About This Case Study:
In March 2020, plans were well advanced for The City Classroom's upcoming Summit for Children and Young People. 100 Year 5 pupils were going to be spending a day at De Montfort University's The Gallery, working with artists, designing and making large-scale inventions that would reflect their ideas as to what a Future City might look like. And then the Covid pandemic took hold, lockdown was imposed and the Summit was initially postponed until the autumn, and then of course cancelled, along with the majority of 'normal' City Classroom activity, as well as much of the activity of our artistic and cultural members.
Early on in the first lockdown we made a decision to remain open for business and set about sharing members' digital content to schools. It was clear the impact on children and young people was going to be considerable, and The City Classroom was very fortunate to receive funding from the Pathways Programme to develop and deliver a Recovery Programme for Leicester/shire's schools. Pathways is the Uni Connect Outreach Hub funded by the Office for Students and delivered in collaboration by the University of Leicester, De Montfort University, Loughborough University and Leicester College.
At the initial consultation meeting in the summer term, we were joined by 13 senior teachers from across the City and County, from Secondary, Primary and SEND schools to discuss exactly what would help them as they welcomed their children back to school after, for some, over five months of being out of the classroom. Unsurprisingly, supporting wellbeing and resilience were high on people's lists.
To this end, we devised a programme with three strands. The first was a series of three CPD sessions, all focusing on Wellbeing, but tailored for Primary, Secondary and SEND/Vulnerable children and young people. These 90-minute sessions were scheduled to take place during the first two days of INSET of the autumn term.
Jo Stockdale, a trainer and consultant from Well Within Reach and a passionate advocate for young people's social and emotional competencies, delivered the sessions via Zoom. Each session contained a mix of the science behind the workings of the developing brain and practical strategies for supporting children and young people's wellbeing. The overriding message was that in order for children to learn well, they must first 'be well'. Because these sessions were digital, we were able to share recordings after the events to those who wanted to attend but were unavailable. 115 City Classroom Members and teachers from schools engaged in the Pathways Programme accessed these CPD sessions. The feedback was incredibly positive and included comments like:
"I just wanted to say a huge thank you. [This session] was just what we needed to see the situation in a more positive light."
"Thank you for some really useful content and suggestions. I will be sharing with staff and using in our curriculum."
In our continued efforts to support teachers during the early days of the autumn term, and to keep the conversation going about what they needed, for the second strand of this programme, we devised a series of two sandpits. Sandpits are interactive workshops involving a multidisciplinary mix of participants and researchers to drive lateral thinking and radical approaches to address current challenges.
The first sandpit took place on Tuesday 15th September, 4-5.30pm and its scope was to explore resilience and how the arts and cultural sector can support resilience with individuals; primarily teachers and children. 37 teachers, academics, artists and organisations joined us, via Zoom, to listen to three guest speakers offer their thoughts around resilience.
Professor John Maltby (University of Leicester) shared with us his Resilience Model, which framed subsequent discussions; Andria Zafirakou, Associate Deputy Head and Art Teacher, Alperton Community School, Brent spoke about 'Why do we teach? Understanding your Value', and Sameena Khan (City Classroom Member artist) spoke about 'Supporting resilience through creativity/artistic practice'.
After the guest speakers, we were treated to a communal drawing activity, led by Andria, after which participants joined one of four breakout groups to reflect on what they'd heard, and to discuss their own challenges, and how we might support teacher, pupil and whole school resilience going forward.
The second Sandpit followed a similar format to the first, but following feedback, we broadened the discussion to look at how we could support the resilience of the whole school community - pupils, teachers and families. We were joined again by Professor John Maltby; by Louise Katerega, City Classroom artist shared who shared her thoughts on this subject as a parent; and Kathryn Sugars, Headteacher at Foley Primary School, Kidderminster who shared her successful approach to working with families and the community during the first lockdown. 24 participants including teachers, academics, artists and organisations joined us for 90 minutes of the most engaging and thought-provoking discussion.
Artist – School Peer Mentoring Programme
The third strand of the programme was loosely referred to as 'micro-commissions'. This was essentially an opportunity for us to put into action some of the ideas that came out of the rest of the programme, so at the beginning, we had no idea what these would be.
Following the discussions and feedback from the Sandpits, we looked to pilot the development of an Artist – School Peer Mentoring Programme, which would seek to explore how artists can work with teachers and schools to support them find creative solutions to the numerous challenges faced by schools, and particularly in this Covid-19 era.
5 such partnerships have been set up. Schools can access 10 hours of an artist's time, with the artist becoming part of the school community, bringing a fresh, different perspective/voice to troubleshoot/deal with the challenges that occur. This work is due to be completed by July 2021.
And now, we take a breath, and turn our attention to the summer, a summer of reconnection. The City Classroom remains, as it has done throughout the pandemic, open for business.
City Classroom Programme Coordinator