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School Receives Platinum Artsmark

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The Boys’ Division has received the Platinum Artsmark Award, confirming that the School’s arts and cultural provision is of the highest possible standard.

The Artsmark assessment panel commented: “Your school has an excellent range of offer and this has deepened as you have developed inter-departmental collaboration, digital creativity and pupil self-management, with Arts Award going from strength to strength. You have extended your already excellent partnerships with arts providers and have established links that will see you strongly influencing provision for the arts beyond your setting. As this progresses over time, as you showcase high quality teaching of the arts in your CPD offer to other settings, as pupils themselves become ambassadors for the arts and support CPD beyond your setting, and as you build case studies that evidence the positive impact of the arts on outcomes for young people, you will make a major contribution to the advocacy of the arts in your region.

“Congratulations on your Artsmark Platinum Award!”

The School’s Director of Creative Learning and Partnerships Miss Naomi Lord said, “We are very proud to receive this level of recognition for our work in School and with the wider community. It represents our ongoing commitment to arts and cultural education at a governing body level and to the provision of opportunities that stretch our whole School setting.

“Our pupils are offered equal opportunity to influence, lead, experience and evaluate a broad range of high-quality arts and cultural activities across a wide range of media. We enjoy strong partnerships with arts and cultural organisations and the long-lasting positive impact of this collaboration is evident across School life. We are looking forward to establishing our position as a regional and national opinion former within arts education, as further progress to the leadership role we have established locally.”

The Platinum Award has been achieved following two years of development, which began with an assessment of the arts and cultural experiences already on offer. This process revealed interesting interdisciplinary opportunities and openings for collaboration, which have in turn helped to enhance under-represented areas.

Provision has been refined: all Years 7 pupils are now invited to design and fulfil individual creative projects through Bronze Arts Awards over the course of Lower School, with the option to progress to Silver and Gold. The school’s technicians and librarians as well as teachers are trained as Arts Award advisors and support pupils with research skills and technical expertise. Boys can weave together interests across different strands of the curriculum, echoing the school’s ethos of ‘education all round’.

In response to the increased scope of arts and culture, Headmaster Philip Britton created new roles: in addition to the pre-existing Director of Community Music Mr Bleasdale, a Director of Creative Learning and Partnerships, Miss Lord, and an Arts Award Co-ordinator, Miss Sherry, have been appointed. Governor Helen Critchlow is the dedicated caretaker of creative arts in school. Amongst other projects, she has been involved with planning the upcoming Open Arts Exhibition, which will showcase artwork by current and former pupils, parents and staff.

Alumni links are key for pupils interested in pursuing a creative arts career. Old Boys frequently return not just to speak to pupils, but to offer masterclasses and mentoring. Most recently Ralf Little worked with drama students; boys have also worked with Andy Patterson (film producer), Brian Appleyard (journalist and author), Barney Pilling (film producer), Mark Radcliffe (broadcaster) and Robin Partington (architect). In 2015 Sir Ian McKellen returned to meet pupils, lecture in the Great Hall and ratify the school’s work as Stonewall Champions. Through teachers and specialised careers days, boys are able to access feedback from and ongoing contact with alumni.

External partnerships have developed exponentially since the school first applied for the Artsmark, and the school is part of the Arts Council’s Local Cultural Education Partnership (LCEP) programme.

Theatre in residence projects with RoughHouse Theatre culminated in public verbatim theatre productions, presenting community voices back to the community. In the first Artsmark year, this was related to opinions on race and justice. The second year was based on the Mass Observation project which started in Bolton and the resulting production ‘Worktown: My Room, My Bolton’ was performed as part of wider community partnership projects: the Bolton Station Community Gala and The Leverhulme Festival, a pupil-led takeover day at Port Sunlight. At both events, pupils also provided musical entertainment and art exhibitions.

Work with the Octagon Theatre has grown to include visiting productions. The Arts Centre became a venue for the Octagon’s Reveal festival: 600 primary school pupils attended ‘Penguins’, a show about family diversity commissioned by Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Stonewall, and the school offered related drama CPD for primary colleagues.

Bolton School enjoys enduring relationships with Bolton Music Service, Greater Manchester Music Hub, Dance Manchester, Bolton University, Skyblue Theatre Company, the Globe Theatre, Neo-Artist studios and multiple local primary and secondary schools. New partnership work with Bolton FM, Bolton Film Festival and the RNCM will offer even more opportunities.

Each area of the creative arts is well resourced: pupils use the school’s multiple on-site theatre venues, studio spaces, screen-printing equipment, kiln, dark room, soundproof booth and recording studio. Young musicians perform both in school and beyond in local primary schools through the Community Music Programme, at Bolton’s Victoria Hall and at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. Further engagement with arts and culture is provided through extensive regional, national and international theatre, concert and gallery trips.

Artsmark is a standard mark reviewed every two years. On that basis, planning is already under way to capitalise on the strong foundations of the Platinum Award to inform education in local, regional and national contexts. To this end, the school is part of a regional digital arts initiative and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) cultural learning working group, focused on reimagining the creative curriculum for the 21st century.

The Platinum Artsmark attests that arts and cultural provision is flourishing in the Boys’ Division, and there are still more creative prospects lined up for the coming academic year and beyond.

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