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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Arts Mark

Just a note about Artsmark as we ran some training this afternoon. Information about the next round (round 10) will be published on the Artsmark website at the end of July. As usual there will be some slight changes but it makes sense to use this year's materials for an initial rough audit this term. This should enable schools to begin to build any changes into next year's programme. It would be sensible to ensure that the school has an 'Arts Policy' this term. It would allow time for it to be approved by governors. It would also get 'buy in' from colleagues, SLT and governors - without this it will be an uphill task.

It is worth noting that rumour has it that the Arts Mark criteria may well change in response to the new curriculum models in both secondary and primary phases. This is clearly appropriate. It may also be that a radical rethink of the programme might take place - it is increasingly expensive to administer with increasing numbers of schools applying. The Arts Council are making no guarrantees about the future of Arts Mark beyond this next round.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Every Child is begining to Matter

It has been a curious week working across the whole educational spectrum from infant schools to university courses. I am an external examiner for art on the BA Hons Primary Education offered by Birmingham University and today I attended a briefing meeting for external examiners across the brand new Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences. We were told of the synergy between these recently introduced bedfellows on the Perry Bar campus - so look out for courses in criminology and early years.

It was interesting to hear of recent innovations in the university to improve the learning experience for students by listening to students in seminars and consultations to review the experience from the student's perspective. Curious that the previous evening I had been with a primary school's governing body looking at the process of appointing a new headteacher and we noted how many adverts included quotes from infant children saying what they wanted in their new headteacher. Is ECM genuinely changing from an ernest slogan into an all embracing new mind set in which the children's (student's) voice is actually begining to change practice in all phases of education?

Another intriguing, and new idea for the university, was the notion that if students fail a module, rather than engage in a sequence of resits, they should be invited to agree and sign a 'learning contract'. This would define expectations of what they should do like; attend lectures, write essays, read books and also what the university would do like provide guidance etc. The curious thing for me was that they were going to do it after the student had failed. In schools we are now doing this before students fail in ordwer to prevent them from failing. But there are again very clear parallels with the developing culture in schools. A few days earlier I had been working with a group of secondary schools dicussing how interventions, coaching, mentoring and picking students up from home to get them into the exam on time is making a difference. These schools no longer acknowledged student failure and provided CPD to do better next year but they took personal and responsibility for intervening with every student at risk of failing and took action this week and next week and every other week if necessary. Again every child is really begining to matter.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

FFT, Myths and Reality

There are many misconceptions about FFT data. The most prevalent myth is that somehow FFT takes performance in English Maths and Science and through some obscure psychometric testing uses this to predict aptitude in Art. In fact this is not true. FFT only uses SATs data to identify pupils with similar starting points and then produces a profile of how this group performed in their art exams. Having identified the performance of the group it then estimates the probability of children with the same starting point achieving different grades. Essentially its a sum, an estimate, a statistical possibility. Its not a target or a prediction.

A few advisers have been developing a working paper to try to explain the nature and role of FFT in target setting in art. This can be found at This provides explanation and some recommendations that may be helpful.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

New Media New Ideas

I spent a day with artists and KS3 students at Chalfonts Community College recently. This was during their regular off-timetable creativity/enrichment days. A key feature of the event was that these artists were mainly working in new media. There were filmakers, sound engineers, flash software animators, artists using digital images and even some using traditional crafts. This was an intensive two day experience. At the end of the day work was shared and most children had completed the task - made and edited the film, created the animation, recorded the radio jingle.

Some of these were full of the natural and naive humour of youth, others were more predictable. However, the main point is that the children and teachers were all gaining first hand and intensive experience of using new media: making and editing film and sound. These are new experiences and skills. It will be interesting to see how they will be developed in the next few years. Perhaps in three years time the geography homework will be to make a radio broadcast about traffic in the town centre rather than conduct the survey and write it up.

In addition to drawing down expereince of new media into the heart of Key Stage 3 and begining to develop a critical mass of users - both students and teachers - there is another model being developed here.

Every term the curriculum in KS3 is collapsed for one or two days and this provides an opportunity for students to work with greater intensity than normal. It also provides an opportunity to work with other professionals AOTs (adults other than teachers as they were once called). This is intriguing because it is embedded in the regular curriculum and sustainable by the AOTs because it involves focussed work for only one or two days. It is not possible to sustain this engagement by following the traditional school timetable of an hour a week. So this is a significant model.