SBSJ – A Whole School Approach to Arts Award

St Bede’s and St Joseph’s in Bradford enter an entire year group through Arts Award Bronze every year. IVE spoke with the school to see the benefits of this approach to using Arts Award.

St Bede’s and St Joseph’s is not only the largest Catholic school in the country, it is one of the biggest schools full stop and it has a very diverse cohort, with 30% of its pupils being Muslim. It is a split site school with over a mile between sites and is a recent amalgamation between two single-sex schools. So when we heard that they enter an entire year group through Arts Award Bronze, we wanted to find out more. Because if they can do it, under those circumstances, it provides an excellent example of how other schools could overcome any potential challenges.

“Pedagogy in the arts departments is having a huge impact on students in a cross-curricular way.”

Beckie Voller, who leads the arts subjects at the school, initially established the Bronze award for Year 11 students within Drama and Performing Arts BTEC. However, two years ago she was asked to consider what the arts could contribute to a new initiative in the school – a KS3 Diploma. Students would be undertaking the English Speaking Board exam, the Young Leaders award in PE and so all 300 Year 7 students now do the Bronze Arts Award. Beckie’s approach to the award was to ask teachers from Drama, Dance, Music and Art what they already did that would fit with the Bronze structure. She was keen that the award would add focus and status to their curriculum, not create a lot more work for teachers.

sbsj dancers

Quite quickly, the structure emerged. In Art, students study a variety of famous artists and research their work, style and form. Artwork is then created. Thus researching the work of an artist/craftsperson that inspires them is done easily and efficiently. In Drama, students actively participate in a series of skills and narrative-based workshops, linked to the Charles Causley poem, What Has Happened to Lulu? In Dance, they pass on arts skills. This year they studied skills based on the Gobstoppers characters in The Nutcracker and then devised warm-ups using these skills to teach to their peers. In Music and Drama they experience art as an audience member and write reviews for the portfolio.  

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