The UK development organisation and membership
body for community and participatory dance
Animated Edition - Summer 2007
Sadie Walker and Adam Holloway of Cheshire Dance describe the strong relationship being developed between dance and school sport in the Vale Royal area of Cheshire
So what can the dance sector do to work with School Sports Partnerships and ensure dance provision is well supported, involves practicing artists and is sustainable? A partnership model has been developed in Cheshire that gets the ball, and the body, rolling. ConfiDance involves all 53 schools in the Borough of Vale Royal, working in clusters with each secondary school and their feeder primary and special schools.

The work began as a consultation process in the Summer term, 2006. The aim was to identify the needs of the schools in delivering dance. The teachers highlighted in varying degrees the need for:
  • High quality, whole school CPD in dance, including INSET training and observation of good practice
  • Increased links with the local agency and practicing artists
  • Opportunities for performing and seeing dance
  • Improved links between the high schools and their cluster primary and special schools
  • Support and training for high school link teachers in Key stage 1 and 2 dance
  • Long-term ongoing support.
Having signed up to the project, each school receives two INSET sessions followed by two days in school with the dance artist and class teachers working together. These 'in school' days are followed by a third INSET session.

The initial INSET sessions consist of: teachers dancing, understanding the rationale for dance, the building blocks for dance, developing a shared understanding and language of dance, planning for dance sessions linked to curriculum themes, performance, composition and appreciation and a specifically written resource/training pack.

The full day sessions involve the dance artists working in school with all the staff and their classes. Planning that took place in the initial INSET sessions is brought to life by the dance artists. Class teachers and teaching assistants participate in the sessions, giving them an opportunity to observe good practice. Each stage is evaluated on a per school basis to ensure reflective practice is active and is finally brought together in the third INSET session where conclusions / recommendations are agreed and the planning is broadened out to create a unit of work for each class within the school.

The key to the success of the project has been to inspire teachers to believe that they can teach confidently in a creative context. The calibre of artists involved has been crucial in uncovering the simple, yet hidden truths of teaching a creative session.

Following the injection of activity and training, the package of ongoing support for each school is wide ranging:
  • A contact point via Cheshire Dance's Dance Development Artist for the Borough as well as the Dance Advisor for the local education authority
  • Out of school hours provision is supported, either by linking a school to an existing Cheshire Dance class or through new sessions hosted by the schools as part of the Extended Schools programme
  • Training sessions for the School Sports Co-ordinators from the secondary schools are conducted regularly, enabling them to support the primary teachers to continue delivery as well as ensure a smooth pathway for children entering secondary school
  • Further training for teachers is offered through Cheshire Dance’s Bloom programme to develop creativity in teaching
  • Information on dance companies touring and performing in the region
  • Support for the continued use of the resources and access to further resources.
The partnership formed around the project consists of: the Vale Royal Schools Sports Partnership, led by the Partnership Development Manager (PDM); Cheshire Dance; independent artists from More Dance, Jan Halloran and Ruth Spencer; Vale Royal Borough Council; Cheshire Local Education Authority; and Arts Council England. All partners are playing a vital role in the project, but none more so than the PDM. It's not often you come across sports people who can articulate dance, but when they also fully back the importance of improvisation in teaching practice, enabling teachers and pupils alike to make clear decisions about the creative journey through composition, performance and appreciation, that's when you realise the values of the various partners in the project are entirely complimentary.

In terms of finances for those that are interested, each school uses three Primary Link Teacher (PLT) days at £140/day to join the programme. This is topped up by the partnership funding to ensure a £220 day rate for artists' delivery and for further planning, evaluation, resource writing and meeting time. In total the budget over three years is £40,000, not including all the follow-up support available in-kind.

contact Cheshire Dance on 01606 861770 / Sadie Walker, Dance Development Officer, or Adam Holloway, Business Director,

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Animated: Summer 2007