Cultural Learning Alliance

My daughter was one of the performers. She is having a very difficult time at school at the moment; yesterday I saw her self-esteem grow as she walked through the stage door for the company warm-up. I wept

Parent of participant in one of The Sage Gateshead’s youth programmes


Artist Residencies at Canterbury Nursery School and Centre for Families and Children

Canterbury Nursery School and Centre for Families and Children is situated at the heart of a council estate with a culturally diverse community, two miles from the centre of Bradford.

Canterbury’s remit as an integrated centre is broad and challenging, offering a range of services for parents and young children from birth to five years old. At the heart of its work with children is a commitment to using the arts and creative learning practices to respond to children’s individual needs and to raise standards of learning.

In 2001, Sharon Hogan, then Headteacher, had decided to establish a long-term artist’s residency to explore the possible effects this could have on the culture, learning and teaching styles of the early years team and, more importantly, the impact this might have on young children’s development and their achievement. Previous short-term residencies had been stimulating and interesting, but had not demonstrated a lasting effect on practice.

In 2004 Lou Sumray, artist, was appointed as Artist-in-Residence for one day a week and since then has worked alongside a nursery practitioner with small groups of children (6). The children are chosen with a variety of aims, such as confidence-building or language development, with the objective of providing a more intimate creative experience within a purpose-built art studio.

Sketch books have always been a key ingredient in the Centre's work with children. Each child's sketch book is kept in the studio and can be accessed at any point in the session as well as accompanying them on their trips out.The sketch books can also encourage reflective practice by both adults and children, an important aspect of the creative process.

Much of our early work is documented in detail in our publication Searching for Meaning, produced in 2006, copies of which are available from the Centre.

Since then our creative practice has increased and developed. We now employ an Early Years Practitioner, Debbie Moorby, to undertake creative work on a full-time basis working across the whole Centre, as well as continuing to employ Lou as  Artist-in-Residence one day a week.

Debbie has further developed the creative practice through working with groups of children and parents together. As stated in the Early Years Foundation Guidance (May 2008), "Parents are children's first and most enduring educators. When parents and practitioners work together in early years settings, the results have a positive impact on children’s development and learning."

Debbie met with a group of children and their mums and dads in the artist's studio over six weeks. Members of the group came from different cultural backgrounds and not all had English as a first language. The focus of the work was very much on doing rather than talking, but we did have interpreters available to include parents in the dialogue during the group session. Debbie planned activities to incorporate a range of developmental learning styles including physical, cognitive, linguistic, spiritual, social and emotional. Each child and parent was taken into account and was able to offer their individual ideas and approaches to the activities and to the route the activity took. One parent summed up her experience:

"I really enjoyed the working together sessions. It was nice to be able to spend time with Kennedy one on one, which I don’t often get to do." Debbie, Mum.

"There is overwhelming evidence that children benefit when early years educators and parents work together. Research has shown that young children achieve more and are happier when early years educators work together with the parents and share ideas about how to support and extend children’s learning," (Excellence in Schools, 1997).

Our experience certainly bore this out and laid the foundations for our future ongoing work.

For further information, please contact: Debbie Moorby, Lou Sumray or Chris McKay, Canterbury Nursery School and Centre for Children and Families, Basil Street, Bradford, BD5 9HL, Tel: 01274 574539



Fantastic news in these days of cutbacks, but how many kids will get access to these centres, many of which are in areas that are well provided for culturally already. Access from outlying areas is difficult in many ways.
Carol Beckett 31 March 2011
Investment in creative learning spaces is brilliant news, although often with the right motivation and inspiration young people can draw on cultural learning to make real change happen for themselves and their communities without the need for a designated space in which to do it. Check out here.
Real Ideas Organisation 31 March 2011

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Lou and sketch books, Canterbury Children's Centre
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