Wellington was delighted to be awarded the Artsmark Platinum Award in March. Artsmark is the only creative quality standard for schools and education settings, accredited by Arts Council England.
Our entry was submitted by Simon Williamson, Director of Arts at Wellington who was delighted by the feedback received from Artsmark which praised the ‘outstanding range of opportunities’ for pupils, our cross-curricular links and the Wellington College Arts Fund which raises money for arts education projects at other schools.
Simon said: “We are hugely proud of the Artsmark Platinum Award which acknowledges Wellington’s deep commitment to cultural education and our determination to give every pupil access to the arts, as well as providing support and opportunities for the wider community beyond the College”.
The number of students involved in the arts at Wellington is huge with up to 1,000 LAMDA and music lessons taking place each week and over 40 co-curricular dance classes including RAD Ballet, Contemporary, Tap, Commercial and Street Dance. In the last round of music exams, an impressive eleven students were awarded performance diplomas. All Third Form students take Arts Award Bronze, and Silver and Gold are offered further up the school.
The arts are woven into every aspect of school life – performances take place in assemblies and more pupils than ever attend College events with around 75% of the school regularly attending a performance. Our facilities include the G. W. Annenberg Performing Arts Centre which wouldn’t be out of place in the West End and means Wellington can put together professional standard performances on a grand scale.
Each year the College runs an Arts Festival with performances across all genres of the arts from street dance and jazz soirees to live drawing and music. Typically we bring in over thirty professional practitioners to run masterclasses and workshops, many of whom we’ve worked with over a number of years. These have included Art Historians Dr Janina Ramirez and Dr Joanna Pawlick, sculptor Irena Posner (RAC), actors Aisha Jawando and Joe Evans and the legendary drum player Ralph Salmins.
As well as nurturing its own students, Wellington has become increasingly outward looking in its focus and Artsmark applauded the initiatives we have set up to collaborate with other schools and break down barriers within the community. These include regular ‘TeachMeets’ which provide a forum for local arts teachers to come together and exchange ideas about arts education. At the most recent meeting, around fifty teachers from across Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey discussed topics as varied as how to teach music for gaming and finding the best practitioners in drama. In these sessions we’re able to draw on the work of The Bridge, our educational research centre for teaching and learning which was set up specifically to connect the College and our state school partners, as well as cementing links between the UK and our international schools.
We regularly invite other schools to participate in our events, such as The Festival of Musical Theatre where Wellington pupils perform alongside students from local state and prep schools. Much of the money raised from ticket sales at College performances goes towards the Wellington Arts Fund, a grant system that schools can apply for to make their own special projects a reality. To date, over £80,000 has been given away for arts projects.
At the heart of Wellington’s outstanding arts provision is pupil empowerment. As well as music and drama prefects, the College now has Arts Ambassadors who lead on certain events. This gives pupils a voice, the chance to flex their creative muscles and develop leadership skills. The Arts Ambassadors oversee the production of student plays and run certain events at the Arts Festival. Moving forward, the College hopes to forge more pupil-to-pupil links between schools as well as building relation ships between teachers.
Our latest award, the Artsmark Platinum, reflects our goal to instil a lifelong delight in the arts in every Wellingtonian. Director of Arts, Simon Williamson, believes the benefits of a cultural education are far reaching. He says: “In a future where AI is likely to play an ever-dominant role, the performance and creative skills – not to mention teamwork – that pupils gain through immersing themselves in the arts, should not be underestimated.”