We visited Bourne Westfield, an Arts Mark Platinum school in the small historical market town of Bourne, Linconshire, during their Art Week.
Needless to say, it was a lively colourful day with an abundance of visual arts, music and performing arts.
This year, the Art Week had a geography theme – specifically India. Staff were wearing saris. The students were getting excited about dressing in bright clothes and throwing coloured powder over each other.
Two dancers were visiting to train each year group on a Bollywood dance. The following day, the students combined to perform a coordinated dance in front of the parents, who were also there to enjoy the many other arts activities. The students had also participated in beatboxing workshops and Maypole dancing during Arts Week.
The school is linked to the Sajoni school in India. Three staff visited Bourne from India for three weeks before Covid. From our interviews with students and staff, we learned about the nature and value of this partnership. As well as being exposed to the Indian regional artwork that was gifted to the school, Bourne Westfield children and staff were taught Tamil and had yoga workshops. Year 6 teacher and oracy lead Katie Knott describes it as ‘such a spiritual time. They bought such calm and wisdom into school’. A return visit to India fell foul of Covid restrictions. However, the students told us how they meet with the Sajoni students on Teams, and exchange bits of school uniform, art works and other items.
Students across the school had produced a range of art works for the week including these kites, elephants and tie-dye t-shirts:
Year 5 had created dresses out of recycled items (crisp packets, newspaper, bottle tops, etc). The project was inspired by a study of local history, cultural and creative heritage, and the fact that ‘godfather of haute couture’ Charles Worth was born at Wake house in Bourne.
The extensive planning work and sketches were also on display, evidence of an extended project that looked at the fashion industry and Bourne’s influential role in it.
Also on display during Art Week was this large quilt inspired by Charles Worth’s famous peacock dress. Each student had made a felt piece which had been sewn together:
We learned how Bourne Westfield has been arts rich (and specifically music rich) for many years.
We met members of the school’s Rock Band. Music lead and Arts supervisor Becky Beavis (Degree in Music; background as an orchestral musician) told us how, a few years ago, she instigated the project to inspire some Year 6 boys who were struggling in other subjects but showed an interest in music.
‘For those boys’, Becky explained, ‘it was a cool thing that they wanted to do. It gave them a positive image.’ Over time, Becky worked with the boys to build their instrumental skills (drums, bass, guitars) and repertoire. Commitment to lunchtime rehearsals was insisted upon. The Band then started to perform in community settings.
Becky talked about the transformation she saw in the boys:
‘These boys were a group who were really struggling to engage with school on every level and desperately needed something to give them an identity and some self-belief. The first time I put them on a big stage, they were terrified. To see them in that position of vulnerability was quite a moment for them. But they came off the stage saying, “Can we do it again?”. And they loved it and that became their identity in school.’
When we asked a Year 6 focus group to tell us about some of the creative things that they do at school, the Rock Band was the first thing they mentioned. They mentioned that the band had performed alongside bands from other schools at the Old Town hall two days before. We spoke directly to the (now mixed-gender) six-piece Rock Band who told us about their specially designed jackets and how they have performed alongside secondary school students at external gigs. Other students attested to the band’s popularity around the school – ‘Everybody really likes them. They will listen to them, and they will sing loads of their songs.’
As well as the Rock Band, Bourne Westfield also has clubs for the Young Voices choir who had performed at Sheffield Arena, and Bucket Drumming which had been developed as an ingenious wipe-clean Covid-defying way to make music and teach rhythm. Years 3 and 4 had recently switched from recorder to ukuleles for the same reason. Members of the Bucket Drumming club told us about the three sizes of drum (soprano, alto and bass), performing ‘Seven Nation Army’ alongside the Rock Band to 100 people in a secondary school in Boston, and how physical it is (‘it really hurts your arms!)’. One of the players told us that they had broken their bin during an out-of-school performance and had valiantly kept on playing!
Assistant head teacher Gillian Goodwin also talked about the transformational power of the arts:
‘We’ve seen it work for lots of different children’ she explained. ‘I’ve just gone down to see a little girl who has major neurological difficulties and has just spent the whole week doing Bollywood dancing. She’s just in her element!’.
Like Becky’s Rock Band lads, Gillian explained how this girl had ‘found her thing’.
Finally, Becky talked us through the many partners with which the school works – the Lincolnshire Music Service, Shakespeare for Schools, the Royal Opera House, Music for Youth and the Mighty Creatives – and explained the importance of these to Bourne Westfield:
‘The world is bigger than just here. And that’s so important particularly when you’re a rural school. I don’t want these children’s minds, cultural visions, creative aptitude and passion to be limited by the opportunities within the area that they live in. So it’s really important that they learn that what we do links to a wider thing.’
Long may Bourne Westfield reach out, connect and inspire through the arts!
RAPS would like to thank Music lead and Arts supervisor Becky Beavis for her time, insights and organisation of the day; Assistant head teacher Gillian Goodwin; Year 6 and oracy lead Katie Knott; and all of the many students who contributed to our focus group interviews – the Arts Ambassadors, the members of the Young Voices choir, the Rock Band and the Bucket Drumming club, and the students from Years 4, 5 and 6.
You may also be interested in reading our Art, Craft and Design Rapid Evidence Review – a survey of published scholarly literature on art, craft and design in education.