The Arts at Litcham School
The school aims to give students a broad and engaging range of experiences in the arts, including art, music, drama and dance. Students are given the opportunity to study art and music to GCSE level and drama is incorporated into the English GCSE course. Students also take part in exciting and challenging extra-curricular activities including trips and workshops. We believe the arts are an important part of young people’s personal and academic development and when their creative talent is awakened and nurtured, it produces motivated and confident learners.
Integral to the subject of ‘art’ is the idea of putting the child at the centre of learning. This has always been part of our philosophy.
As a department, we are trying to hold on to our own philosophy where creativity is at the heart of the subject. Creativity cannot be about passivity. Pupils and students must be active and they must engage. Creativity needs an atmosphere which is relaxed and stress free; one of concentration and discipline, where autonomy means that an individual acquires the skills and knowledge to enable him or her to make informed decisions and thus express ideas.
Autonomy means taking responsibility for oneself and one’s own learning. We try to encourage children to accept this.
In key stage 3 (KS3), students learn about a range of materials and techniques including painting, printing, sculpture and applied art. They look at artists from a range of times and cultures and they are encouraged to develop their own style and workbook organisation. Students develop skills to manipulate materials and processes of formal making, to think creatively to develop their ideas and to think critically about their own and others’ work.
In key stage 4 (KS4), students continue to build upon skills learnt in KS3 with the emphasis on even more personalised and in-depth work. In year 10, students are encouraged to experiment with a range of techniques and processes to produce independent work to a theme such as “beyond portrait” or “fragments”. In year 11 students, learn how to prepare for the GCSE exam by taking part in a trial exam, before embarking on the real exam in their final term.
Art is not just about what happens in the classroom. Students are encouraged to work independently from year 7 upwards, to produce exciting and imaginative work. We offer the Arts Award to students in KS3; this gives students the opportunity to work independently, in collaboration with Kings Lynn Art Centre and the West Acre Theatre Company. We offer an after-school club every week and the art room is open at lunch times for students to work.
We also encourage students to take part in competitions: recently students have won prizes in the Ward Hendry Photographic competition and the Norfolk Show art exhibition for schools.
Students have also exhibited art work publicly. Examples include a primary and secondary phase exhibition, as part of the Big Draw and Breckland Art trail in Litcham church on the theme of ‘rural life’; an Open Studios GCSE exhibition in school; an exhibition by pupils from key stages 1 – 3 at Swaffham Community Centre, to celebrate 25 years of the Litcham and Swaffham Hospice and an exhibition at King’s Lynn Art Centre, as part of the Silver Arts Award qualification.
We have links with local artists and organisations and organise trips to places such as King’s Lynn Art Centre, Tate Modern, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and Houghton Hall. We have taken part in workshops at The Curwen Printing Studio in Cambridge and The Salthouse studios, on the North Norfolk coast.
For the past three years there has been a partnership, originally between Norfolk Dance, Breckland Council and Litcham High School (as it was then), where out-of-school dance classes were offered initially to KS2, KS3 and KS4 students and adults. The type of dance offered is creative/contemporary, as Norfolk Dance were at the forefront in developing this genre within the county. The Garage, based in Norwich, has since picked up the existing dance classes and worked them into their rural programme. Both of the after school dance classes developed into youth dance groups – KS2 becoming “Stepping Stones” and KS3/4 becoming “Rural Pulse”. Both of these groups start each term with auditions for new members and follow a programme of 8-10 weeks working towards a performance. The groups have appeared so far at the Norwich Playhouse and the Lord Mayor’s Procession in Norwich. Further opportunities will be available this summer with another appearance at the Forum in Norwich and a five day holiday workshop working towards a performance at Breckland Council’s “Festival on the Farm”.
From September 2013, a class for KS1 pupils will also be running with a taster session available during the holidays.
Also from September 2013, dance is being introduced into our primary curriculum and for KS1 and KS2 pupils. One hour of dance will be taught to each key stage. The primary phase also has a well-established after school dance club.
