I hadn't been back inside a school since I was in sixth form let alone been in one to teach. I've been surrounded by the community arts world for years so going back to school was going to be something new.
It is a project singular to Waterhead as far as I know and I got involved when Waterhead's Head of Drama, Steph Eckhardt, contacted my Arts Award centre, Peshkar and my adviser, Steph Meskell-Brocken. They asked me to join a small team of young artists to lead a weekly 'creative leg' of the project for years 7 and 8 in the autumn term.
Peshkar, also in Oldham, runs all levels of Arts Award. It is one of the most active Arts Award centres in the country, running Arts Award projects throughout the year. They currently run Arts Awards through this project with Waterhead Academy, the Under 25 Routes international project, and the Young Digital Festival among more and new projects.
We ran a programme of work with the students which gave them the opportunity to do some stop motion animation on iPads and do some drama in the form of performing group tableaus. The four of us put together the work for Steph Meskell-Brocken to send off for Arts Award moderation, all under Steph Eckhardt's supervision. They performed these in front of their respective years in an assembly at the end of the project where each Pathway demonstrated the work they'd done for the term.
I caught up with both Stephs in the middle of the second term of the Career Pathways scheme led by new professional artists and taken by new batch of students.
Tell us more about the Waterhead Academy's Careers Pathway project
Eckhardt: Waterhead Academy wants to raise the expectations of its students due to high levels of unemployment in the community. We want students to aim high and attend university or further training in order to reach their potential and surpass their expectations.
We provide one hour per week of careers advice including a carousel of sessions, which they choose to attend a subject area of their interest. They are also visited by industry professionals in the other Career Pathways, e.g. the NHS, an astrophysicist, or a vet, to find out more about careers they are interested in. These talks are open to students in all years that identified the career of choice in the school-wide career choice survey.
What did you think about the Careers Pathway project when you heard about it?
Meskell-Brocken: When Steph E. first told me about the Careers Pathway idea I was really thrilled and excited by it. It demonstrates that the senior leadership at Waterhead are committed to offering their students experiences beyond their usual classroom experiences which are really going to help broaden their horizons.
It's a unique initiative to be involved in and we were very excited to be able to offer Arts Award as a qualification through the project, adding value for the young people.
Mrs. Eckhardt, what made you approach Peshkar to deliver the Creative Career Pathway project?
Eckhardt: I have worked with Peshkar for 12 years and they continue to deliver outstanding arts education work. I trust them implicitly with my students, as I know they only recruit the best facilitators.
How does Peshkar's relationship with Waterhead benefit your wider arts work with young people?
Meskell-Brocken: Our relationship with Waterhead Academy has become extremely important to our work with communities in Oldham. We want our relationships with schools to inspire young people to pursue wider involvement in the arts and consider careers in the creative industries.
Waterhead students have gone on to join our Young Digitals Steering group outside school and have progressed through Arts Award from Bronze to Gold. We can support these young people and also work with staff at Waterhead to broaden their provision. For Peshkar, this helps us develop work that is responsive to the needs of the school.
How did you recruit artists to deliver the creative leg of the Careers Pathway project at Waterhead?
Meskell-Brocken: This was a pretty unique project as it was steered by a group of artists who we had already engaged at Peshkar through our current European participation project, Under 25 Routes. That project sees four artists from the UK travel to Spain and Portugal to work with artists from those countries as well as hosting a residency at home in the UK. Our four Under 25 artists had recently returned from their first residency and we wanted to challenge them to put some of their learning as artists into practice.
It's now the second term of the Career Pathways project. How's it going so far? Have you seen benefits for students?
Eckhardt: They love the active elements of the course and they are also tackling the necessary writing and documentation. They're doing homework this term, which is used as evidence towards their Arts Awards.
Are there advantages in asking an arts organisation to deliver Arts Award rather than delivering it yourselves, in school?
Eckhardt: I would not have capacity to lead another course at present. Doing Arts Award provides an opportunity for younger students to gain a qualification early. For some this may be crucial for access into college if they lose focus at KS4.
- Image courtesy of Facebook/WeArePeshkar