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Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
The barefoot project
Animated, Winter 1998. Tracking the impact of artists working in schools. David Oddie explains the background to the pioneering OFSTED review

A few months ago I was asked to undertake a review of the work of artists in schools throughout England. I was particularly pleased that they had asked a practitioner to head up the venture as my former experience as Founder and Director of Rent a Role could prove to be a useful bridge between the arts world and the formal world of education in schools.

The intention of the OFSTED review is to provide information for teachers, headteachers, inspectors and advisers that will be helpful in encouraging a greater understanding of the values and possibilities of working in partnership with a wide range of artists in schools. As one Regional Arts Board officer said recently 'don't tick it, inspect it!' We hope that the process will enable more inspectors to see the deeper educational significance of the work over and above paying lip service to the cultural development components of the National Curriculum.

It is also anticipated that the review will be valuable to artists and arts organisations that are involved directly in schools and that an important outcome will be further and improving dialogue between the worlds of the arts and education.

A great deal of valuable work has already been done on the issue of artists in schools. The review is not setting out to provide an original and extensive piece of research, but seeks to offer a picture of the practice, from a practitioners perspective, that illustrates its roots, its development and a survey of the current situation - a summary of the claims, principles, tensions and frustrations involved. This is followed-up by a small group of more detailed case studies which illustrate some of the key claims, principles and outcomes. The case studies firstly tell the story of each project as seen and experienced by the artist. We then balance this story with the story from the school's perspective. This will enable us to examine to what extent the story of the artist and the story of the teacher are the same.

In order for the work of the artist in school to be effective, the children involved need to be 'prepared appropriately', in order to be stimulated by an artistic experience which the teacher then needs to take forward. To achieve this demands dialogue and planning. The nur-turing of an understanding and productive relationship between artist and teacher is therefore central in the development of good practice.

In summary, we relate the observations to the context which nourishes, supports or hinders development of the work and make practical recommendations for OFSTED to pursue in order to encourage and promote the effective use of artists in our schools.

David Oddie, Director, The Barefoot Project. Contact +44(0)1752 636700 or email

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001