Saturday, 25 May 2019


Saw Matthew Bourne’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Bradford Alhambra last night! Matthew Bourne’s unique storytelling put the young lovers in a futuristic asylum, and the sad tale was brought spectacularly to life by some wonderful young dancers from across Yorkshire, the New Adventures company, and new orchestrations of the Prokofiev score by Terry Davies, played live by the New Adventures Orchestra. An amazing evening and it is touring the UK. If you get a chance make sure that you go to see it!

Monday, 20 May 2019


“A good education must develop children’s curiosity, creativity and kindness. The measure of educational success cannot simply be students’ exam results, but also the qualities of the people who come to collect their transcripts on results day; good citizens who are equipped to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. No school teacher or leader, however brilliant and passionate, can do this important work alone. They need the help of businesses, professional bodies, arts and cultural organisations, charities and voluntary organisations, colleges and universities, all of whom can give young people the sense of agency and creative possibility that come from realising just how many ways they can find meaning and create value in the world.”
RSA ‘Schools without walls’ Laura Partridge and Naomi Bath

Thursday, 16 May 2019



The New OFSTED Framework is very clear that as school governors, we have a responsibility to look after our young people’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. We want to develop their wellbeing and ensure they grow into the happy, heathy, successful creative thinkers and problem solvers of tomorrow.

The New Framework isn't as clear as I would like but it does point out that including storytelling, art and design, dance, drama and music in the curriculum is both a statutory requirement and hugely important in improving outcomes and enriching the lives of our children and young people.

These subjects also provide young people with the opportunity to develop the skills that matter in life, school and the world of work... responsibility, confidence, resilience, communication, teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, digital skills and creativity. Culture and the arts helps to build the knowledge, skills, understanding and experiences that children and young people need to thrive and succeed in an increasingly complex and challenging world.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019


"Because of the Department for Education’s school accountability systems, many schools are reducing the numbers of hours, teachers, subjects and choices on offer. This risks strangling the talent pipeline to the creative industries and robbing children of the social mobility and opportunities that the arts offer. There is a real risk that the benefits of studying the arts will become the preserve of only those who can pay for it."

Bacc for the Future, the Cultural Learning Alliance and What Next have produced a helpful Arts in Schools toolkit which everyone who is passionate about creativity, culture and the arts should read.

Monday, 29 April 2019


"An arts rich education contributes to the development of all aspects of a child's powers and personality; a school that is rich the arts enhances the life chances of a child."

Cultural Alliance Briefing Paper 'The Arts in Schools' Why the arts matter in our education system


I have been reading the Cultural Learning Alliance briefing paper on 'The Arts in Schools'... it has a  wonderful introduction by Geoff Barton, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders, which every headteacher should read...

"I can’t imagine a truly great school that hasn’t got a vibrant culture of the arts at its core. Drama, music, art, dance: these have long been subjects at the beating heart of the UK’s education system, much envied internationally, much cherished nationally. And now they are under threat.

The arts in schools aren’t just an extra-curricular embellishment. They are where pupils from all backgrounds find new ways of expressing themselves and of understanding the world. The arts are what distinguish human beings from robots. And now is precisely the time when we need to be giving them more, not less, emphasis.

Yet a combination of factors are placing the arts under threat. There’s a general narrowing of the curriculum, driven in too many cases by accountability measures which don’t exactly dismiss arts subjects but do appear to shift them to the less significant margins of a school’s curriculum offer.

And then there’s funding, where – if you’re a head or chair of governors needing to make drastic savings – you’ll do the only thing you can do: cut courses and increase class sizes. That makes arts subjects vulnerable, and ASCL’s survey with the BBC in December 2017 showed bleakly that 90% of school leaders had reduced arts provision in their schools over the past two years.

This matters, because it’s not simply a funding issue: much more significantly, it’s about social mobility.

Many young people come to music or dance or drama or art because of what happens in their school. A teacher spots a spark of talent. They chivvy and nudge and quietly inspire. This matters especially to the child from a background where such activities rarely feature – where classical music, challenging drama, ambitious dance, unorthodox art and design would never otherwise be encountered.

These are the children who most need schools with a commitment to the arts. They need teachers who create opportunities for that heady mix of self-expression, creativity, rigour and self-discipline that come from the creative arts.

These aren’t woolly soft subjects. They are what make us distinctively human. And they should be a birthright for every child from every background. We must make the case for the arts in schools, show that they go way beyond extra-curricular activities, and do all we can to fight to retain them in our classrooms."

Friday, 26 April 2019


"The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind... computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind - creators and empathisers, pattern recognisers and meaning makers. These people - artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers - will now reap society's richest rewards and share its greatest joys." 
Dan Pink 'A Whole New Mind'

We are living in digital times and change is happening at an exponential rate. What is encouraging in these chaotic times, is meeting and working with young people. They are creative, imaginative and passionate about the arts and sports and culture and many are developing the skills that matter; the skills that will give them the edge. The scary thing is that there are more top grade students in China and in India than there are people in this country and, it is more than likely that, someone in China or India can do your work more cheaply than you can. And increasingly, if your work is routine and systematic and organised, a computer can do your work faster, cheaper and better than you can. Drawing on research from around the advanced world, Dan Pink, in his wonderful book 'A Whole New Mind' outlines the six fundamentally human abilities that will be essential for professional success and personal fulfilment in the future and reveals how to master them. He has identified the six things we need to do to thrive and succeed in this new world:
  • We need to be designers, 
  • We need to be storytellers, 
  • We need to be team-players,
  • We need empathy,
  • We need to explore and play,
  • We need to create meaning in our lives.
In the past bright young people were encouraged to become lawyers, doctors, accountants and to work in the city moving money around but the age of left-brain dominance is coming to an end. The future belongs to a different kind of young person; someone with a different kind of mind. The future will belong to designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers... creative and emphatic right-brain thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between those who get ahead and those who don't.


