Read our press release, featured in The Sentinel, on why the cultural arts are so important at Newcastle-under-Lyme School
Newcastle-under-Lyme School has a proud heritage going back to the 19th Century when Stoke-on-Trent was the epicentre of the world's ceramic production.
It's no coincidence that ceramics is a subject option for pupils at the school today, where the Arts are recognised as an important part of a person's cultural and creative development.
Aesthetics aside, figures from the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport show that our creative industries are worth £84.1 billion a year to the economy.
Former pupils from Newcastle-under-Lyme School are certainly playing their part in contributing to that success: Piers Wenger is Head of BBC Drama Commissioning, responsible for more than 450 hours of drama a year on the BBC; West End Musical Director, Richard Morris, is already winning Broadway World Awards just a few years after leaving school; Charlotte Page is a world-renowned opera singer and the wicked Amelia Cruickshank in the multi-award winning ITV series, Downton Abbey, was played by former pupil, Phoebe Sparrow.
The creative arts are embedded in Newcastle-under-Lyme School's culture. From the early years in Junior School, pupils enjoy trips to the nearby Gladstone Pottery Museum, the Emma Bridgewater ceramics factory, and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, as well as putting on ambitious musicals like 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Bugsy Malone'.
School plays and musicals are produced in both the junior and senior schools, with older pupils taking the lead in production roles such as lighting and sound, costume and choreography. Drama is a popular co-curricular subject with students, and productions vary from Lionel Bart's musical 'Oliver!' with an ambitious cast of over 110 pupils, to the sixth form drama performance of Malorie Blackman's thought-provoking 'Noughts and Crosses'.
Julie Betts-Nicholson, Head of Drama: “Drama has to be ambitious. That's why we're always reenvisioning the way we use space, and pushing ourselves to be more ambitious and to experiment with new technologies. We're also reaching out to local junior schools to run drama workshops – to engage with the local community and inspire children."
Creative study can complement many subjects including the sciences. Pupils who have studied ceramics for example, have gone on to do Surgical Dentistry or Engineering, as the 3D design elements help with spatial awareness.
The school provides GCSE, AS and A Level opportunities across 3 disciplines in Art & Design: Fine Art, Three Dimensional Design and Textiles, and the numbers of pupils taking these subjects at GCSE and A Level remains consistently high.
Steph Parkinson, Head of Art and Design: “Teaching art at Newcastle-under-Lyme School allows teachers to find an independent way of channelling creativity in pupils through a wide area of disciplines. Art is more than just a pencil to paper. Watching students' creativity develop is amazing."
Music plays a big part in life at Newcastle-under- Lyme School, with two orchestras, choirs, a jazz band, wind band and chamber music ensemble. The Music and Drama departments work together on the school musicals – with music students making up the orchestra for each performance.
There's the opportunity for one-to-one tuition in all the main musical instruments as well as singing tuition, and lessons are provided by 16 visiting music teachers who complement the full-time staff.
As well as supporting school productions, music students frequently take part in local festivals and concerts, and play and sing for local charities and special schools.
Photography is a co-curricular subject growing in popularity at Newcastle-under-Lyme School. Pupils enjoy in-house competitions as well as national ones. Year 11 student Ellie Huxley was named runner-up out of 1,000 entries in the 2016 Clothes Show Young Photographer of The Year Awards at Birmingham's NEC.
Ellie said: “Photography allows me to look at things in a different way – it makes you think – and I like that." Newcastle-under-Lyme School recognises the intrinsic value in building an individual's character and confidence through an appreciation and enjoyment of arts subjects.
Julie Betts-Nicholson: “When you leave Newcastle-under-Lyme School, you leave with an intellectual confidence that you may not even be aware that you have until you see that others don't have it. You know that there isn't going to be a situation that you cannot cope with – pupils leave here with that innate confidence in themselves."