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Boys’ Division Achieves Highest Artsmark Award Again

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Bolton School Boys' Division has been reaccredited as an Artsmark Platinum school. The award – first afforded to the School in 2018 - signals that arts and cultural provision in the school remains at the highest possible standard. 

Having received the School’s submission, the Artsmark assessors replied saying: ‘You have continued your deep and thoughtful arts-rich provision with work to extend your pedagogy via teaching for creativity and your Flourish programme, embedding work with your wider community through creative arts careers activities and support for Bolton's Cultural Strategy development and Cultural Enrichment Programme as well as considering how you connect your biweekly SPACE afternoons to your wider curriculum and practice. 

‘Through Covid you have adapted and enhanced your practice, for example teaching film skills when you needed to find a way to reach audiences who couldn't attend in person. Deep partnerships with Manchester International Festival (MIF), Bridge organisations and local cultural partners enable and enhance this work. You offer Arts Award Bronze to all your year 7 pupils. It will be good to hear about the impact of the development of Silver and Gold awards and how this supports your pupils to develop their arts leadership.  

‘Your pupils take part in national competitions and have spoken about the impact of their arts participation at national events for arts professionals and teachers and promoted arts activity via the Royal Society of Arts’ public design awards to the general public through Radio 4 and ITV's Tonight.’  

A delighted Miss Naomi Lord, who is Director of Creative Learning and Partnerships for the Bolton School Foundation, said: ‘Our Artsmark journey to date has been transformational for our setting. It began with taking stock of what we did well in terms of arts and culture provision, working within and between departments to strengthen this – including introducing a universal Arts Award offer for our pupils – and then broadening our focus to the entire school community. Over the past few years, we have collaborated closely with alumni working in creative industries: they have been involved through masterclasses and interviews, guest direction of school shows, contributions to our cultural magazine, creative industry networking events and internships. We also work with our PAs to deliver performing arts events and created a very popular art exhibition. 

‘We have further extended the breadth of our offer through partnering with local and national organisations – including with theatres, film companies, museums, galleries, concert venues, universities and freelance creatives. One example would be our participation in the Royal Society of Arts’ Pupil Design Awards, a national opportunity to focus pupils upon real world problems and creative problem solving. In 2021, our delivery of this project introduced pupils to conversations with creative experts in digital production, architecture and decolonisation of culture as part of their design processes.

‘We did not let lockdown derail us. We offered public creative writing workshops and a related poetry competition for schools across the town with poet Andrew McMillan via digital platforms. Last year, we also worked with MIF’s community engagement team as a Specialist Leader of Cultural Education with Curious Minds – the North West Arts Council’s Bridge Organisation. Between us we delivered eight Saturday workshops from March to May in which young people across the town had an opportunity to deepen their participation in their local arts and culture scene. The project launched at the start of National Careers Week and offered fifteen participants the chance to develop arts sector skills and create their own arts events from home and in their local neighbourhoods. 

‘Outreach projects are a natural focus of our continuing Artsmark journey and we aim to generate relevant, live projects with local impact. We are currently undertaking a co-creation project, Creatives Now, offering young people the opportunity to explore the cultural ideology of the North West, to commission and co-design arts projects for their town and to advocate for their interests in the town’s cultural forums. They will contribute directly to Bolton’s Cultural Strategy and 2030 Vision. 

‘Over the next couple of years, we aim to utilise our experience as our Girls’ Division and Primary Division both begin their journey towards Artsmark accreditation. We will look to celebrate, enrich and extend the cultural offer available to our pupils as well as supporting their voice and personal progression. Already we have established a cross-Foundation working group for Creative Thinking that will work under the guidance of Professor Bill Lucas, who is leading an Assessing Creative Thinking in Schools pilot.’

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