. We’ve also been involved in school-to-school collaboration and shared our experiences in networking events across the Central South Consortium to promote this project to other schools. And of course we’re also planning to take the learners to the Saatchi Gallery in March, so they can experience the exhibition first-hand!
 
Chloe Maddocks has been a full-time teacher at Pencoed Primary School for four years, teaching Years 3 and 4. As coordinator of the “Creating our Welsh identity” project, she’s enjoyed opportunities to develop her leadership and project management skills, learner engagement, and share expertise with peers at other schools. She’s passionate about showing how creative skills can be incorporated into cross-curricular learning.
 
Pencoed Primary School has been a NACE member since 2014 and achieved the NACE Challenge Award in July 2015. With approximately 600 learners enrolled, the school is dedicated to developing networks of good practice and continually reviewing and improving its provision for all learners within an ethos of challenge for all.
 
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Date: 
Monday, January 29, 2018