Two primary aged boys create shapes out of clay

The Importance of Being an Expert

We are now entering the last few phases of the OAT Liberty Chain project, the pupils have been on their trips, are developing their portfolios for Arts Awards and most importantly have chosen, met and are working with their Artists. Working with Sampad to recruit and manage the artists, has allowed us access to a variety of arts and creative talents such as; textiles, pottery, sound installation, architecture and performance.

It is irrefutable, Teachers are absolutely fantastic at what they do, but bringing an external practitioner into the learning environment creates a new energy and engagement for learning. They can play a key role in challenging perceptions and pushing boundaries of both staff and pupils, creating situations where exploration, stretch and risk taking are encouraged and celebrated. The practitioner also has the luxury of relative freedom whilst in the school setting. They are not constrained by school politics, league tables, or attainment scores and in turn they can generate new  encounters for participants from their privileged position within the classroom.

The gains for pupils and young people are clear, when part of a continued relationship or long-term activity there are mutual and often unreported advantages for both teachers and practitioners too. Particularly the chance to share and transfer skills, aiding each other’s continual professional development; from classroom management and understanding school politics and constraints, to creative thinking and broadening experiences.  Projects which engage external practitioners and in our case Artists, enable situations for practical, long term and impactful learning for all participants.

It is a critical element of the Liberty chain project, through which we have established the opportunity for both staff and pupils to benefit from the experience and skills of the artistic experts. Schools each have 4 sessions with their artists to develop their ideas and artforms, the artists act as critical friends, encouraging and supporting pupils to reflect on and integrate British values to expand their ideas and final art pieces, whilst working with the teachers to push their perceptions and limits.  The Artists are the cheerleaders as well as the challengers and through the sessions we hope they assist the groups to create artistic pieces that are beyond their initial expectations, that can engage but also confront their audiences.

And so, from this we will move onto the next and final phase of sharing, exhibition and evaluation. I am so excited to see what the final pieces will be and if you aren’t sure where I am, I’ll be the one in the corner, quietly blubbering into my handkerchief.


This is a series of blogs on Liberty Chain, by Ormiston Academies Trust. The project has received funding from Ormiston Trust, Arts Council and Arts Connect. 

For more information about the project or OAT Enrichment please contact OAT Engagement Manager: Jemima Waltho