Embedding practice and ensuring legacy

Published: 10 June 2024 
Author: Kerri Sellens 
Teacher sits on the floor and holds her hand to chin smiling while leading children in an arts-based learning session.
Shared learning session. Photo credit: Sarah Vaughan-Jones

Kerri Sellens, Assistant Headteacher, Lansbury Lawrence Primary School reflects on their Teacher Development Fund approach developed in partnership with Akram Khan Company. Together they’re working to ensure an ongoing legacy of dance in local schools.

We are a group of primary schools in Tower Hamlets, East London. Over the past two years, we have been exploring how teachers in our schools can embed dance and movement across the curriculum. Guiding us through this journey has been our creative partner, Akram Khan Company. Now we are approaching the end of our project, our collective focus and thinking have been around legacy. How will we ensure that practice continues in schools, beyond PHF funding?

There have been challenges that affect legacy. Four teachers left their schools at the end of the first year, which meant we needed to adapt quickly to a mixed cohort of established teachers and teachers joining us. And we have always had to be mindful of workload and buy-in – some teachers will inevitably be more receptive to engaging creatively, and dance can potentially take teachers away from their comfort zone of teaching.

The most important message to encourage engagement has been to ensure the focus of learning and development is around impact – we are exploring and developing our practice because it has the potential to make a tangible difference to the children we teach.

To continue using the skills learned through this project, teachers need to be able to see the impact and know it is a result of using those skills.

Three children sit cross-legged on the floor holding their hands in front of them and tapping their fingers on a wooden floor.
Shared learning session. Photo credit: Sarah Vaughan-Jones

Our cohort of teachers are all currently delivering teacher CPD (Continued Professional Development) sessions to their colleagues in their own schools. We timetabled an after-school session for all schools, and teachers have planned and delivered the sessions by themselves. We have been regularly meeting for collective sessions with Akram Khan Company, and these are a space for exploring further dance strategies, planning, and testing out our teaching ideas on each other.

Over the two years of the project, our confidence and relationships have grown. We’ve found the supportive structure of the TDF has enabled us to explore and deepen our learning as we journey through.

At our last collective session, we also arranged for a facilitator from Half Moon Theatre to deliver a session on developing confidence in presentation skills. We understood that expecting our teachers to deliver training to other adults may be nerve-wracking for some. The expectation of teachers following up on how colleagues are using the dance approaches shared, was also a deliberate strategy to support legacy within individual schools.

Another strategy for legacy was embedded from the start of the project, at the application stage. We approached THAMES (Tower Hamlets Arts and Music Education Service) to support our plans and work with us throughout the two years. THAMES have supported us in making connections across the borough, and because they have such an understanding of the project, it has put us in a strong position to continue moving forward. 

This month, we are sharing details of our project with a network of Tower Hamlets cultural partners, and in July our teachers are leading a borough TeachMeet. Our teachers are strong advocates of the project and have become leaders of dance within their own schools. For some of our teachers, this is the first time they have had leadership responsibilities, which has happened through sensitive support and responding to individual needs. The support the dancers and teachers have shown each other has been inspiring, and we are confident our teachers will want to continue sharing the benefits of dance and movement as they progress through their careers.

Although the continued legacy of dance in Tower Hamlets will require careful management to ensure momentum, through this project Akram Khan Company has committed to teacher development and has now established an education offer which didn’t exist before. We are incredibly proud that many more schools and teachers across the country, and beyond, will have the chance to work with world-class dancers because of this project.

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Assistant Headteacher, Lansbury Lawrence Primary School