CALSA blog: working together is success

Stephen Hughes is one of our Cultural & Arts Leaders in Schools and Academies (CALSA) working in Stamford Welland Academy.

Edward Everett Hale once said “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. I’m starting to understand what he was talking about. I sat down to lunch in the staff room on the last Friday with a group of arts-based teachers in my academy. We talked about how well we’d done with the recent World War 1 foyer exhibition and how much talent we realized the students had after the Night at the Musicals evening show, and how much we enjoyed the camaraderie. I started to feel a coming-togetherness of the team and it started me thinking about what I had tried to ignite when I started my CALSA role last year.

Don’t get me wrong – CALSAs can’t take the credit for when these things come together, as it’s the contributions of the hard working teachers that really make things happen. It always seems to be done in our own time too, in addition to all the pressures that come with being a teacher in this modern age. But I started thinking about how much more possible it had all been because we sit down together each Friday and talk about the things we want to do to progress Art and Culture. We, of course, also use it to recruit our colleagues to take on responsibilities for the mini-projects (paid for in chocolate), and the quote I started this blog with really starts to ring true.


Two black & white photos of different men. Man on left: messy hair, wearing a hoodie with a blue colour splash across the photo. Man on right: neatly gelled hair, wearing a suit with a yellow colour splash neatly framing his face
Photo: Work in progress of watercolour paintings with paint pots, brushes and pens on the table

Recently, I was interviewed by an academic who wanted to know more about the CALSA role and the impact it would have on the schools in which it was operating. A main question was “Would all these Arts-based activities be happening if there weren’t CALSAs?”. “Honestly” I said “Yes, I think they would be happening to an extent [the wheel hasn’t been reinvented], but it wouldn’t have that extra drive and support behind it to make it happen sooner, bigger and better”. There has always been a variety of CALSAs in schools across the globe – it is just that they were not called CALSAs as the term wasn’t coined. But as soon as a name is attached to it and someone puts themselves out there as a representative of the “vision”, it’s quite heartening to see how many people gravitate towards you with messages of support and ideas that they can bring to the table.

I discussed the school creative ethos with a talented new CALSA in the North Cambridgeshire group this week, and she has the same problem I had – starting in a new role where the whole-school creative ethos wasn’t obvious or omnipresent, and we mulled over strategies for change. A wise senior leader coached me in to delegating roles to others and supporting them in achieving goals as we can’t do everything ourselves. This has led me on to creating student groups too (enter the ‘SWA Arts Union of Students’, newly formed in 2018) and I’m judging my own progress on how much I’m involved in colleagues and students working together with a new collaborative glue of support and enthusiasm. I hope to make Everett proud as we’ve now come together and are working together, but keeping together is now the key.


Photo: art gallery, several portraits on a white wall