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A report on ‘Native Creatives’ CPD and support sessions

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The report has been written by Susan Coles, artist educator, who convened the programme in partnership with Festival Bridge. In it, you’ll find an outline of what was delivered, who was commissioned to lead sessions, and how the programme developed over time. There are some key learning points highlighted. This report is useful for anyone looking to deliver their own teacher CPD based around mental health, wellbeing and creativity. You can read the full report below: 


Native Creatives Summative Report 

Native Creatives was a termly series of free, twilight sessions programmed by Jen Langeskov, Education Programme Manager of Festival Bridge, in collaboration with Susan Coles, Arts, Creativity & Educational Consultant. 

In response to the challenges faced by teachers returning to the classroom after lockdown in September 2020, Festival Bridge took action to support their mental health and wellbeing. Through listening to their needs, we discovered that creative arts teachers and artist-teachers needed support with their personal creativity, whether as practicing artists or individuals engaging with arts and culture outside of work. Thus, Native Creatives was born with the primary aim of supporting personal artistic practice, while also inspiring and motivating in the classroom. 

It was a professional development programme that aimed to empower arts teachers to develop their own personal artistic practice. By keeping them connected to their creativity, it encouraged them to inspire their students with fresh and innovative teaching methods. 

The main aims of the programme were to provide professional development and support for arts teachers by: 

  • Offering opportunities to network with peers and exchange knowledge and experiences of personal practice 
  • Providing access to professional artistic practice from guest speakers 
  • Developing creative confidence and capabilities for classroom delivery 
  • Creating a co-created artistic activity that spans more than one art form 
  • Connecting with partner organisations, other settings, for future support and partnerships 
  • Identifying, supporting, and developing the arts broker teacher through Bridge and NNF 
  • Supporting individual arts educators with developing their Arts Rich School
  • Growing Festival Bridge’s important network of arts broker teachers 


Overall, the programme aimed to inspire and empower arts teachers to develop their own artistic practice, connect with others in the field, and become champions of the arts in their classrooms and communities. 

Our online programme plus the two live events (post-pandemic) offered a variety of session foci, including discussions led by notable academic speakers and workshops and presentations from artists and educators on a range of diverse but relevant topics. These sessions provided a space for learning, sharing, and discovering alternative experiences. The forced uses of the digital world during a global pandemic has presented new opportunities for creativity and collaboration. Online networks and communities have and will provide a space for teachers to connect and share ideas, fuelling and inspiring creativity. Wellbeing has emerged as a fundamental need for everyone, and creativity can be a powerful tool for promoting this, and also in reducing stress. By connecting with others and engaging in creative expression, teachers can improve their own sense of worth and take that positive energy into the classroom. 

In Spring 2021, over three twilight sessions, the online speakers were Susan Coles, Lucy Garland, Bill Lucas, Sketchbook Circle, Suba Subramaniam, and Pat Thomson. In Summer 2021. Again, over three twilight session, speakers were Lewis Buxton, Paul Carney, James Hardie, Stopgap Dance, Claire Penketh, and Andria Zafirakou. Autumn 2021 brought another strong line up across three sessions which included Hunt & Darton, Sian Fan, Dr Penny Hay, Roger Kneebone, Lucy Sheerman, and Bill Vine. One year on in Spring 2022 the three sessions gave opportunities to listen to Amal Khalaf, Greg Hodgson, Paula Ayliffe with Ruth Sapsed, Chris Higgins, Emily Godden, and Mandy Barrett with Natalie Walton. Speakers came from many fields, visual artists such as painters or digital artists, choreographers/dancers, musicians, writers, researchers, cultural historians, educators, and other expert practitioners in the field of arts and education. 

All of these sessions were recorded and are available online, not only so that they can be re-visited by attendees but also used for a new audience, through inset days, personal learning, CPD sessions, forums and focus groups. This is a very rich legacy, as an ongoing archive of knowledge and expertise in the field of arts education, allowing teachers to access valuable resources and insights even after the programme has ended. This will help to build a community of practice around arts education, where teachers and artist educators can share ideas, best practices, and challenges with one another, and collaborate on innovative approaches to teaching the arts. 

Then, the decision was made to create a time and space for live events in the final part of the programme and the first face to face and livestreamed event took place on Wednesday 12th October 2022, and was held at Norwich Guildhall – the home of Norfolk & Norwich Festival. Guild Hall is, of course, a historic building that provided a unique and memorable setting for this event. It’s architecture, history, and design created a distinctive atmosphere that really did enhance the overall experience for attendees. 

The speakers at this first live event were Susan Coles, artist and visual art educational consultant; and Kenneth Tharp, a former dance artist and choreographer and former Chief Executive of The Place and they each lead a very practical and ‘hands-on’ creative workshop, and networking session. The audience were a diverse mix of (mainly) Arts teachers, from all phases, and the online participants were spread far and wide across the UK, and also in other countries. 

The Covid pandemic has had a significant impact on many aspects of society, including the field of education. As schools closed and teaching moved online, many teachers found themselves working longer hours and facing increased levels of stress and exhaustion. For arts teachers, the limitations on personal practice and creative expression caused by the pandemic have been particularly challenging. The lack of opportunities to engage in personal practice has compromised the quality of teaching that pupils receive. The responses from participants at this joyful event were affirmative and positive. 

The final ‘live’ event was held on Wednesday 8th March, from 4:15pm – 7:30pm. The face to face and livestream audiences listened to talks by and workshops delivered by artist Elle Short and hip hop dancer Nathan Geering. Susan Coles and Jen Langeskov also gave short speeches of thanks for having seen the growth and the development of a co-created creative programme over the past two years. Jen’s role related to the development or coordination of the programme based on a central vision for educators to nurture their practice and passion for the arts, in order to benefit their personal creativity and professional knowledge. She worked with Susan Coles in recruiting speakers, organising events, and managing the logistics of the programme alongside the very supportive team that she works with. 

Based on the feedback collected after each session, it was found that teachers aspire to develop a hybrid practice as both an artist and educator of the arts. They aim to enhance their artistic and cultural engagement in order to become high quality ‘arts-broker teachers’ in their respective settings, creating ‘arts-rich’ schools. The teachers emphasised the importance of collaboration and connectivity among themselves, arts organisations and their peers. They expressed the need for more time and space to enhance their personal creative practice, and appreciated the invitation to be ‘professionally subversive’ in their careers. The teachers also acknowledged the crucial role of creativity for well-being and expressed their desire to connect with like-minded individuals to support each other and become pioneers of the arts. However, some face the challenge of persuading members of their SLT that engaging with creativity and the creative subjects develops transferrable skills for children and young people. As a result, we acknowledge an increasing need to validate creativity. Finally, the teachers seek more reassurance that developing a personal creative practice is purposeful. 

 The longer term impact is underlining that professional development is crucial for arts teachers, because it allows them to continually improve their skills, knowledge, and effectiveness as educators. The field of arts education is constantly evolving, and teachers need to stay up-to-date with the latest research, techniques, and best practices in order to provide their students with the best possible learning experiences. Additionally, this allows teachers to develop their own personal artistic practice, which can help them to stay connected to their own creativity and passion for the arts. By doing this, teachers can gain a deeper understanding of the creative process and how it can be applied in the classroom. 

Professional development also helps arts teachers to build networks and partnerships with other educators and professionals in the field. Native Creatives has been successful in achieving what it set out to do, to help teachers develop their personal creativity and use this to enrich the learning experiences of their students. 


Susan M Coles 

March 30th 2023 

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