Students at a York secondary school are celebrating after their innovative work with a West Yorkshire dance company has helped other young people cope with the move from primary to secondary school – and scooped an award in the process.
The group of students, along with staff, from Fulford School and the Balbir Singh Dance Company were winners of the York Cultural Education category at the recent York Cultural Awards 2017.
Their year-long programme of work saw the young people join with the dance company to learn a range of skills, develop their leadership abilities and lead the creation of a new performance based on the issues children face when moving from primary up to secondary school.
All the students drew on memories of their own worries about that transition, producing a story told through dance accompanied by their own musical composition.
The performance was taken to Fulford’s feeder primary schools and shown to Year 6 pupils as part of their preparation for their move to secondary school, with the Fulford students also leading workshops passing on some of the skills they had learnt.
Aiming to help develop the Year 7 and 8 students’ sense of belonging to their school, the programme was supported by CapeUK, Arts Council England’s bridge organisation for Yorkshire and the Humber. Its Specialist Leaders in Cultural Education (SLiCE) programme has supported work in 21 of the region’s schools in the past year, using arts and culture to help schools meet their priorities in literacy and engagement through a variety of creative initiatives.
Dan Bodey, Deputy Head Teacher from Fulford School said: “We are delighted to win this award and it really is a huge credit to all the students who took part.
“The partnership with Balbir Singh Dance and CapeUK helped us create something innovative, engaging and impactful which has opened up new opportunities for the students and our staff.
“The students now feel more involved in school life, know the school better and enjoyed being part of such a big and important project. They have developed their team working skills, are more confident and have improved their artistic and creative talents too which they are now using across the curriculum.”
All the students involved also achieved an Arts Award, the national qualification that inspires young people to grow as artists and arts leaders, through taking challenges in an art form.
Rhiannon Davison from Leeds-based Balbir Singh Dance Company, said: 'I am thrilled that the hard work from Fulford students has been rewarded with this award – a perfect way to culminate our first project and partnership.
“It has been an absolute honour working with staff and students from Fulford school and Cape UK to inspire, encourage and emerge participants in diverse cultural practice. Throughout this journey all involved have shown creativity, commitment and above all passion for the project and arts, and I am thrilled that the work has had such a lasting impact.
“It was wonderful to meet pupils’ parents at the award ceremony and gain a deeper insight into what the project has meant for them – being told that the work was inspiring, encouraging and has allowed students to feel a deeper connection to school and their peers helps to prove the overall success of the project as a whole. I am very much looking forward to developing this partnership further, and maintaining the relationship with Fulford and CapeUK."
Fulford School plans to repeat the programme with some the pupils involved working with pupils and teachers from each feeder primary school to embed the approach.
In addition the partnership between the school and Balbir Singh Dance is set to continue with new work being planned for future years.
Dave Herbert, CapeUK’s Cultural Education Manager, said they were delighted that the hard work of such a creative partnership was being recognised more widely. “As the pressure on schools to raise standards in core subjects continues to rise it is great to see school leaders looking to arts and culture to provide creative solutions.
“This programme has clearly boosted the young people’s confidence and enabled them to tackle some key issues like the transition from primary to secondary school. The levels of innovation shown by the delivery partners have led to genuine engagement in their learning.”