Vickie Allen Head Teacher Seahouses Primary School – Q&A

Our Creative Engagement Officer Kate, recently spoke with the ever inspiring Headteacher Vickie Allen about her work at Seahouses Primary School in Northumberland and her thoughts about the benefits of workshops for children from professional Artists and Companies.
Highlights have worked with Seahouses Primary School over a number of years and they regularly choose to work with a wide range of artists, which have included music, theatre, storytelling, creative writing, dance. They have a day of workshops coming up at the end of Summer term, with the fantastic Newcastle based company, Let’s Circus


Kate: Hi Vickie! Could you tell me something about your background in education and how you came to your current role as a Headteacher of a Primary School?

Vickie: It’s a long story. I left school without any formal qualifications and entered the workforce in a factory. After several years, I embarked on a journey of self-improvement by pursuing studies in beauty therapy. This initial step ignited a passion for learning within me, leading me to enrol in evening classes at the age of 19 to obtain qualifications in English and Maths.
Subsequently, I completed a ‘Working with Children’ course followed by an access course, paving the way for entry into university. Despite uncertainties about my career path, I persevered and successfully obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) along the way.
The pivotal moment came when I was offered both a teaching position and a role in the police force on the same day. Through the support and encouragement of individuals who believed in me, I seized the opportunity in education, setting me on the path that I continue to tread today. I really do have to pinch myself some days.

Kate: Do you have any personal interests in particular artforms and are there any stand out events or performances you’ve attended locally and elsewhere?

Vickie: As a thespian at heart, I firmly believe in the transformative power of performing arts in nurturing a child’s confidence and self-expression. Our end-of-year show is always a celebration of our children’s talents and growth throughout the year. It is a moment for every child to shine and feel a sense of accomplishment. I am continually inspired by the exceptional talent that surrounds us, be it on stage or within our school community.
Matilda the musical, is just amazing. Witnessing the awe and wonder on our children’s faces as they experienced the magic of live theatre was truly priceless. Such experiences are invaluable in broadening their horizons and fostering a deeper appreciation for the arts.

Kate: Highlights have worked with you as Head at Seahouses since 2021 and the Participate programme has brought a wide range of workshops into school including a Same Same But Different Sonia Sabri Dance residency, Kema Sikazwe, Maddie Morris, Met4Dance, Gav Cross, My Minute of Listening, Vinland Animation, Hannah Sowerby, Georgia Hill. What do you feel the impact of regular Arts engagement is for children at Seahouses?

Vickie: I believe our school plays a vital role as a gateway for introducing children to the arts, with a specific focus on the performing arts, music, and creativity.
Over the years, our children have had the opportunity to attend various cultural events at esteemed venues such as Alnwick Playhouse, Berwick Playhouse, Sunderland Empire, and theatres in London. These outings have provided our children with valuable exposure to different art forms and performances, enriching their cultural experiences.

We are lucky to be in such a beautiful place in the world but we have to try hard to break down the geographical limitations we face. Factors such as poor public transport infrastructure can act as significant barriers, preventing some children from accessing such enriching cultural experiences. Without the collaborative efforts of organisations like Highlights and the ongoing support from parents, many of our students may never have the opportunity to watch or participate in these events.

Kate: Highlights’ Participate programme offers a broad range of performing arts workshops from a diverse range artists working across the North 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 in giving us feedback which is very helpful to developing our work further. What advice would you give, to someone considering guest Artists in school, for the first time?

Vickie: One key aspect I would like to highlight is the significance of their passion and enthusiasm shining through in their interactions with the children. Their positive engagement can significantly impact their learning experience. By expressing genuine interest and excitement about their talent, they can inspire and motivate them to remain curious and engaged. Remember that the most effective way to captivate young minds is through hands-on experiences and interactive activities. Children learn best when they are actively involved in their learning, rather than passively listening to lengthy explanations.

Kate: Do you feel the benefit to children over the last academic year has produced any particular outcomes – so called soft skills through arts participation – such as communication and collaboration, confidence, general participation, learning and knowledge building, resilience?

Vickie: I firmly believe that engagement with the arts from a young age is highly effective in fostering creativity, critical thinking, and collaborative skills in children. Over the years, I have witnessed our students working together, engaging in discussions around social issues and causes, and thinking creatively to come up with innovative solutions. These skills are not only valuable in their personal development but also align with the top skills sought by businesses today, such as collaborative working and creativity.
The workshops organized as part of our arts programme and Highlights workshops, have provided our children with opportunities to observe and experience new things that they may not have had access to otherwise. These experiences are invaluable in broadening their horizons, sparking their curiosity, and nurturing their passion for the arts.
Furthermore, it is evident that the arts play a significant role in promoting the health and wellbeing of our children. While the impact may not always be quantifiable in data, the positive influence of engaging with the arts on their emotional and mental wellbeing is unmistakable.

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