The arts are… the special language of children, who, even before they learn to speak, respond intuitively to dance, music, and colour…
The arts are very important to us at Parkside, both in terms of curriculum content and the extra-curricular clubs and therapeutic practices that we offer. We are conscious of the beneficial effects that free expression through arts activities can have on well-being and behaviour, and believe that through providing a wide variety of opportunities to creatively explore themselves and their world, pupils are more likely to develop holistically. Speech, language and communication development is a primary focus for our school, and this is supported by our arts provision, through weekly communal singing, group music making, opportunities to perform on a stage before an audience, group art projects, dramatic improvisation and role play. We welcome visiting artists, musicians and theatre groups to work with and inspire our young people, and have been involved in some exciting and innovative projects this year.
All pupils in lower and middle school take part in a weekly 50 minute lesson, in which they learn musical skills through a structured approach relating to the Kodaly method that aims to generate an awareness and appreciation of pitch, pulse and rhythm through songs, instrumental exploration and musical games.
In middle and upper school pupils who demonstrate a particular aptitude or enthusiasm for music are given the opportunity to learn drumming or guitar/ukulele with a peripatetic teacher.
In upper school pupils can choose to take a music option course in which they gain opportunities to rehearse and perform, individually and as a group, on ukuleles, keyboards, steel drums, ocarinas and xylophones during school concerts and county music festivals. They learn to read and write notation, and to improvise and compose music instrumentally and using ICT; and work towards gaining a WJEC entry level accreditation in solo and ensemble performance.
In lower school pupils spend 1 hour per week on art and craft activities that are linked to a theme or topic. In addition they have the option to choose arts activities in their free choice sessions, and participate regularly in art-based tasks within other curricular subjects.
In middle school our ‘static’ classes spend a double lesson each week developing art skills including painting, collage, 3D modelling, playdough/clay and pencil work. Our ‘move around’ classes have one art lesson per week where they develop their painting and drawing skills and learn about different artists and their styles and techniques.
In upper school pupils can take an art option course in which they develop their drawing skills using different types of pencil, charcoal, pastels and pens. They also experiment with different paints and painting techniques, and produce pictures for WJEC entry level assessment.
We have been fortunate in working with a number of visiting artists including textiles artist Dominique Clark, mural artist Phil Daniels, 3D artist Ali McKenzie and painters Sophie Fox and Louise Birtles.
In lower school pupils spend 15 minutes each day on dance and musical movement. They have an additional 12 week block of dance during PE lessons. In middle school students participate in a 7 week block of street dance with a specialist teacher; and in upper school they have a weekly option during PE to take part in street dance and yoga. Movement and Dance are also incorporated into music lessons, e.g. through country dancing, Dalcroze techniques and playground games.
Drama is embedded into English lessons at Parkside, such that the children use movement, signing and music to tell stories and recite rhymes and poems, and use dramatic improvisation and role play to explore different literary and language themes. In upper school they study Shakespeare and storytelling using puppets, thought trails and drama techniques. We offer a Drama option course in which pupils learn how to use the voice in a dramatic context, a Media option course in which they study film making, and a Broadcasting option course where they produce news and weather reports, develop interview techniques and make ‘how to’ films.
We are very fortunate in counting a number of artists and musicians amongst our staff, both teachers and teaching assistants, enabling us to provide specialist teaching of the arts within and beyond curriculum time. Many of our students go on to study arts subjects at college and we are delighted to discover through our Leavers Questionnaires that their interests and aptitudes, that we have nurtured and encouraged, continue as they transition into adulthood.