KS2/KS3: Penarth Heights

KS2, KS3 learners, Penarth Schools - Visual Arts and Digital Media

Penarth Heights: Ffotogallery and 6 Penarth Schools
Penarth Heights: Ffotogallery and 6 Penarth Schools

Penarth Heights was a cross curricular visual arts and digital media project initiated by Ffotogallery and involving 200 pupils from 6 schools in Penarth. The young people involved developed literacy and visual literacy skills through a project which linked Art, History, Creative Writing and Digital Storytelling.


Ffotogallery invited the young people of Penarth to tell the story of the Penarth Heights - from the 1970s idealism of the ‘Billy Banks’ social housing project  to the decline and recent regeneration of the area. The Penarth Heights public art project set out to create a legacy for future understanding of the site.

The schools included Stanwell secondary school, 4 primary schools (Ashgrove, Cogan, Evenload and Fairfield) and Ysgol Erw’r Delyn Special School. Teachers and pupils worked with Ffotogallery’s education team and its mobile digital darkroom, together with visiting artists.

What happened?

The pupils researched and constructed short films which described the place overlooking what was once the busiest dock in Europe, and documenting the radical change to society, economy and the landscape of the last 40 years.

Together they created an exciting online environment featuring archive images, video, contemporary photography, drawing, sound and voice. The project documentation can be seen as part of the interactive outcome. http://www.penarthheightsproject.co.uk/

Penarth Heights

Each individual project was designed to integrate the themes currently being addressed by that school as part of the curriculum, making links with local knowledge and issues - political, environmental and historical - and local communities. Ffotogallery staff and artists articulated these ideas and activities in the classroom, through a range of audio and visual digital media. 

These included: photography, video, animation, interactive sound technology and interactive web-based technologies. These creative technologies were supported by drawing, collage, 3D and modelling. The initiative combined text and image together with critical thinking, to support visual literacy and an understanding of the way images convey ideas and meaning. 

The projects demanded ingenuity, problem-solving, imagination and resourcefulness.

Penarth Heights

Throughout the initiative there was an emphasis on training and experience for school staff. Ffotogallery helped to utilise as much of schools' existing resources as possible and left a legacy of skills, knowledge and ideas. 

The project was developed in consultation with a planning group from Penarth including Town Councillors, County Councillors, Teachers, representatives from Penarth Historical Society and other cultural organisations, together with the commissioning body, developer Crest Nicholson. The planning group followed the project’s progress at their regular meetings and fed back to the project partners. 

The Outcomes

Participants gained skill in numeracy and literacy, including visual literacy, as well as photography, video, animation, interactive media, sound production, presentation,

They also gained knowledge and understanding of their local history and geography, together with environmental social and economic issues linking with Sustainability (ESDGC) element in the curriculum.

Pupils worked with the wider community including elders and gained an understanding of the unique contribution that people of different backgrounds can make.

Engaging with a team of successful arts professionals encouraged the pupils to consider the world of work and opportunities for careers in the creative industries, and to take a committed approach to creative subjects. A significantly increased number of students, and in particular male pupils, progressed to Art and Design GCSE following this project.

As a direct result of the pupils’ enthusiasm and ‘sharing’ their experiences with their peers, Ffotogallery saw more pupils extending their research using digital media and embellishing their outcomes with animation. In addition to professional development, staff have updated schemes of work to provide more opportunities for collaborative work with outside agencies. 

Penarth Heights

Comments and Evaluation

An online blog was generated where all the participating groups from the 6 schools, recorded and shared their learning process, with comments and anecdotes, photographs and videos, suggestions and discussion. This was only accessible to the participants, to avoid privacy or online security issues.



“This project has allowed Stanwell pupils to be creative and imaginative” – Lily-May Williams

”I loved looking into the toys, clothes and music people liked in the 70s” – Emily Pearce

”We have put everything we had into this project and you can definitely tell with the spectacular animation” – Elynne Steed

”Everybody had a part and everybody had fun making it” – Rhys Capener 



“It was a pleasure to see every learner engaged in a variety of activities and organise themselves into an effective team, identifying individual strengths and delegating specific tasks” – Miss Rhian Lewis, Head of Art & Design Dept

Development and legacy

Ffotogallery planned to extend the project into a public realm artwork by embedding QR codes into the physical environment at the Penarth Heights housing development - in street furniture, walls and signs to allow people to access the pupils’ artwork using their mobile phones.  

The intention is that the resource will prove useful to passers-by who are visiting the new development, providing an insight into the history of the Heights as told by local young people, through their artwork.


The evolution of this project naturally embedded reading, writing and oracy.

Pupils read a variety of source material including first-hand accounts, cross referenced websites and assessed the quality and reliability to select relevant information. They also developed an appreciation of the development of language and their understanding of objective and subjective reporting.

Clear lines of verbal communication were established encouraging every pupil to listen carefully and offer opinion resulting in meaningful debate.

More information

Ffotogallery is the National Agency for Photography and Lens-based Media in Wales