Inspiring Primary Teachers with PATERN

Published: 2nd July 2018

PATERN Conference

Tuesday 12th June saw something amazing happen at The Customs House and for the region. For the first time in over ten years there was a Primary Teacher Art Conference in the North East. This coincided with the formation of the new ‘Primary Art Teacher and Educator Regional Network’ or PATERN for short.

The conference aimed to support teachers by sharing excellent practice and inspiring ideas. We wanted to develop teachers’ confidence planning, teaching and assessing art in school.

The day was organised with Susan Coles, Paul Carney and our own Learning Officer Elizabeth Kane. Like minded individuals who value the importance of art, craft and design in our schools came together for an inspiring event.

Why and What is Art!

The day began with a presentation from Lesley Butterworth of NSEAD ‘Why Art, Craft and Design?’. Lesley encouraged us to think about what art, craft and design education helps young people learn.

If you’re reading this you’d probably agree knowledge of artists or particular skills are important but the subject delivers more than that. Art, craft and design helps young people understand the world they live in because it has been made by all sorts of people about all sorts of subjects. Pupils have to consider other peoples’ viewpoints to understand artworks. When young people make art they learn how to share their ideas. They have to experiment and solve problems. Art can be a chance to do something with a team. For some children it might be the thing they excel in, the subject they look forward to and enjoy or give them a chance to be in charge. If anyone would like to know more visit NSEAD’s website.

Lesley Butterworth from NSEAD Opens The Primary Art Conference at The Customs House (photo by Susan Coles)

This was followed by ‘What is Art?’ led by Ruth Sheldon of the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead together with Susan Coles. We looked at everything from realistic paintings that tell stories through to contemporary artists. The session saw a shift away from the question ‘Is it Art?’ towards ‘Why have they made this?’ and ‘What could it mean to others?’.

Art Transforming Gomersal Primary

Our keynote speech was given by Headteacher Melanie Cox and art teacher Mandy Barrett from Gomersal Primary. It demonstrated how staffs’ commitment to the arts can transform a school. They had recently been visited by OFSTED inspectors, and had fresh evidence that putting art at the centre of their school’s curriculum helps children achieve across all subjects. You can see more about Gomersal Primary here… including information about how the school set up their own Arts Council.

Melanie Cox Headteacher of Gomersal Primary School Our Keynote Speakers (photo by Paul Carney)

Excellent Art For Every Child

Other talks covered research why art, craft and design are important to individual pupils’ futures and potential careers in the arts.

We thought about how to support every child with talks from Platinum Artsmark schools The Dales School in Blyth and Priory Woods School and Arts College. Both schools shared inspiring high quality arts projects and emphasised the importance of working in partnership with cultural organisations. You can find out more about Artsmark in our region here.

Susan Coles shared research about the current trend for boys to do less well in art, and to be less likely to choose art at GCSE and beyond. Her session ‘Where have All the Boys Gone’ included ideas how to counteract this and make sure boys enjoy the arts and achieve their full potential. Many teachers commented they would look again at the content of their arts curriculum and ask whether the topics really engaged boys.

We also screened Culture Bridge North East’s film ‘Arts Award in Every School’ which you can view below. Many of the schools already deliver Arts Award but it was a good introduction for those yet to Arts Award. You can find out more here

How Did We Do?

Whilst assessment is rarely described as fun, Paul Carney’s session on ‘Assessment and Progression’ was just that. Paul shared his beliefs about why we assess art and then showed us a rapid and effective way to get pupils to recognise what they have achieved. In teachers’ feedback this session was highlighted as extremely useful.

Rethinking Assessment with Paul Carney

The day finished with a session about curriculum design by Cheryl Stanley. Cheryl is a specialist art teacher in school and has been instrumental in the formation of the new PATERN network. Many of Cheryl’s projects covered a range of subjects from history to English but art wasn’t seen as being of secondary importance. Instead art brought topics to life encouraging deep learning and taught children all about contemporary art practices with digital media being a thread throughout much of her work.

Working Together

It’s hard to sum up such a rich and inspiring day. As well as the above sessions, teachers meet a wide range of cultural educators and organisations. Eileen Atkins from Culture Bridge North East was on hand to talk about Arts Award and Artsmark; Vicki Kennedy shared more information about the newly formed Sunderland Culture Company;  Jennie Lambert from Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens let everyone know more about the forthcoming Leonardo exhibition; Thought Foundation in Birtley let people know about the ways they can help develop children’s’ understanding of contemporary artists’ work from the North East; and Naomi Beely brought a range of artefacts from the DLI Collection. We also received a book about planning creative projects from Steamco and the latest edition of their newspaper.

What Teachers Said

We asked teachers what impact the day would have on them on their schools,

“A wonderful day with lots to take away to enhance our curriculum even further.”

“To use NSEAD framework to link to evidence for learning and individual pupil targets.”

It will help greatly with our delivery, curriculum and reports.”

One teacher summed up the day as,

“A great conference with a good variety of speakers, practical activities and information about current thinking.”


Next Steps…

If you would like to know more about our schools learning programme future CPD opportunities or to be put in touch with the PATERN Network that meet at the Laing Art Gallery please email