The Arts Council of England has awarded Whitefield Schools with Artsmark Platinum status in recognition of its commitment to the arts. The award reflects both the way the school effectively weaves creativity through its curriculum, and its wider influence on the community.
Being a Platinum Award winner makes Whitefield part of a quite select group. Artsmark is open to primary, secondary and special schools, pupil referral units, youth offending teams and sixth form colleges. But as of February, only 14 settings had been given the Platinum award in London and only 76 across the whole country.
Sharing the enjoyment and expertise in the arts is an important part of reaching Platinum and for Peter Whelan, Whitefield Schools' Expressive Arts Coordinator, it has been one of the most fulfilling parts: "I am absolutely delighted that what we have been doing has been recognised by an organisation like the Artsmark. It shows the importance of taking our pupils arts identity across the borough and having an opportunity for the world to see what we do.... The Artsmark platinum programme has given us guidance on how take it out into the world, so we have already begun – in partnership with local artists – to provide training to other schools with special needs provision. So that we can forge stronger arts relationships by running projects together and perhaps running an arts special needs festival of some kind. This is just the beginning for us."
Laura Pease, Principal of Whitefield Schools said: “I am delighted to see the school’s excellent work in expressive arts given further recognition. These subjects engage all children and young people, helping them to express themselves and experience life in a community. I am grateful to Peter and the rest of the arts team for offering these opportunities to our pupils”
Artsmarks' statement Whitefield's submission paints a glowing picture of the schools' work:
"Your vision for the Arts at Whitefield Schools is very impressive. You have created a curriculum that utilises the Arts to increase pupils’ cognitive development, personal expression and social development. Through rich arts experiences, pupils with profound difficulties are enabled to explore their own world and connect with their peers, with the effect that they are more engaged, responsive, and most importantly, visible.
As a result of your Artsmark journey, the lives of your students have been enhanced by encouraging them to express themselves through a variety of communication mediums within the Arts. Through an extensive arts programme and an array of partnerships with arts professionals and organisations, pupils have increased their social connectivity and furthermore, have developed an understanding of their place in the world, which has lowered anxiety levels, and improved mental health and well-being.
Your project with a light artist, story-teller and music therapist to create an improvised piece additionally provided a training opportunity for staff so that the pedagogies were disseminated, and this new technique successfully assimilated by wider staff. Further in-house CPD on using the Arts to support pupils in developing a greater sense of self, led by your whole school arts coordinator (a senior music therapist and a registered psychotherapist) is helping pupils to become more resilient in their wider community.
Despite the particular challenges of inducting new arts professionals into your setting, you have collaborated with a wide range of partners, and capitalised on the shift in arts consciousness locally – due to Walthamstow becoming the London Borough of Culture – by working in an increasingly collaborative way with other settings. Partnership-working with your Bridge organisation afforded you the opportunity to participate in the ‘I am Festival’ project at The Tate, where you were able to share your practice of developing social community and mental well-being through the Arts, and advocate for this approach to a wider range of settings."