I have recently been appointed as Chair of the York Cultural Education Partnership and I am really pleased to be working again in York with schools, colleges and universities and the arts and cultural sector! Our goal as a partnership is to work together to provide every young person in the city with access to a rich, vibrant and exciting arts and cultural offer. This is so important because the arts are part of what should be a cultural entitlement for all and also provide our young people with the skills and attributes needed to succeed in life, at school and in work!

I am also delighted to be working with colleagues from IVE again. IVE is a not-for-profit creative development agency that places creativity at the heart of learning, thinking and doing. Their mission is to find, nurture and grow creative potential by exciting children and young people through inspirational access to the arts and culture and importantly equipping life long learners with the skills and attributes they need to thrive and succeed in life, at school and in the world of work.

We have a rich cultural and artistic heritage here in York and a huge number of arts and cultural partners who can link with children and young people in schools to release the magic. As well as a thriving community sector, the city has over 60 professional arts and heritage organisations, as well as over 400 businesses in the arts, heritage and creative industries field. The city also has a wide range of music and theatre venues as well as 17 museum sites, 11 galleries and 5 other venues for arts and heritage activity and 27 regular festival programmes operate in the area of arts and heritage. The city is also home to around 1,500 students studying arts and heritage related programmes at world class universities. York is also the only UK city with UNESCO City of Media Arts status.

Working with this rich cultural landscape, we need to work with every school in York to encourage them to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum offer that promotes and delivers access to the arts and culture and make York the first UK city to promise and deliver a cultural entitlement for all its children and young people. We can start by developing some projects and opportunities which will draw creative partners and schools together to help them see what can be achieved through the arts and culture and the impact this can have on GCSE outcomes. My starters for ten are as follows...
  1. We need to build on the hugely successful 'Light//moves' project at Park Grove Primary School to involve more schools and more young people;
  2. We need to develop and fund an artists in residence programme to take dancers, musicians, storytellers, performers, designers, makers and media-artists into schools to excite and inspire young people;
  3. We need to develop a creative partnership programme linking as many York based cultural and arts organisations with schools for a term/year;
  4. We need to develop a cultural profile/passport to develop a progressive skills based pathway to help guide young people through school, college and university and into apprenticeships and the world of work and and on to create happy, healthy, creative and successful adults, families and communities.
  5. We need to develop a portfolio of research, case studies and stories about the impact of the arts and culture on standards and outcomes;
  6. We need to have an annual celebration of our children's and young people creative ideas and magic. 
The York Cultural Education Partnership is happy to share, connect, and work with anyone and everyone who shares our passion and belief in the magic that exists in each and every child and young person and the power of the arts and culture to release that magic.... whatever it takes!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019


"The arts are a central part of the human experience and young people cannot participate or understand our history without engaging in the arts..."
It's funny but thinking about learning and realising the importance of coaching, practice and hard work inevitable leads me back to the arts. My experiences in York and Leeds where we developed powerful arts services, and working with some brilliant colleagues, musicians and artists, have shown me that the arts provide languages and opportunities for shaping and expressing our understandings and can powerfully engage learners and provide them with opportunities to share, develop and learn from what they know.

The arts, like sport, help develop capacities and attitudes central to learning and to life and uniquely help develop imagination and empathy. The arts are a rich context for learning and developing the skills that matter. Young people are required to listen, think critically, problem solve and make decisions, things that lie at the heart of all learning. The arts help young people develop self-confidence, self-discipline and self-esteem and come to understand what it means to achieve high standards and to work as part of a team. And of course the arts bring us joy and bring joy to learning and make schools happier and more vibrant and exciting places. What would your life be like without music and the arts?


There are so many of us who passionately believe that every child matters, and that those who are the hardest to reach and the hardest to teach matter more. Increasingly experience tells us that for young people generally, and for those harder to reach young people, the arts matter...
We know that at-risk teenagers or young adults with a history of intensive arts experiences show achievement levels closer to, and in some cases exceeding, the levels shown by the general population studied,” a team of scholars writes in a new National Endowment for the Arts Research Report. “These findings suggest that in-school or extracurricular programs offering deep arts involvement may help to narrow the gap in achievement levels. We need to create a curriculum and an offer for young people that is rich in the arts because all the evidence suggest that, like sport, the arts can create passionate learners with the skills and competencies they need to be successful and get work.

We need to understand that the arts, like teaching and learning, is co-operative and collaborative; a passionate enterprise involving teamwork, communication, listening and discipline. We all know that we must ensure that every child is a reader, writer and is numerate by the time they are eight and that we need to build challenge, enterprise, innovation and creativity into our learning programmes and we need to make young people love the hard stuff; maths, science, physics and languages, from the earliest age. But vitally, we need to build character, respect and self-discipline through everything we do with mentoring, coaching, volunteering and the world of work as part of an entitlement for all. This is where the arts and sport can make an enormous difference and listening to young people who are increasingly disengaged from traditional learning and schooling and simply bored with the offer we make in a digital world full of music, games and sport the arts really do matter... because "when young people are involved with the arts, something changes in their lives."