At Crownbridge school for learners with complex and multiple needs, head teacher, Lesley Bush, uses the Routes for Learning routemap together with the Engagement Profile and Scale to assess learners’ needs and learning patterns. Her data shows that most of her learners learn best, and are most engaged, when immersed in the arts and creative activities, supported by the pedagogy and principles of the Foundation Phase.
The Engagement Profile and Scale measures engagement in terms of awareness, curiosity, investigation, discovery, anticipation, persistence and initiation. After observing learners to establish the conditions for optimum engagement, Lesley cross-references these needs with her staff’s creative skills, and then brings in artists to supplement and enhance gaps in provision. In this way, artists are an integral part of the school’s curriculum, from planning through to delivery.
The head teacher recognises that the arts can also impact positively on care, support and guidance.
The use of music and music therapy to counter barriers to learning, such as emotional turmoil and inappropriate behaviour, is noted by Estyn as sector-leading practice in Christchurch (CIW) Voluntary Aided Primary School (Estyn, March 2014).
The school uses the data from the Engagement Profile and Scale to create personalised learning pathways. After this, teachers run taster sessions to see how learners respond, before choosing and contacting a relevant artist.
Planning and ongoing dialogue between the school and artist is essential to ensure a common understanding of the aims and purpose of the arts input. The head teacher recognises that the artist must understand each learner’s needs and targets, as identified by the Engagement Profile and Scale, and Routes for Learning. Where therapy is funded by the School Effectiveness Grant, targets link directly with Routes for Learning Steps A to C, as appropriate to the individual.
Artists are, mostly involved in weekly sessions over a term, or up to a year. They work with identified learners as a class, in groups and individually.
Class art work produced collaboratively with Louise Tolcher-Goldwyn from Llantarnum Grange. The work results from a workshop based on exploring ways to record information about a concert, given by learners to celebrate the move to new premises
Wall display – display art work produced collaboratively with Louise from Llantarnum Grange. The work, based on the theme ‘caffi’, results from a project aiming to integrate learners with additional needs with mainstream learners, through engaging with a common curriculum theme.
Pupils who have Autism Spectrum Disorder, and who are most engaged by music have worked with singer, Sally Hayes. She uses singing to improve communication and group-working skills. These sessions have enabled learners to explore story, learn new vocabulary, and demonstrate comprehension of meaning and expression of mood.
Teachers observe all sessions and use a written assessment sheet to capture evidence of progress in relation to targets which may include creative learning targets as well as literacy and numeracy targets.
Artists are encouraged to gather evidence of progress, and produce a written report for the school at the end. The school cross-references the artist’s report with Routes for Learning, and all documents are then evaluated by the head teacher to determine overall effectiveness.
The head teacher’s focus is not on judging the quality of the arts provision, but on judging the impact on learning. She is currently exploring ways of using this information as part of Welsh Government’s PSE Audit Tool.
In a recent inspection report, Estyn commended the way Crownbridge uses information about learners’ literacy and numeracy skills to plan and monitor specific interventions, and described learners as “highly successful in applying their literacy and communication skills consistently across the curriculum and in their social interactions” (March 2014).
For, the head teacher, the interface between artist and teacher is key to improving the impact of arts provision. She recognises that the school must ensure that the artist or therapist has a sound understanding of a learner’s targets.