A unique creative project which has seen nine Teesside primary schools work closely with local artists has been hailed a “phenomenal success” after capturing the imagination of thousands of young children and upskilling staff.

As a result of this unique project, dozens of local teachers are now using a variety of creative art skills to teach subjects across the curriculum to hundreds of primary schoolchildren.

Tees Valley Education Academy Trust has been leading the two-year visual arts initiative, made possible by a £150,000 grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Teacher Development Fund. It was one of only six projects across the UK selected to receive funding after a challenging application process.

The Tees Valley Creative Learning Partnership project channels the idea-making energy of pupils and staff at the nine participating schools.

Tees Valley Education Trust academies Brambles, Dormanstown, Discovery, Pennyman and Wilton have been joined by primary schools Bankfields and Overfields, plus Sunnyside and Ash Tree Academy, in an initiative designed to upskill teachers by working alongside and learning from, talented local artists.

Teachers have been given an opportunity to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, confidence and experience to teach non-arts subjects using creative approaches.

More than 1,500 children aged three to 11 have benefitted from the partnership after each school worked with lead art practitioners – freelance art teacher Janet Barker and Sara Calgie, director of StArt Studio in Middlesbrough – to decide what types of visual arts they wanted to develop.

Janet and Sara were part of the team who prepared the successful funding bid, along with Aspire Learning Partnership’s Sue Cochrane, Liam Bradley from the Northern School of Art and Tees Valley Education’s deputy head teacher, Louise Stogdale.

The project’s successes so far include working through art forms such as painting, drawing and sculpting, and discussing how to build on them as the project nears its conclusion.

Louise said the project has been “a fantastic opportunity for lots of schools across the Tees Valley to work together as one”.

“Creativity isn’t just about drawing or painting, it’s about all of the employability skills that are underpinning everything we are trying to foster within our young children.

“As a result, we have children being more independent in schools and being more responsive with each other, and maybe trying tasks that they wouldn’t have tried before.

Sara said: “Creativity applies to all areas of the curriculum, and the project has made children’s learning much more engaging.

“All of the projects we have worked on are with the aim of helping children experiencing disadvantage. That’s the remit of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and we want to make this project really sustainable for the schools.

“Each school has individual needs which need to be met, so it’s all about collaboration in the long term.”

Sarah Turner, Year Two lead at Bankfields Primary School, said teachers in each phase at her school have learned a bank of creative activities which will be used on a regular basis on the back of team teaching with their assigned project artist, Bub Bacon.

“Not only is it grounding the children and getting them ready for their learning, it’s good for their fine motor skills and is an extra art lesson, among other things,” she added. “It has really had a great impact and is totally sustainable.”

Saltburn-based sculpture specialist Bub, who worked with Bankfields and several other schools on the project, said it has also been useful in highlighting possible career paths for thousands of Teesside children as creative industries continue to grow.