At the beginning of this academic year I really felt like I needed something inspirational to happen. As an artist and a teacher I find it is the projects which I can apply to my own work that get me – and subsequently the students ,most fired up. In my desperate search for something ‘big’ to happen in 2016, I stumbled upon a very old TES link about teaching sabbaticals. I was very surprised to hear back from Deborah the secretary at the Goldsmiths Company Grant for Teachers and she informed me that the deadline was early December 2015. Yes!! I still had time since it was only mid November. I applied and got shortlisted for an interview and was invited to the beautiful Goldsmiths Hall on the 10 th March,2016.
This is what I proposed in my application:
I see myself as having two roles one as a teacher and the other as a practising artist. My artistic practise outside of school has led me to work with artists and musicians as a music/tour photographer and also collaborating on various album art designs. Working in the world of the arts gives my teaching a more meaningful application for the pupils and working with artists outside the classroom consolidates my practise and enhances my teaching. This sabbatical will give me the experience to incorporate a practical ‘arts career’ based module into the Photography A’ Level syllabus and will also allow time to organise exhibitions, workshops and performances as a collaboration between pupils and practising artists and professional’s. I have made contacts with agencies such as Studio 3 arts and Barking and Dagenham College and am currently in discussion with the band about workshops which will incorporate music, lighting and photography to give students hands on confidence and knowledge about careers in the Arts that support them in their applications for further and higher education.
I have been very lucky to be given the opportunity to fulfill a teenage dream of going on tour, either as a photographer or as a crew member with a band. I met Hannah Miller of band ‘Moulettes‘ in July 2014 when my good friend Raevennan Husbandes was playing at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Hannah was on the look out for a guitarist and asked Raevennan if she would be up for a little “Moulventure” . The band have already played at both the Cambridge Folk and Glastonbury festivals, to name a few. During the summer 2015, Hannah asked me to help her out with the album artwork for their upcoming release #preternatural. We had such a hoot coming up with ideas and experimenting with elements of painting, photography and digital collage.
On the first evening of their UK Winter tour, Ollie Austin approached me and asked if I would be up for coming on tour with them to Canada Summer 2016. I almost hit the roof with excitement. Before I could agree on anything 100% , I decided to apply for the Goldsmiths teaching sabbatical. In my application I had to describe how the project might tie into my teaching on my return. My role on this occasion would be tour photographer and lighting engineer so it made sense to create a range of career based workshops / projects for the kids.
Having taught as an art teacher in both independent and comprehensive schools for the last 13 years I have seen the Creative Arts thrive and more recently struggle against government cuts, high tuition fees and the austerity crisis as well as the introduction of the Ebacc GCSE. These cuts have also impeded upon teachers with little or no money being available for CPD training. These cuts have also affected student choice at GCSE in the Arts within our school, as they are perceived as ‘soft’ subjects by Russell Group universities and therefore as having no value in the economy. This is why the project means a lot to myself, the band and my students.
According to Arts Council England, Barking and Dagenham has one of the lowest arts participation rates in the country. 31% of residents attend or participate in arts compared to 44% nationally and 48% in London. 38% visit museums and galleries compared to 52% nationally and 59% in London. Barking and Dagenham has the lowest number of creative industry businesses of all London boroughs. And thus it is vital that teachers have relevant CPD that develops links with external agencies that provide signposts to employment and career pathways in the Creative Industries. The demographic of my school has also changed with a predominantly Muslim cohort and it is vital to have a strong case to argue for the uptake of the Arts at GCSE and to put an end to the misinformation that our young adults are receiving from the government and the media.
UPDATE: Canada is GO!!! the Goldsmith company wrote to me on my mum’s birthday to let me know that I had been successful and that I would be awarded £3000 to carry out the project and £2000 for cover supply which means I will be able to go down to 4 days a week between Jan- April 2017 to organise workshops, exhibitions and do my own Artistic practise. Thank-you Goldsmiths Company, this truly is a dream come true.
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