Bradfield School: Where the arts and creative subjects are at the heart of the curriculum 

No-one can deny that pupils at Bradfield School aren’t offered a broad and balanced curriculum.

Subjects such as art, music, drama and dance – which are been squeezed out of the curriculum in some schools – are ever present on the timetable here.

Charlie James,Joe Morton,Rebecca Cartwright. Picture: Steve Ellis

Charlie James,Joe Morton,Rebecca Cartwright. Picture: Steve Ellis

It was therefore a welcome announcement recently from Ofsted’s chief executive Amanda Spielman, when she announced a new inspection framework that will see it downgrade the importance of exam results in favour of assessing whether schools are offering a ‘broad, rich and deep’ curriculum. 

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Headteacher Ian Gilbert said the school has always been passionate about maintaining a broad and balanced curriculum.

He said: “A broad and balanced curriculum is so important for young people who don’t necessarily know where their talents and skills are when they leave here.

Pictured are Y9 Art Class students Izzy Fletcher and James Cebani

Pictured are Y9 Art Class students Izzy Fletcher and James Cebani

“At Bradfield School we are hugely committed to giving our students these skills so that they have them available to them later in life.

“We are on a journey of improvement and keeping the curriculum balanced is an important part of ensuring that we get the best out of our students.”

He added: “We have got a talented and committed group of creative teachers who ensure that they can bring out the best in students and the very best in their creative talents.

Music teacher Karen Carter said music head gone from strength to strength at the school.

Sienna Kaye, Grace Sargent and Hannah Birks prepare for the Move It performance

Sienna Kaye, Grace Sargent and Hannah Birks prepare for the Move It performance

Pupils get one music lesson a week and huge numbers opt to sit the subject at GCSE and A Level. Some have also gone on to study it at prestigious universities.

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There is a range of platforms which pupils can perform at including the annual Bradfest – a Tramlines style festival, a group orchestra, choir,  a Christmas concert and school plays, and several dedicated music rooms where they can hone their skills.

Mrs Carter said music, and other creative arts subjects, opens up doors to other things and gives them confidence in their own ability.

Y12 first year A level Drama Students Josephine Simpson and Phoebe Woodhouse

Y12 first year A level Drama Students Josephine Simpson and Phoebe Woodhouse

“It teaches them about management of time and organisation,” she said.

“The pupil that leads a group in music will often be the one that is fairly quiet in English and maths.

“You see pupils in a different light.

“Music is hard work but I want pupils to have the confidence and know that they are good enough to do whatever they want in life.”

Students also get the chance to showcase their talents in the school’s annual Move It performance.

The movement show, held each November, often features dance performances, karate, trampolining and gymnastics.

Pictured are Y13 A level Drama Students Rebecca Rhodes and Olivia Hallam

Pictured are Y13 A level Drama Students Rebecca Rhodes and Olivia Hallam

Children from feeder primary schools are invited to watch and there is an evening performance for parents.

Year seven pupil Sienna Kaye was one of those who watched the show last year.

“I have always had a big passion for drama. I’m very theatrical,” she said.

“When I came to watch it last year I was amazed at how people can put such dances together.

“I went to a dance club after school when at primary school and loved putting performances together. That made me want to do it this year.”

Teacher Ann Bull said what pupils learn from dance, which is incorporated in PE lessons, is not only confidence but important skills, such as tackling challenges, that can be transferred to other aspects of life.

A-Level student Harriet Stanley said the creative arts is a huge factor for many pupils considering going to Bradfield School.

“If we didn’t have the arts, music, dance and drama I would think the school is a little boring,” she said.

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“It gives the school character.

“I was helping out at an open evening and parents couldn’t believe what we offered here. I was so shocked that other schools don’t do it.”

Head of drama Lauren Pigott said the creative arts are so popular among students.

The annual school performance, which this year will be Grease, has seen 70 pupils sign up to take part. 

The performance is a partnership between the creative arts departments, with music students playing live and arts students helping create the scenery and costumes. There are also roles for student backstage.

“Children love drama here,” she said.

“The way that kids are here – they are so good and are happy to do drama.

“There is never any incidents and I like to think it is because we give them chance to be themselves and promote leadership skills.

“Yes, we do drama and performances but a lot of what we do is about making them employable people.”

Art is also extremely popular at the school and teach Sarah Drabble’s colourful classroom is seen as a sanctuary for many.

“Art can often be seen in schools a subject taken by students who find reading and writing difficult, but at this school it is treated as a strong academic subject,” she said.

“It’s hard and students will tell you that. They work really hard and they have to put in lots of hours to get their artwork completed.

“Every lunchtime that come in and after school. They don’t take art unless they love it.

“They see this classroom as a safe space and somewhere they can be themselves.”

She added: “Art is not just about the exceptionally talented students, it’s about just having a go and making and creating.”