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The importance of a creative curriculum

Posted by. Jenny Stuart-Collins
Posted on 02 July 2019

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Primary Education students at Leeds Trinity University have this year been taught a new module titled 'Developing a Creative Curriculum' which focuses on curriculum design through an arts perspective. Jenny Stuart-Collins, Senior Lecturer in Primary Education and Coordinator of the new module feels strongly that music and arts education can develop children academically, personally and socially and in a very profound way. In this blog, she shares her thoughts on the importance of a creative curriculum.

Having a curriculum that is creative with a strong focus on the arts can empower, inspire and engage all pupils. Not only is it possible to make strong links between subjects in an innovative way, the arts can also help the children to express themselves. 

Holistic development of the whole child is so important. By having a curriculum that has a strong focus on the arts assists with both academic and emotional development. It allows teachers to find out more about their pupils and where their talents lie. 

As part of the module, Ashley Lund, Leeds Trinity alumnus, teacher and Arts Leader at New Bewerley Community School, talked to students about their collaboration with 'In Harmony Opera North' (run by Leeds Trinity's partner Opera North) and the impact this has had on pupil progress. As part of their assignment, Leeds Trinity students observed the children's performance in school and took notes. Ashley said: ​

"At New Bewerley, we are very proud of our broad and balanced project-based curriculum and our continued work with the external arts organisations that we work in partnership with. We are very invested in our children's life experiences and later-life aspirations and work very closely with our partnership organisations to achieve these as part of our ethos: Include, Create, Perform."

He added: "As part of our work with Leeds Trinity University, our aim was to share our curriculum links and arts practice to the wider school community through their level six trainee teachers as they start on their journey transitioning from student teacher to NQT."

Some of the students' comments from the experience include:

  • "Fantastic musical abilities from such mature and confident children – lovely to see!"
  • "It's lovely to see the children's passion for music and such a young age."

Shining a spotlight on 'In Harmony Opera North'

'In Harmony Opera North' delivers an inclusive programme of high-quality music education and performance opportunities to encourage children from all backgrounds to engage with the arts and, through doing so, benefit from a range of wider outcomes. They work with four schools in South Leeds where every child in Key Stage 2 receives a musical instrument and three sessions of music a week and Key Stage 1 children receive two sessions per week in singing and instrument preparation/musicianship.

The programme aims to raise aspirations, increase expectations, and use group music-making as a way of developing the following skills and attributes in its participants: communication (namely listening, teamwork and respect), confidence and self-worth, creative problem solving, adaptability and perseverance'.  

Charlotte Taylor, In Harmony Opera North Manager, says: "It is Opera North's belief that every child should have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, sing in a choir, make music with others, and have access to the skills, qualities and life experiences that all of this brings.

"The success of In Harmony Opera North is down to school leadership with a clear vision and desire for their pupils to develop a love of learning, peer support and team work, resilience, and lifelong access to the arts."

Charlotte, who has built strong partnerships with and sits on the Board of Governors for all four schools says the wider impact of the programme can be measured through improved parental engagement, pupil attendance, academic results, children's concentration in the classroom, social and emotional wellbeing and much more. She believes the schools all have visionary leadership in common and the headteachers understand the impact a deeper arts curriculum can have on their pupils both in the short and long.

The module has been a great opportunity for our students to explore the possibility of a Primary Curriculum that is driven by the arts. They have gained a theoretical understanding of Curriculum design and have had a great opportunity to observe and reflect on the teaching at New Bewerley Community Primary School. 

As part of the module, students also contributed to 'Project Fantasia', which has been run by Jenny Rogers, Learning and Engagement Director for the Leeds International Piano Competition.  They observed the engagement of the pupils throughout the live performance at Leeds Town Hall.

Schools can click the links to find out more about In Harmony Opera North or local Music Education Hubs.​