Plashet School

Each year, The London Leadership Strategy publishes a volume of case studies from our Going for Great (G4G) cohort, in which each school participating shares an area of great practice from their institution. These case studies are evidence of a school’s self-evaluation and help demonstrate the school’s reflective intelligence.  

Our latest publication, Unleashing Greatness, is from our 2014-2015 cohort of schools and contains 21 case studies of great practice. All the studies have been tightly structured around aims, rationale, the background context, the story itself, reflections on lessons learnt and next steps. They have been peer reviewed before final editing. 

The story of Plashet - a girl’s comprehensive school in the heart of East London -  offers an excellent insight into the vision, moral purpose and inspirational leadership that exists within all levels at the schools showcased in Unleashing Greatness. The case study examines how the Art Department at Plashet School has evolved and developed into a Leading Edge department in the borough of Newham. The arts have not always been held in high regard amongst the borough’s Asian population and the take up of Art GSCE was low, so the evolution of this department into a vibrant and highly successful curriculum area has taken a great deal of hard work and an ability to recognise challenges. 

After a meeting with Offscreen Education in 2006, the school was drawn to the idea of bringing ‘The Middle East into the classroom’ – particularly as the vast majority of the school’s students were of Muslim faith. The staff began planning projects that introduced students to contemporary Middle Eastern artists – and the turning point for which was a trip to the British Museum to see an exhibition called “Word in Art” that centred on Arabic text as an art form. For a group of Year 9 students to walk into the gallery, and encounter art works that they could relate to, understand and translate was very significant. 

A newfound connection that could be explored through the medium of art empowered students and gave them a sense of esteem and worth. There was an interest and motivation to find out more and a growing understanding that art was a strong part of their culture and history – meaning that students were motivated to engage in the learning. 

This newfound interest in art meant that the Art Department of Plashet had to recognise the need for change and the importance of understanding what motivated and inspired their students. In order to keep the practice fresh and innovate, progressive teaching was needed – so fresh schemes of work were used every year to ensure that current exhibitions and new techniques were explored with the students. 

Furthermore, the Art Department realised that exhibiting work and showcasing achievement gave value, purpose and credibility. Alongside the annual GCSE exhibition, temporary and permanent displays were offered in main halls, corridors, staffrooms and classrooms.

As well as this, there was an understanding that showcasing work outside the classroom could have a great impact on challenging students – providing opportunity to work with external agencies and work to a brief. Therefore, work is now exhibited at the Newham Borough Art Exhibition. Showcasing the work of our students alongside students from other schools in the borough has demonstrated the vibrant and diverse mix of approaches, use of media, disciplines, techniques and ideas. It has also allowed teachers to share good practice and consider their own practice in the light of others’, build networks and develop aspects of the curriculum. 

Art is now a successful subject at Plashet. GSCE results continue to be high in the Art Department and significantly above the national average. Feedback from students and parents has also been extremely positive: 

 “I never realised that one visit to the British Museum would have such an impact on my career and future life choices”. – ex-Plashet student.
“After my hard work, I feel so proud to see my work in this exhibition and my parents are so happy” – Year 9 student commenting on the Newham borough exhibition”.

The story of Plashet shows that moral purpose, hard work and inspirational leadership can do a great deal for school improvement. A progressive and inclusive approach, whilst particularly important for creative subjects that are at risk of being marginalised, is vital for all subjects to ensure that all children and young people achieve better outcomes. 

A comprehensive account of the case study for Plashet, along with the other stories exhibited by our 2014/2015 G4G cohort can be found in Unleashing Greatness – which is available to purchase at here.

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