Innovative curriculum changes and school-wide immersive arts experiences have been the key to Grange Academy, Kempston receiving the news that they have achieved the Artsmark Gold Award.
Artsmark is the only creative quality standard for schools and education settings, that supports, develops and celebrates their commitment to arts and cultural education.
Grange Academy, a special community academy for pupils aged 5-18 with a wide range of ability levels, including moderate learning difficulties and autism, believed that the arts could have a vital role to play in the educational and personal development of their pupils and their community.
The award praised the school for increasing the confidence of their pupils through the arts and said they’d “increased their social connectivity, with the effect of improving their communication skills, physical development, mental health and well-being.”
Throughout the projects, Grange discovered Bedford’s wonderful arts and cultural community and worked collaboratively with Bedford University as well as the Philharmonia Orchestra, Bedford Corn Exchange and Primary Music Network in order to help their students access the arts.
Kayte Judge, of the Culture Challenge said, “I’m absolutely delighted that Grange Academy were awarded a well-deserved gold.
“They really made full use of the twinning programme and the Culture Challenge and I am delighted that this, along with all your other hard work and innovations, has been recognised.”
Community artist Anne-Marie Abbate, who helped the school develop their Artsmark plan and worked on several impactful projects including mosaics and a sensory garden, said, “I feel so privileged to have worked with the Grange Academy’s students and committed staff on so many projects.”
The whole school worked together for their biggest project – UBUNTU – the school sensory garden, named after a South African quote made famous by Desmond Tutu meaning we are who we are because of who we all are; I am human because I belong and I participate.
Students participated in design competitions for murals in collaboration with graffiti and digital artists, horticulture students shopped for and planted plants the school had collectively chosen for their various sense-stimulating properties, whilst DT and art students created hedgehog hotels, painted rocks, made tyre-filled board games, and signposts.
Donations of plants, tiles, gardening equipment and tree stumps came from the local community and the Rotary Club assisted in fence building and path making.
The grand opening was in July 2019 and all students enjoyed celebrating with a theatrical sensory experience from Collar and Cuffs with special guest Pat dog.
One year 4 pupil said, “Raining drops! Raining seeds. And a doggy, he did tricks. (the experience) Sounded like a real angel singing.”
Alongside Grange’s big sensory garden project students took part in whole raft of targeted experiences including: dancing across the school with Hot House Dance, students visiting museums and galleries, workshops to form a Digital Music Super Group who performed at the Head Teacher’s Conference and the Corn Exchange with some leading musicians, Christmas performances, Cheer and Choir Club start-ups, art galleries showcasing their students’ work, immersive story tellers, into Film, orchestra studies across primary with visiting members of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Gigs4Kids managed to squeeze one interactive concert just before lockdown plus there was an M&M theatre visit.
“The experiences gave pupils a topic to want to talk about for days,” said Clare Breare, Grange Academy’s Teaching, Learning and Intervention Lead.
Head Teacher Catherine Assink thanked everyone involved, “for giving our pupils wonderful experiences and opportunities that they may never have had.”
This is by no means the end of Grange’s journey; it is just a snapshot of an ongoing cycle.
Grange’s Arts and Culture Lead, Anna Friggens said, “I’m just so proud that we were recognised for Gold – jumped right past Silver!
“The impact on our students so far has been tremendously positive and our efforts have been worthwhile. We have so much going on and so many ideas in the pipeline.”
Grange is now an ArtsAward Discover & Explore centre, and is looking forward to giving students further qualifications in many meaningful ways. They have exciting plans linking to the environment for the coming years and are continuing to add to their sensory garden, even while in lockdown.