Enfield Town Schools’ Partnership – Making a Mark

Published: 12 June 2023 
Author: Susan Matambanadzo 
An artist practitioner works on clay busts with a male and female teacher.
Esther (artist practitioner) with teachers working on clay busts. Photo credit: Enfield Town Schools’ Partnership.

As Making a Mark enters its final few weeks, Susan Matambanadzo from the Enfield Schools’ Partnership shares their learning and reflects on some of the challenges encountered over the last two years.

Enfield Town Schools’ Partnership (ETSP) conceived the Making a Mark project to expand teachers’ practice to enhance the use of arts-based learning to positively affect pupils’ language development. Twenty+ teachers in ten Enfield primary schools have been on a remarkable two-year professional development journey; each working with one of five talented visual artists and arts educators. Through the exploration of one medium of visual art – each school choosing one of clay, drawing, painting, photography or printmaking – teachers have developed the knowledge, skills and confidence to deliver and champion arts-based approaches in their schools, becoming the inspiring​‘Arts Specialists’ we had imagined. 

Artists delivered CPDL to small groups of participating teachers directly, in whole-school INSETs, via modelling approaches in a classroom setting (and once in a gallery), all the while demonstrating how the arts can provide rich opportunities for developing vocabulary and creating a place to talk, a reason to talk and support for talk. INSET sessions have been particularly impactful in generating school-wide enthusiasm and identifying other motivated teachers and opportunities to incorporate art in other curriculum areas. Alongside in-person CPDL, the Making a Mark artists have also created a suite of asynchronous tools, including video tutorials and written guides. These artefacts will help support schools to cascade the learning to other teachers and ensure their expertise remains accessible long after this initiative ends.

The experience for ETSP teachers has been resoundingly positive and virtually all report being vastly more confident in delivering art interventions.

I just wanted to let you know that I have just taught the art lesson in my class and I can’t believe the outcome!! I also felt super confident teaching it and made a real effort to combat any anxiety as a few [children] said​‘What if you can’t draw?’ Overall, the children were enthusiastic and chuffed with what they produced. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the impact of last year’s CPD.”

Making a Mark teacher 

The relationship between participating teachers and artists is trusting and supportive and is a testament to how engaged both are in learning together and co-developing tailored approaches for each school. The reinvigorated approaches to art in the classroom are also having a positive influence on language development – particularly vocabulary – in participating schools.

The children discussed the textures of the objects in the bag with eyes closed, they used key vocabulary to explain what they felt. I was then able to refer back to this lesson in a science lesson where we were looking at different materials and describing the properties of them.”

Making a Mark teacher 

The school context remains challenging, and the project has been impacted by changes in staffing and the pressure on teachers’ time limiting availability. That said, artists have remained flexible and adaptations have been made to the programme in response, including artists delivering more classroom sessions; modelling to wider groups of teachers. These challenges, however, have meant that our intention that individual teachers benefit from the full two-year development programme will not be fully realised. In addition to the creation of asynchronous learning materials, the Making a Mark blended approach included some online delivery of CPDL, regular online meetings and digital collection of feedback for evaluation.

In general, most felt that the sensory element of art instruction made online delivery unsatisfactory. Online meetings had value for joint planning, and for artists and teachers to have brief check-in discussions, but less so for group reflection where the medium created distance and felt limiting. In these remaining weeks, many schools are focused on revamping their curricula to incorporate new approaches and a few are also bringing the project to a close with full-day Art days or exhibitions to celebrate. ETSP looks forward to continuing to support the Arts Specialists champion the Arts in all schools in the Partnership.

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Member of Enfield Schools’ Partnership