Clare Carr, Executive Headteacher for Woodland, Frosterley and Butterknowle Primary Schools in County Durham, which are part of the Dales Partnership.
Our Creative Engagement Officer Kate, recently spoke with Headteacher Clare Carr about her work as an Executive Head and her thoughts about the benefits of workshops for children from professional Artists and Companies. Clare also suggested we talk to children from the School Council, who have answered some questions below, about what working with Artists means to them.
Kate: Hi Clare! Could you tell me about your teaching background and how you came to your current role, as an Executive Head in County Durham?
Clare: I have been teaching for a number of years in both North Yorkshire and Durham. I have had the privilege of working with all age groups and in a range of different schools in that time. For the last eight years I have been a headteacher in small rural primary schools in Durham.
Kate: What are some of your personal interests within the Arts and do you attend events locally?
Clare: I love theatre and art exhibitions and installations as well as enjoying live music and comedy. I am very fortunate to live and work in an area which has excellent access to the arts from the Bowes Museum and the Witham Hall in Barnard Castle to the touring programme in the village halls and the installations in Teesdale from renowned artists, including Steve Messam’s fabulous work in upper Teesdale.
Kate: I’ve been working with you since February 2022 and our Participate Programme has brought workshops from Mambo Jambo, Gav Cross, Moving Arts Parts and Meta4Dance so far. What do you feel the impact of regular Arts engagement has been for children, especially coming out of the post-Covid period?
Clare: Regular engagement with the arts is an essential part of the experience children have through school. We hope to give them opportunities to discover different art forms and not just see but participate in creativity. The workshops introduce new art forms, build confidence and social skills and allow the children to develop skills and interests beyond the standard school curriculum.
Kate: Highlights’ Participate programme offers a broad range of performing arts workshops from diverse artists and we aim to engage schools in a conversation about their priorities or ambitions and about what the Arts can bring to support the curriculum. You have always been very engaged in these questions and given us some very supportive feedback. What advice would you give, to someone considering guest Artists in school, for the first time?
Clare: There is a wide range of artists and workshops available, so there should always be something that would be relevant and engaging for the children, whatever their age or previous experience. We have always found the artists to be really flexible and interested in meeting the needs of the children by adapting the workshop to fit with a current topic in school or our mix of age groups in small schools.
Kate: Do you feel the benefit to children over the year has produced particular outcomes including soft skills through arts participation eg. Communication and collaboration, or through working to create something new, such as a song together, storytelling as performance, or learning about new instruments?
Clare: First and foremost, the children have enjoyed the different experiences which is a really important part of learning. They have certainly gained confidence and been enthused to work collaboratively within the workshops and in follow up activities led by staff in school. Resilience is another important soft skill and the children have persevered with challenges with support and been very proud of their achievements. Some children have discovered art forms or talents which they were not previously aware of and we try to share this with our wider community too.
Questions for Woodland Primary School Council
K: Hello! We’ve brought some workshops from professional Artists and performers into your school in the last year. These were Mambo Jambo – Music workshops, Gav Cross – Storytelling, Moving Arts Parts – Puppetry and Meta4Dance – Dance workshops. Can you tell me some of the things that you enjoy about having Artists in your school?
Children: It’s always step by step so that we can learn and join in and learn new skills.
It’s great fun!
It is different every time and each one is exciting in a different way.
K: The workshops are meant to be fun and a chance for you to develop new skills in class, or try something completely new, working with an expert who’s a professional artist. What skills have you enjoyed learning and what has been challenging, or out of your comfort zone?
Children: The puppets looked really hard to do but if you kept trying you got there and the end result was amazing!
Some things look really difficult but we managed to do them with help from the artist who showed us the techniques to use.
The artists are really good at working with you and it is really rewarding when although it has been challenging you are pleased with what you have done.
K: If the School Council were Young Promoters for Highlights (you can read about this on our website) for our next project with you, what workshop/artform/artist would you organise for your school? What skills would you learn about?
Children: I would love to learn how to write a story that works well for oral storytelling – like Gav Cross did.
I would love to use clay to learn to sculpt – that might be something we could do.
We would like to work with actors from a play to learn how they develop their character and build confidence in front of an audience.
We love it when we have workshops and performances and we would love to have more!