What is the Specialist School Programme?
Nigel Morgan is a recently appointed governor of The Cathedral School. On behalf of the working party set up by Headteacher Simon Flowers he has recently prepared a resume of the school’s bid for Specialist School Status: as a guide for students, teachers, governors, parents and friends of the school. On these web pages you can read his short introduction to the resume – and then you can download the whole document as a .PDF.
The Specialist Schools Programme helps schools, in partnership with private sector sponsors and supported by additional Government funding, to establish distinctive identities through their chosen specialisms and achieve their targets to raise standards. Specialist schools have a special focus on their chosen subject area but must meet the National Curriculum requirements and deliver a broad and balanced education to all pupils.
The programme promotes school improvement by providing opportunities for schools to work to their strengths, enabling them to deliver effective teaching and learning in their area of expertise, as well as across the curriculum, and to drive innovation. Schools applying for the programme have to make a thorough Audit of their progress to date and set out plans and targets for improvement in their specialist subject as well as defining whole school targets.
Becoming a Specialist School also requires a detailed Community Audit. This means looking hard at the local community: of education, of business and commerce, and those who engage in the chosen specialism – in our case a thriving community of professional and voluntary arts activity. Specialist schools work with named partner schools for the benefit of pupils beyond their own school boundaries and with other groups of people in the wider community. This ensures that the programme has an impact by helping to create a diverse network of secondary provision through the sharing of good practice and expertise. The city of Wakefield now has four schools with specialist status: but none yet specializing in the Performing Arts.
In order to help them develop their specialism, specialist schools receive the following additional funding from the Government and in our case the Local Authoirty: £100,000 plus for a Capital Project to enhance the facilities in the subjects related to the school’s specialism; and recurrent funding of around £123 per pupil per year for four years, to implement their specialist school development plan. In addition to the capital grant the school itself must raise £50,000 in un-conditional sponsorship towards the capital project.
Why has Cathedral School chosen the Performing Arts as their Specialism?
Although we could easily have chosen Sport or the Visual Arts, the Leadership Team felt that Performing Arts offered the most potential in raising standards of achievement and the quality of learning across the whole school and its curriculum. Our school has always promoted inclusivity: we believe there is something for everyone in the different artistic forms and we already encourage participation in a wide variety of artistic activity for all students.
The performing arts has always been as much about production as performance. As our Rock Challenge team continue to demonstrate, for every performer on stage there is a host of people behind the scenes engaged in design, technology, communications, business and promotion. Many of the skills found in arts practice are highly transferable: students with arts experience are recognized as being responsible disciplined, motivated and able to work in a team. Wakefield has a national reputation in the arts promoting six arts organizations, four of the six enjoying national status and recognition. The arts is now a major industry in the UK: its earnings represent the country’s second largest invisible export (after insurance).