At key stage 3 dance is taught as part of the girls’ PE curriculum. They experience different styles and are encouraged to choreograph short dances. Students work as soloists and in small groups. At this age they are encouraged to join the extra-curricular club. During key stage 4 girls experience a new style – Zumba. This is led by a visiting instructor and girls are encouraged to join her evening class. Dance can also be offered as one of the four sports for students taking GCSE PE. Students follow the syllabus and choreograph and perform a piece for their practical exam.
Keen dancers in KS3 and KS4 can get involved in the school production, which always involved a number of varied routines. In the summer term students work towards a performance in the end of term summer concert. We usually have a theme for examples this year is cheerleading and last year we did an Olympic themed dance.
We encourage boys to take part in dance and we will be offering a capoeira/dance group is to be launched for KS3 students. This plans to incorporate dance/capoeira moves led by our dance teacher Xenoula. The club is to instil self-control and discipline among the young people. There are also plans to for a street dance workshop with local dancers for KS3.
Drama is taught as part of English in key stages 3 and 4. In year 7, for example, pupils explore the poem Ozymandias through drama and have an introduction to Shakespeare based on drama. There are several units which use speaking and listening such as Chocolate Day where they make a presentation and Spy File where they are interrogated and have to negotiate an initiative testing task. In year 8 they design a performance of a poem by John Agard and a ‘This is your Life’ for Seamus Heaney. They are introduced to the Tempest through a variety of drama activities and concentrate on close work on Prospero and Ariel mainly through drama. They write director’s notes for these characters. They also visit the Globe Theatre. In year 9, as part of a unit linked with history, they write and perform recruitment speeches for WW1 and use drama to show the life of a soldier. They continue to work on the Tempest in more detail using drama to explore issues of slavery through the poem Limbo and the character of Caliban. They are introduced to Macbeth through drama exploring the early scenes for the character of Macbeth, Banquo and ideas about the witches.
In years 10 and 11 role play is currently a strand in GCSE English. Students explore their set Shakespeare play(s) with drama and we arrange a visit from a theatre group – usually Box Clever. Drama is used to develop understanding of characters and themes in novels and poetry studied for GCSE as well as being assessed for the speaking and listening mark.
The music curriculum for KS3 focuses on understanding through doing. Students compose and perform in a range of styles and traditions including folk, blues, jazz, film and programmatic music, Caribbean, African, minimalism, classical and others. They are given regular opportunities to use a range of instruments or to work with ICT using software such as Sibelius, Cubase and Dance Ejay. Often they are given a choice of how they work, allowing them to focus on their most effective learning style. KS4 continues the same core skills but is based on the Pearson Education GCSE music curriculum.
Out of the classroom we offer instrument lessons on woodwind, brass, strings, percussion and drum kit, singing, piano and guitar. Over 100 students learn an instrument in school, in addition to those having lessons out-of-school. We also run a main wind band and a junior wind band, a string ensemble, singing groups and a jazz band. These are open and available to all students.
Our concerts include music from all of these groups along with solo performances. They also feature dance performances and displays of art work. We work closely with Norfolk Music service to put on these performances. Two of our ensembles are organised by members of their staff.
An annual music talent show involves performances by pupils and students of all year groups from 5 – 11. They are expected to prepare their performances independently, without help from teachers. They make all the choices about, and take responsibility, for their performances. The talent show always runs at full capacity of fifty performances, involving around 80 students.
Each year we put on a drama and music production. These productions usually involve up to 80 students, mostly in the cast, but also the dancers, the orchestra, technical team and backstage crew. Recent productions include, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’, Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Peter Pan’. Again, our productions are open to all students.
Trips we have run include to the BBC Music Mix concerts with the BBC Concert Orchestra and to theatre productions, both musical and non-musical.
We have links with the West Norfolk Jubilee Youth Orchestra and wind band; a number of our students have been or are current members. We also have links with Fakenham and Dereham youth operatic societies with several of our students appearing in their productions.