Creating an innovative curriculum using the expressive arts

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Mynydd Cynffig Primary School has placed expressive arts at the heart of developing an innovative curriculum. Capturing pupil’s interest and imagination, it has had a positive impact on their enjoyment of learning and improved teacher/pupil relationships as well as outcomes.

Number of learners: 470
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: July 2017

Information about the school

Mynydd Cynffig Primary School is in the village of Kenfig Hill, about four miles west of Bridgend.  The primary school opened in September 2015 and is an amalgamation of the former Mynydd Cynffig infant and junior schools, but still operates on two separate sites.  There are 470 pupils on roll with 23% eligible for free school meals.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Mynydd Cynffig Primary has been a Curriculum Pioneer School since November 2015 and for the past 12 months has focused on the expressive arts area of learning.  During this time, the school has prioritised pedagogical approaches to be at the forefront of their teaching.  In addition, pupils have become significantly more involved in leading their learning, which has had a clear impact on engagement.

Description of nature of strategy or activity


Teachers explored the 12 pedagogical principles highlighted in ‘Successful Futures’, identifying two to be developed further in their planning, namely creating authentic contexts for learning and encouraging pupils to take increasing responsibility for their own learning.  ‘Immersion’ days encouraged pupils to plan their own learning, and teachers ensured that the experiences provided are rich, stimulating and engaging.  Experiential opportunities within the local community, such as visiting a Chinese restaurant, coffee shops, places of worship, theatres and museums, as well as inviting ‘experts’ in to work alongside pupils, helped to create an ‘innovative’ curriculum.

Expressive Arts

Expressive Arts has been at the heart of the school’s curriculum.  Themes are chosen specifically to allow opportunities to develop pupils’ skills in music, media, art, dance and drama.  For example, in drama, strategies such as ‘Observe, Wonder, Infer’, ‘Thought Tunnels’, ‘Mantle of the Expert’ and ‘Tableaux’ have enabled pupils to become increasingly confident, as well as helping them to develop critical and creative thinking skills.  This purposeful multidisciplinary approach is stimulating and exciting for pupils and teachers alike.

Visual Literacy / Thinking Skills

Teachers carefully select books, video clips and pictures, which have deepened pupils’ understanding of character and plot, developing their thinking, oracy, reading and writing skills.  Stimuli such as ‘Into The Forest’ and ‘The Spider and the Fly’ capture the pupils’ interest and imagination, leading to high-quality oracy work, which in turn gives confidence and motivation to write extensively, especially for boys.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The innovative curriculum has a positive impact on pupils’ enjoyment of learning and results in very good progress in their speaking, listening and writing skills.  The increase in confidence, the positive teacher-pupil relationships and the willingness to participate and ‘have-a-go’ are changing pupils’ mindsets positively.  They encourage them that it is acceptable to make mistakes, and that it is important to do your best.  As a result, independent learning and metacognitive skills are developing well.  Pupil performance tracking and teacher assessments indicate improvements in speaking and listening.  The school believes that much of this can be attributed to the increased opportunities for pupils to discuss, collaborate, debate and have the freedom to think and perform creatively.  This in turn has led to improved outcomes in writing, especially with boys.  The school believes that the biggest impact of all, however, can be seen in pupil engagement, where pupils are happy in their learning and celebrate each other’s successes.  Assessment for learning strategies are constantly evolving and are a pillar of the school’s approach to pupils’ learning, such as in readily appreciating constructive feedback from their peers and adults to improve their work and to move confidently on to the next step of their learning. 

How have you shared your good practice?

The school shared its curriculum pioneer work with schools within their cluster of schools, the local authority and the regional consortium through organised training events.  It has also shared its work with individual schools on request.