At Real Ideas Organsiation, we’re thrilled to be a part of Arts Award. We love nothing more than hearing all about young people discovering their 21st century skills. To celebrate 15 years’ of Art Award is a huge success. 

 Below you’ll find a blog from Bodmin College, who have been part of Arts Award from the very beginning. 

15 years centre stories

Looking ahead to our celebration of Arts Award’s 15th anniversary later this year, we are delighted to  launch a special series of posts looking at the delivery of centres who have fully embedded Arts Award into their offer for young people. 

First off, we hear from Bodmin College who have been running Arts Award from the very start! 15-year-adviser and Head of Performing Arts: Drama, Alison Dures, tells us about the innovative model she has established whereby alumni return to inspire students and Gold achievers support Bronze and Silver participants.

We were lucky enough to be part of the pilot programme for Arts Award in Cornwall 15 years ago, so we have seen the Award develop and have not looked back since! It honestly has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career.

Our college is a large 11-19 secondary academy with a substantial 6th form and ARB unit (Area Resource Base: Some SEND students in Cornwall attend an ARB for their education) offering a varied curriculum from Key Stage 3 through to GCSE and A-Level, together with a foundation degree level (in digital media and creative writing).  We offer a vast array of super-curricular opportunities in every subject area and pride ourselves in ‘putting the learner first’,  which is key Arts Award practice.

We deliver Arts award as an extra-curricular activity. Bronze and Silver Awards are offered to all students from years 7-13 and Gold from years 10 upwards. We meet weekly after school and have a weekly timetabled session for 6th form Gold Award students. Students can specialise in one or more art forms. Every student is treated individually, including how they present their portfolios; from scrapbooks to digital portfolios to shoe boxes, murals and even a pop-up inside a briefcase- we’ve seen it all! We offer moderation every July and (under normal circumstances) are open to other centres joining us.

Part of our Arts Award journeys are delivered through involvement in whole school projects like annual college productions by working on stage or behind the scenes in a number of roles. West End Artists rehearse with us and they offer Arts Award students ‘question and answer’ sessions and invaluable advice on current practice.

We frequently take part in projects with an outside agency or practitioner. A year ago, we took part in ‘The Trench’, a huge World War 1 installation, working with professional directors, crew, actors and the local community. It spanned three months, rehearsing at weekends and it taught our participating students how to be part of a huge production team. Through projects, students learn about preparation, performance and self-review and can interview professionals as part of the process.

As much as possible, I would advise partnering with practitioners and agencies in the professional sector and grabbing every opportunity. I know how life-changing some of these experiences can be for our young artists.

I network and teach the students to do the same – we have managed to reap countless benefits by offering rehearsal space to artists in return for free workshops. One of the best things we have done is for the Drama and English departments to join the Royal Shakespeare Company Associate Schools scheme which offers Continuing Professional Development for staff and performance opportunities for young people across Cornwall. 

Older students cascade skills to the younger students; a Gold Student may direct younger students in their projects and in turn, the younger ones gain experience while completing their Part A of Bronze Award.

We regularly welcome back Arts Award alumni to talk, run workshops and give advice. Over the years we have built up a ‘bank’ of artists, who have excelled in their field. Examples are former students Ross Green, RADA, RSC, who comes back to run audition classes and Ronnie Bartlett, who runs Future Youth Dance in the college for the community. It is aspirational for our students to see that they can go onto achieve and be at the top of the game in their art form.

We are also in close contact with professional choreographer and director, Tom Jackson Greaves who came back to sprinkle some magic on our rehearsal process of ‘Mary Poppins’ (take a look at the video our local Bridge organisation RIO filmed at the school when Tom was working with us).

Arts Award has helped to shaped Tom’s career. He reviewed Matthew Bourne at 14, little knowing he would be working with him at the age of 17. Tom was fast-tracked through A-Level dance by age 16 then got into London Contemporary Dance School where he was spotted by Matthew Bourne and invited to company class.

He didn’t look back and has worked with a plethora of directors and choreographers in his career to date. His story brings everything into perspective for our students; that anything is possible if you work hard and are given the tools – such as Arts Award – to develop into the artist you dream of becoming.