RAPS: The next phase

The RAPS project has moved into a new phase. We are now analysing the interviews and other data gathered from our schools over the past two years.

Keen readers will know that from the 78 respondents to our Jisc ‘initial mapping of arts rich schools’ survey, we selected 40 primaries. These school represented a diversity of sizes, from just over 50 pupils to well over 700, and types – state schools, free schools, faith schools, through schools, and schools in academies large and small.

We were also keen to select a spread of locations in England. Our 40 schools were in cities, towns, villages, rural and seaside locations that ranged from Newlyn to Newcastle; from Liverpool to Lowestoft; from Bradford to Birmingham, and from London to Leicester.

In 2021-2022, we conducted whole-day visits to our 40 schools. We had guided tours of art rooms, arts spaces and art works, sometimes by the children. We looked at sketchbooks, installations, murals, outdoor arts spaces, legacy pieces, artworks that were Grade II listed, artworks loaned from galleries, exhibitions, festivals, arts assemblies, rehearsals, performances and more.

We interviewed staff – head teachers, arts leads, teachers of music, dance and drama, specialist external arts teachers, and class teachers who taught art. We learned about the arts that are done in the school, as well as how and why they do their arts-richness. We also interviewed focus groups of students from Years 4 to 6, students who were members of Art Clubs of all kinds, students who were Arts Councillors/Ambassadors/Stars, and students who attended arts-related extra-curricular clubs.

In the first half of this current school year, we selected 20 of our original 40 arts-rich schools to revisit. This time, we dug deeper, asking heads and arts staff exactly how they built and maintained their arts-richness, as well as the challenges and opportunities that have come with the Covid pandemic, rising energy bills, academisation, changes of key staff, and a host of other circumstances.

Our sincere thanks go out to all of the schools who hosted us on these 60 day-long visits. Your insights, knowledge and opinions are essential for our project and the picture we are starting to build about arts-rich primary schools. We have loved hearing from your students about the arts they do at school, at home and elsewhere.

We have emersed ourselves in arts and music rooms, dance and drama studios, and specialist spaces that house resident artists, kilns, and film-making and photographic equipment. We have been moved by the rehearsals and performances of dance, music, drama, and choral signing. We very much appreciate you arranging those and for allowing us access to all of your creative work.

We have now moved into our next phase which involves analysing the transcriptions of the student and staff interviews, coding and categorising them for themes. This will take us into the Spring.

Other aspects of the project have taken place alongside the survey, the visits and the analysis of the interviews. We have identified ‘comparator’ schools – schools that are similar in size, achievement, pupil premium, SEND and other markers to our arts rich schools but were not initially recommended to us for their arts-richness. We have also presented our work to the University of Sydney on two occasions. 

In summary: 

  • 60 whole-day visits to 40 arts-rich primary schools in England
  • 240 staff interviews 
  • Over 200 focus group interviews with well over 1000 children
  • The vast majority of the visits done on public transport (train, bike, one bus).
  • 12,000 miles of travel, if we had visited them one by one back and forth from Nottingham = more than the distance from Nottingham to Sydney!
  • Six schools in London
  • Four in Birmingham
  • Two each in Newcastle, Plymouth, Bradford, Ipswich, Liverpool, the Kent coast (Margate and Ramsgate) and the Cornwall peninsular (Newlyn and Nancledra).

You can catch up on our previous blog posts about each of the forty RAPS schools to get a sense of the diversity of their arts-richness.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Liam Maloy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Liam Maloy

Senior Research Fellow in the School of Education, Uni of Nottm with Prof Pat Thomson on the Researching Arts in Primary Schools (RAPS) project looking at arts-rich schools in England. Research interests include arts education, and issues of pedagogy in music and media made for children and families. Extensive experience as a Lecturer in Popular Music, media and culture at a various universities and FE colleges. His book 'Spinning the Child: Musical Constructions of Childhood through Records, Radio and Television' (Routledge 2020) looks at how recorded music contributes to constructions of childhood in specific socio-historical settings. He performs music for children and families with his band Johnny and the Raindrops.

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