Iffley Academy are celebrating after receiving a prestigious Artsmark Platinum Award in recognition of the school’s outstanding provision and contribution to arts education. This is the highest arts award afforded to schools by the Arts Council and Iffley Academy is only one of six schools in the country in 2021 to receive a Platinum Award.
The Academy has worked in close partnership with Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) since 2016 to deliver the school’s arts and culture programme. In order to achieve their Artsmark Award, Iffley Academy had to embed their arts and culture provision across their entire curriculum. They delivered a programme of activities across the whole school that ranged from renaming each key stage group after different galleries (The Tate, Louvre, Guggenheim and MCA) to involving students in the design of the new school build Art Plan.
Iffley Academy is a community special academy for children and young people up to the age of 18 with complex special educational needs and disabilities. Judged to be Outstanding by Ofsted in February 2019, the Academy was designated as a teaching school in 2018 and is part of an aspirational Multi Academy Trust – The Gallery Trust, a community of special schools dedicated to providing outstanding education and support for young people with special needs and disabilities.
Iffley Academy worked closely with Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) to support their Artsmark Award achievement. Students were able to visit GLAM venues, often at times when public access was restricted, where they were given hands-on experience of GLAM’s collections. GLAM also co-curated project work with teaching staff at the school for the students’ Arts Award qualifications, provided artist-led workshops, developed SEND appropriate careers events as well as providing access to curators and collections care staff across GLAM.
The pioneering nature of their collaborative partnership has already been recognised by the Museum + Heritage Awards when it was awarded runner-up for Partnership of the Year in 2020. Durham Commission on Creativity and Education also cited the partnership as a best practice case study in its October 2019 report.
It is widely evidenced that participation in structured arts activities boosts children's cognitive ability, supports their emotional and physical wellbeing, and increases their employability. However, children with SEND are statistically least likely to take part in creative experiences outside school as families can be deterred by emotional, medical and logistical challenges and by the perception that cultural venues may not be accessible and welcoming.
The dedication of the school's students and staff will inevitably lead to even more impressive, ambitious future projects, including establishing a museum case at the school itself, which will be co-curated by GLAM staff in collaboration with students and teachers, project work around the current Meat the Future exhibition at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and an ambitious and immersive project working with the Bodleian Libraries’ exhibition North Sea Crossings in collaboration with local arts organisation Flash of Splendour.
The Artsmark assessor commended Iffley Academy and said: “The authentic partnership between Iffley Academy and Oxford University GLAM (Gardens, Libraries and Museums) linking the extremely specific and individual needs of students, curriculum design and expectations and the Oxford University Museums programme of events is enabling Iffley Academy students to access new and exciting learning opportunities and particularly new and exciting spaces such as gardens.”
Miranda Millward, Arts Engagement Officer, Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums said: “It has been an honour to be able to develop the Iffley Academy partnership with my team of Learning Officers at GLAM. We really enjoy working with Iffley Academy staff and students and GLAM benefits greatly from the collaboration. The Platinum Award is a testament to the journey we have all been on together over the past few years. It is a privilege to work with a school community that embraces creative learning.”