What is an arts rich primary school?


We have now begun the crucial process of selecting arts rich primary schools. We’ve made an initial list form various awards and networks that we know about. We are speaking with the youth arts bridge organisations next week and we know that they will add to our beginning list, and also help us to refine it. These organisations have very good knowledge of schools that are active in arts education.

As part of the selection and recruitment process, we have thought more about what arts richness might mean in the primary sector. We expect our research to test out these initial selection criteria and also to allow us to go much deeper.

Here is the information we sent to the youth arts bridge organisations ahead of our meeting.

We are looking for nominations for a long list from which we will select 20 arts rich schools. Schools will be selected to ensure a balance of location, size, sector, population. We are primarily interested in state schools that serve both ordinary and disadvantaged communities. We are considering the possibility of focusing on some locations, but also do not want to miss any interesting outliers. We want to avoid “over-researched” schools.

These are the criteria we are working with at the moment. Individual schools may not meet all of these criteria, and we are looking for different combinations. We would like to construct a sample that allows us to focus on a mix of art forms. 

  1. The arts are part of the school identity and school culture. They are integral to who they are and what they do each day. The schools have a long history of arts and cultural education. The arts are not used simply for promotion.
  2. Resources are allocated to the arts and material space is made for them. There is visible “kit”.
  3. There is a broad and balanced curriculum in which the arts are taken seriously – the arts are integral to the curriculum on offer to all children. There is regular and separate teaching of “arts subjects” – there is a curriculum plan which shows the sequential development of theory and practice (knowledge and skills). Children understand the arts to be important. The school may specialise in one arts subject, but does not ignore the others.
  4. There is a coherent and explicit philosophy for teaching the arts which underpins the selection and nature of key concepts and skills.
  5. The school has productive partnerships with arts organisations, including galleries and museums, local artists, and arts in the parent community and neighbourhood. The school is permeable, acts as a hub.
  6. The school is connected to local, national and/or international networks which bring arts resources, conversations and practices – post pandemic these may be strongly geared to the digital.
  7. The school has specialist staff or consistent access to arts expertise (bought in, artists in residence).
  8. There is a strong arts lead with time and resources. Staff, including the lead, have continuing PD in the arts.
  9. There are extra-curricular arts activities.
  10. The arts are included in work and careers focused education and activities.

9 thoughts on “What is an arts rich primary school?

  1. Gomersal Primary School in West Yorkshire puts the Arts at the heart of its broad and balanced curriculum. We have specialist Arts teachers and dedicated arts studios in school. Our Arts Council children have been prolific over the last few years, including trips to Parliament, making links with arts organisations and running CPD for other schools. For more information please contact us.


  2. Hi, my name is Jacqui Spinks and I am the Headteacher at St Alphege Infant School in Whitstable, Kent. We would be keen to be involved in this research project. We are a Platinum Artsmark School and have a rich and established arts curriculum within the school. The arts are used to drive all subjects and there is real strength of arts leadership at the school. We have long standing and established links with many arts organisations and I regularly lead support and training for other schools. I have worked alongside the arts council to lead on the Creative Steps program this year, enabling other schools to focus on the strategic direction of their arts offer. All arts subjects carry equal weighting and we have particular strength in music and visual and performing arts. I feel we more than meet all of the criteria laid out above!


  3. Pingback: Greenside Primary: It’s time for your close-up! | Researching the Arts in Primary Schools

    • Thankyou for this. We hope we will be able to say a lot about purposes,philosophies and ethos. (We can already see that all the schools we visit combine a commitment to the arts with other priorities. ) We are very interested in this.


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