Using Creativity Weeks to unite a cluster of schools around a common cause

Fallibroome Academy believes in creativity, big time!

Fallibroome Academy is a mixed secondary academy school with some 1,500 students in Macclesfield, Cheshire. Fallibroome is a National Lead School for Cultural Education, an Artsmark Platinum award holder and makes a feature of creativity on its website.

Collaborating for creativity

For more than a decade, coordinated by Karen Fay at Fallibroome Academy, 14 schools – 3 Secondary, a Special school and 10 Primaries - have got together to orchestrate themed weeks focusing on teaching for creativity. Typically, a week engages more than 6000 participants, some 5,700 students and 450 staff. Each school has established an Arts Rep who meets half termly to plan the project. The collaborative work extends beyond this annual event and the consortia of schools has grown from 7 to 14 over the last 12 years.

Using themes to stimulate teaching for creativity

The themes for the last three years have been:

As the theme is decided by the Arts Reps in June for the following academic year, a significant number of primary schools will build it into their curriculum and use it as a vehicle for literacy, geography, drama, for example, for a term. There is no real tag line or explanation for each theme and this is done on purpose, so that schools can tailor what they do to the needs of their children and the design of their curriculum. Secondary schools in the cluster focus on the theme for the duration of the week only. They are challenged to find elements of their subject that link to the theme and then deliver and explore this for 1-2 lessons during that week. Although arts subjects are used as a vehicle to deliver many of the activities, its intent is much broader than this, connecting with wider issues and inviting all subjects to contribute.

More than a week

This extensive thematic project runs for the first half of the spring term, culminating in a full week of celebration in the run up to the February half term. It is delivered through the curriculum, collapsed days, the extracurricular programme, and further reinforced with over 15 visiting cultural practitioners and a number of cultural visits.

The children have the opportunity to take part in Dance, Drama, Music and Art exploring story telling, visual media artistry, textile making, circus performing, theatre and, puppetry in workshops across the week, approaching the theme both practically and creatively. The addition of workshops and cultural practitioner during the week itself is designed to enhance and support the process, finding ways of deepening the learning and understanding, or creating a platform to engage with the theme through a practical and creative exploration.

On the Thursday of Creativity Week, we invite one class from every school to the 400 seat theatre at Fallibroome to share some of the work they have been creating with visiting artists and their teachers. We also invite parents and staff to this huge event to experience an evening of performances and have a walk through the gallery of inspiring art work created across the consortia of schools.

This work embraces and supports every aspect of cultural education as outlined by the Department for Education and it allows us to focus on creating cultural opportunities for all pupils as well as developing the confidence of teachers across the schools.

Fallibroome Academy's website showing artwork from Creativity Weeks

Fallibroome Academy's website showcasing previous engagement with Creativity Week.

Making an impact

Headteachers, teachers and those working with us are convinced of the value of teaching for creativity.

"Can I just say, on behalf of Upton Priory, how amazing this year's Creativity Week has been. I always think we can't top last years' and then you go and organise an event like tonight! What a superb way to end such a great week. Creativity Week defiantly helps us to teach the children to have a go, try something new and focus on other areas besides exams."

- Headteacher Upton Priory

"All of the workshops were so different and I had a wonderful time at every school! I had a wonderful It was a really rewarding two days and I hope all of the children enjoyed their dance experiences. I certainly did."

- Tuckshop Dance Theatre

"I loved performing the dance we created on the stage at Fallibroome. I was very nervous as there were a lot of people in the audience but I am very proud of myself. I definitely feel more confident now- I can’t wait to perform more when am in Year 7 at Fallibroome!"

- Year 6 Student

This project and the half-term’s focus on creativity raises the status of creativity across the clusters of schools. It provides teachers with practical examples of how to stimulate young people’s imagination, curiosity, perseverance and their ability to share ideas and make new artefacts together.

Looking ahead

The next step for us is to create a ‘Creativity Hub’ across the Macclesfield area. Historically the financial viability of the Creativity Week project and the additional opportunities offered through the network rested with Fallibroome. But as the size of the projects grow and the number of schools continues to increase, we needed to look at making it financially sustainable long-term. All 14 schools recognise the impact this work has on both their staff and students and the need for it to continue. We have secured a financial commitment from every school for the 2020-21 academic year and this will enable us to elevate the projects we undertake and launch a new and exciting hub- watch this space!

Take away idea

Make connections and grow. Reach out to a colleague in another school who is in a similar role to yours and find a creative way to bring the children together to explore an area of the curriculum in a creative way or do a teacher swap workshop! Some of the best experiences and professional development the children and staff have had, was through swapping teachers for a morning or afternoon to deliver a practical workshop. Zero costs for big impact!

Follow Fallibroome Academy on Twitter to keep up to date with their latest projects. For more information about Creativity Weeks contact Karen Fay.

The following schools are involved with Fallibroome Academy's ongoing work on creativity:

Adlington Primary School; Bollinbrook CE Primary School; Broken Cross Primary Academy & Nursery; Eaton Bank Academy; Gawsworth Primary School; Marlborough Primary School; Nether Alderley Primary School; Park lane Special School; Prestbury CE Primary School; Mottram St Andrews Primary Academy; Upton Priory School; Whirley Primary School and Winsford Academy.

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