Supporting Pedagogy, Arts and Creativity Everywhere (SPACE) to flourish

About the SPACE to Flourish project

SPACE to Flourish is a four year project which aims to improve children’s school readiness through a focus on supporting creativity and the arts.  It is currently funded by The Mercers’ Company, trustee to the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington.

 It will support participating educators to maximise the impact of creative experiences on children’s holistic learning, including their communication, interactions, language, personal, social and emotional and dispositions for learning. 

Why the project is needed

Research for the Cultural Learning Alliance (Pascal & Bertram, 2022) supports rich engagement in the arts for children’s developing pro-social skills, communication, resilience, and creativity.

The impact of the pandemic on the learning and development of young children under 5 years old is well documented (EEF, 2022). More specifically, but less widely recognised, is how it has affected young children’s experience of and access to art and cultural learning (Cultural Learning Alliance, 2023). Children in disadvantaged areas have fewer opportunities to access the creative arts, with the opportunities for creative and expressive learning these provide.

Additionally, educators can lack confidence and knowledge about how to make good use of expressive arts and design to support wider learning, and may have few opportunities for professional development on this topic.

Project aims

Our aims are for the project are that:

  • Children will flourish and make strong progress in their personal, social and emotional learning dispositions through rich creative and inclusive experiences.
  • Children will be better prepared for school, through the development of their curiosity, creativity, and communication skills and joyful engagement with learning.
  • Educators will flourish through deeper pedagogical knowledge, increased skills, confidence and enthusiasm in effective teaching using creative arts as a means to deepen and extend children’s learning.
  • Settings will become more inclusive and better able to meet all children’s needs because educators provide more attuned teaching and responsive, enriched environments

How we deliver the SPACE to Flourish programme

The programme aims to give educators time, which is currently lacking (Mycroft et al, 2022), to think about the effectiveness of their teaching. It will provide “Thinking Spaces” to empower pairs of educators in a setting to think deeply, reflecting on practice.

It uses a three-layered approach which draws upon best practice advice and research for professional development (FEEL; EEF )

These offer pedagogical input in response to need, support creative practice, and enable time to think with space to reflect. The aim is to deepen educator knowledge, and grow their confidence in their depth of pedagogical understanding and application. We focus on a specific art material or resource each session, with supporting resources as gifts to take back into the settings to use with the children. In this way we hope to increase the confidence of educators in how to approach Expressive Arts & Design (EAD)/creativity as a way to develop the flourishing of both educators and children. We follow up on their experiences during our visits.

These offer an attuned combination of support responsive to needs, and we co-produce a plan together. The day might include facilitating reflective dialogue, coaching conversations, pedagogical input, modelling and playing with children (with permission), coaching and mentoring groups or individuals on request. We ensure this day is co-constructed with the educators so that they are worked with and alongside, and do not feel “done to”. As collaborators, pedagogistas, coaches, we respond in ways that meet need and go with the flow of the play and learning and what happens, to promote creative practice, the arts, a shared understanding, support flourishing and enable confidence and growth.

Here we use Kline’s Thinking Environment approach to share, collaborate and co-coach each other in what has arisen through challenges, dilemmas and pedagogical thinking to develop and extend practice. Thinking Spaces provide educators with vital opportunities to learn from reflection (Schon, 1991) on their own practice and children’s learning experiences to promote more effective, responsive and “attuned teaching” (Gunning and Lofthouse, 2021) so that children and educators flourish (Wolbert et al, 2021).

Each cohort of settings will continue to attend the Deepening Pedagogy days alongside the new future cohort: sharing experiences and reflecting together, developing skills of coaching and supporting others in their own and others settings for mutual flourishing. They will also take part in group coaching mentoring Thinking Space sessions at intermittent periods designed to enable reflection and support for their ongoing work; they may also join the new cohort thinking spaces to develop and continually reflect on their practice and flourishing journey.

Participating settings

We are prioritising settings and schools in disadvantaged areas including PVIs, children’s centres and schools, with children aged from two to five years old. We aim to work with settings with diverse profiles of children, and to be inclusive of children with SEND. We are currently working with settings and schools in Greenwich and Wandsworth.

Resources

The following learning resources from the project are shortly going to be made available for free download: 
Charcoal PDF download
Collage PDF download

Further reading

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