Weaving Together a Story of Place

Published: 16 November 2022 
Author: Kathy Coates-Mohammed 
Group of teachers taking part in a CPDL session for Weaving Together a Story of Place. They have each produced a small screen print image with light brown ink.
Teachers take part in a CPDL session to learn how to use textile based approaches in the classroom as part of Weaving Together a Story of Place. Photo credit: Studio Bokehgo

Programme lead, Kathy Coates-Mohammed shares insights from this place-based project exploring how Kirklees’ textile heritage can be integrated into the curriculum. Supported through the Teacher Development Fund, the project sees five schools across the area team up with Hatch Projects, Kirklees Art Associate Learning Partners and the University of Huddersfield. Together they aim to build more creative approaches to learning and to create a place-based curriculum.

Kirklees has a strong history of textiles invention and quality production. However, few children know of this unique heritage and dwindling numbers aspire to work in the industry — despite the creative opportunities it affords.

Alongside this has been pressure in schools to narrow the curriculum, amplified by the pandemic, to focus on core skills, with the arts being squashed in time and breadth in many schools. There is also the expectation by Ofsted that curriculums are designed to reflect individual contexts of schools. A dilemma perhaps, but does it need to be?

Weaving Together a Story of Place’ arose from this question. Hatch Projects (curators of the Woven Festival), Kirklees Art Associate Learning Partners (now Shape North Ltd), the University of Huddersfield and five Kirklees infant and primary schools are working together to test the theory that incorporating textiles into the curriculum can act as a springboard to more creative approaches to learning across all subject areas, whilst also creating a place-based curriculum. Will this in turn support children’s wider learning and growth and therefore, positively influence learning in all subject areas? And what do teachers need to make this happen?

The approach

Immersion of teachers and artists together in hands-on creative practice was key. Therefore delivery was stalled until September 2021, so schools could commit to releasing staff and inviting artists into classrooms.

Two teachers from each school — the art leader and one other subject leader — have come together for a series of CPDL days, interspaced by artist days in school, moving from direct delivery to mentoring. The University artists joined each CPDL day in the first year. Sessions built on the strengths and knowledge within the group; constantly challenging thinking about the definition and power of creativity in children’s lives and also growing teachers’ confidence in textiles skills. All the time reflecting on the journey and the impact they are seeing in the classroom.

The CPDL venues have been chosen deliberately to increase participants’ knowledge of the heritage of textiles or current developments, e.g. Tolson Museum, the University etc thereby building the stories’ of importance and relevance to feed back into the curriculum.

Additional local artists developed everyone’s thinking and inspired new skills — artists and teachers. This moved from textile skills-based artists, such as Mister Finch, to those that considered textiles and creativity in a wider sense, such as Testament using the history of textiles within rap and beatbox. These are not purely traditional style workshops.’ Artists are well briefed and at the heart are provocations and transferable skills– teachers can craft them to fit their context.

Close up of a woman in a turquoise floral top with red sleeves doing delicate craft work and holding a red fabric flower.
Teachers take part in a CPDL session to learn how to use textile based approaches in the classroom as part of Weaving Together a Story of Place. Photo credit: Studio Bokehgo

The PHF webinar on intersectionality as part of the cohort learning programme sparked the second year’s project design — to diversify the artists we work with, to bring a wider range of textile skills, but also new stories,’ to provoke thinking about diversity and equity in classrooms. Ian Berry and Henry Morris both weaved into their sessions their unique, but equally important journeys, of how art shaped their lives. We want this project to resonate with every child.

Textile artist Henry Morris leads a workshop with two teacher who are on either side of him. Henry is wearing a white sleeveless tunic with a hand-painted black spiral pattern with a matching hat made of the same fabric. The teachers next to him are smiling and place their hands of rolls of tan fabric in front of them on a wooden table.
Teachers take part in a CPDL session led by textile artist Henry Morris. Photo credit: Studio Bokehgo

Having two teachers from each school has proved instrumental in extending the influence across the wider curriculum — in some schools faster and wider than anticipated, with whole topics now being taught through engagement with textiles!

The detailed content for each of the sessions has been purposefully left to nearer the time, building on reflections of the group’s needs and ensuring a constant review of the enquiry question. This has already led to some inspirational learning. Working with the same schools over two years will only deepen this; the group has become a strong and committed learning community.

Learning so far

Understanding the heritage of textiles within Kirklees and inspiring teachers to draw on this within the curriculum:

I was absolutely blown away by just what was happening within our local area.”

Playing to individual children’s strengths, interests and learning styles, all whilst building self esteem:

I saw a totally different side of him and it was amazing.”

Personal development of teachers — growing confidence in themselves as creative practitioners:

This experience and journey and going to all the different places that we’ve visited and having the CPD has developed my confidence… I’ve then been able to take that back into school.”

Opening up possibilities across the curriculum and acknowledging the power of creativity on all areas of learning.

They were…talking and discussing whilst weaving…it made me realise that there’s so much more I could do with my teaching, rather than just having a pen and a paper.”


Do not underestimate the skills and creativity of children:

Even for me, working in textiles…that was a real moment for me to go, these kids can do these things. Like the only thing that’s actually holding them back is us.”

All the quotes above are from teachers taking part in the project.

Plans to embed and ensure legacy

  • Schools will each host a CPD session to cascade the learning and ensure whole teams are invested. High levels of commitment from SLT has helped.
  • Learning will be cascaded to a wider network of Kirklees teachers through the Kirklees Art Network.
  • The bones of an exciting place-based textiles curriculum will exist; we are looking for funding to develop this and roll it out to every school, thereby embedding a legacy for years to come.
  • A growing bank of artists, who understand the needs of schools, are committed to sharing their skills with more teachers and inspiring children to work with textiles skills. EVOKE (the LCEP), WOVEN and Kirklees Learning Service can promote this.
  • The University has now developed strong links with schools, and they are committed to welcoming them into their buildings, with ever more creative offers.
  • Children’s work will be exhibited as part of the WOVEN Festival in 2023.

Most significantly, this project has re-ignited the joy of teaching for many of the participants.

I think for me as a teacher, you just really want to provide children with exciting lessons that they’ll remember forever. And I think being part of this project has done that…seeing the children enthused by the activity, the staff enthused by the activity and the artist – all working together. And I just thought, wow, this is why I love my job and this is why I teach, because you could just see everything clicking into place.” 

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