Bradford’s Performing Arts Triumph in Mainstream-Special Linking

Hazelbeck and Beckfoot Schools in Bradford, were allocated funding this year from the All in Award.  Within only ten weeks, they were able to bring together an amazing Performing Arts Link, leading to a fabulous evening performance for parents. The two schools plan to sustain this highly successful link into the future.

How did it start? 

The Headteacher of Hazelbeck Special School was told there was funding from the All in Award to link the two schools with a ten week after school club, bringing mainstream and special school pupils to learn together.  The school is co-located with Beckfoot School, a mainstream school in the same academy trust and the two schools believed this opportunity would be valuable for everyone involved. There had been a successful joint concert the year before to raise money for Martin House, a local hospice for children and young people. The special school Headteacher approached the school’s Performing Arts Lead who in turn reached out to the performing arts teacher in the mainstream school to see if they would be willing to take on the project- and they both agreed!

These two performing arts teachers in the two co-located schools already knew one another well and when they were asked by their school leadership if they would like to create connections between students from the two schools through a performing arts after school club they were delighted.


What did they do?

The ten week long after school performing arts club was launched with a clear plan to work towards a performance at the end of the Spring Term, for families from both schools.

Ten places for each school were offered to Year 7 and 8 students and ten students from each school signed up with parental agreement to take part. Sorting transport home was necessary as it was to be held after school.

Six additional members of staff from the special school and one member of staff from the mainstream supported the two performing arts lead teachers. Three ensemble pieces that would include all the students were choreographed and rehearsed at the club.The adults and the young people all had ideas which were taken onboard in the plans, so it genuinely included student leadership.  Auditions were held for the opportunity to perform solo or in groups so that the teachers could help students select songs that would work for their voices – they allocated songs and students practised in their own time. Rehearsals saw students looking out for one another and working together.‘We saw students look out for each other and in so doing let go of themselves.’‘On the day of the show a group of Hazelbeck students suggested they perform an additional song- we listened to them and decided you know what let’s go with this and we were so glad we did!’ Lead Teachers.  Costumes were bought and a professionally designed bespoke light sequence was made to accompany all the performers which made a huge difference to the quality. The choreography was led by one of the teachers and then modified as needed for different students. Makaton sign language was woven in. Ensemble songs chosen included A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman; Waving through a Window and Naughty from Matilda.

The final performance was held in April and was a wonderful evening attended by many parents, carers, family and friends as well as senior leaders and The Linking Network team. The day of the performance a group of Hazelbeck girls came with an extra song which when listened to it was good enough to include and was a joy! After the performance a session was held with the students together to reflect and plan forwards to keep the club going and decide what to do next. Students and adults shared their favourite parts of the process.

What did people say about the work?

‘I didn’t know she could sing.’ ‘I loved seeing the children on stage.’ ‘I was so proud to see them on stage.’ Parents from both schools

High standards were being expected across the board and completely scaffolded.’ observed by advisory teacher from TLN.

‘The performance was joyful and varied, warm and friendly yet professional, high quality yet relaxed! So many elements were combined with skill and flair. Everyone in the audience was so obviously behind every student.’  TLN advisor who attended the performance.

‘It was overwhelming to see my child in this’ Parent at Hazelbeck Review meeting

‘It was such a special evening, very moving and full of such talent from both schools. The inclusivity of the event was brilliant and seeing the huge smiles on everyone’s faces was so special. You did that. The Hazelbeck staff were an absolute inspiration, the way they make every student feel special, get totally immersed in what is going on and make such a difference. I was genuinely moved and loved the whole evening, such very special staff and students on show that made such a difference to so many people.’ Head of Music Beckfoot School

‘My favourite part was the interaction between students and the way the students looked after each other.  It was a really positive place to be… Students get the vibe from you. Backstage was as fun as front of house! It’s what we love to do so it was great to feed it through to the children.’ Lead Teachers

The club was observed by Ofsted who wrote the following- ‘Pupils take part enthusiastically in a wide range of lunchtime clubs, after-school activities, musical performances and residential visits. These activities are highly valued by parents.’ Hazelbeck Ofsted Inspection Report March 2019

What were the key factors to success?

Link teachers with the same specialism able to team teach both their groups of students meeting over time built connections.

The relationships underpinned the work. People enjoyed being there to help. Everyone made suggestions and ideas which we took on board.

The funding helped – to have a budget line for props, costumes, light and sound, tea for the kids the evening of the performance. The professional lighting lifted it.

People pulled together to help the performance be the best it could be – the photographer, the Head of Music, the arts department, Senior Leaders

Good admin! Emails and reminders to students were needed.

We saw resilience, support, independence, student led decisions, a real commitment to learning. Students wanted the challenge.’

We didn’t want it to be separate schools. We wanted it to keep integrity. Students need a challenge and want a challenge.

Senior Leadership were supportive – we were given half a day out of class for the rehearsal and they often popped in to enjoy the club!

High expectations- obvious that they were really trying to learn – picked up the dancing

Having an opportunity to create such an uplifting environment was wonderful.  The buzz that you have as adults when you have an opportunity to pass on skills, share your passion and give something away. It wasn’t a hardship. Going with your talents and sharing your passion!

Many thanks to Sophie Hammond and Annice Avery, from Hazelbeck and Beckfoot Schools,  for sharing their linking with us.

  The All in Award was created by Mencap with funding from Vanquis Bank. The Linking Network recruited the schools to the programme; many thanks to the teachers who have written this case study to share the learning.


Nahida Nazir (Primary) and Azam Ali (Secondary), with Linda Cowie, Meg Henry and Liz Firth, The Linking Network