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Creativity in action at Dalry Primary School

Grant Gillies, Head Teacher at Dalry Primary School in Edinburgh, talks about a series of creative projects at the school and how they won Education Scotland's Creative Learning Award. 

What did you do?

It was a series of projects that included setting up a publishing company and ensuring that ALL pupils at Dalry PS were published this year. The many projects included a recent book of short stories called "Hearts and Minds" which was sold by Amazon, and in the Hearts FC store. We also established bloggers, movie makers, song writers and podcasters. They were given targeted training. Almost everyone had a role in a Creative endeavour! Creativity week was an opportunity to pull together lots of artists and give pupils, staff and parents a chance to work with a quality creative experience. 

How did you link with the curriculum?

Each of the projects were carefully planned and all within the framework of our current curriculum plan. At whole school level we planned coherently for each of the projects, with specific staff taking responsibility. We have a very structured approach to supporting Literacy and Numeracy and all of the Creative projects provided an opportunity to demonstrate skills and progression. 

What did the artists bring to the school?

The Artists brought a real sense of ownership and passion. They brought the obvious talents, but they collectively brought a tangible energy. The various outputs achieved this year reflect this. Our school is a very vibrant centre in the community and all of the artists gained from working with us, but we changed with each project. The artists all enjoyed the experiences and said they got a great deal from working with pupils, teachers and parents.

What did you have to work on in planning and delivery?

Planning took a lot of energy as each individual project or artistic opportunity had to be guided and directed. Usually by me initially, and this took a real sense of belief but also confidence in the value of Creativity as a vehicle for demonstrating achievement and not a frivolous add-on (one professional said to me "you need to watch that Creativity stuff doesn't get in the way of attainment!”).

What worked well?

The projects worked best when there were clear guidelines and buy in. The buy in is vital and this is tough as sometimes I had to let go as the Head Teacher. It can be frustrating watching timescales slide or directions changing several times, but it is amazing seeing community buy in. The bloggers were a great example. 42 P7 pupils were given training, and 6 very clearly wanted to continue. They all blogged daily and weekly for the year and evolved their own styles. When I asked one of them to advertise a school event they said my request didn't fit the style of their blog! Great ownership and real sustainability.

What changed as a result of the project?

The school is now a working model of Creativity in action. It is firmly at the heart of everything we do. We won the Education Scotland ‘Creative Learning Award’ this year and that is a real tipping point. I want to build on this with clear plans (which are on the wall in the playground in graphics for all to see!) and we will host a Gorgie Dalry Arts Festival next June.

Any top tips for others?

Take a chance and do it. Be brave. Trust the teachers, pupils and parents. Listen and learn from the people around you - there is a huge wealth of resources. Make sure every project has a clear plan for sharing - whether it's a published book or a record of a journey. Some projects work and some don't but each one provides real life lessons and creative solutions. Think, take a deep breath and do it!

View more case studies available as part of this ArtWorks Scotland artists and teachers resource.

More about this project

View Dalry Primary's blog and their Creative Learning Award.

Read more about Ripple Arts, mentioned in the interview, and Dalry's creative hub.