Case Studies

Newark Museum

Key Stage 4 (ages 14 to 15)

Raising attainment and creative writing skills through exploration of a historic art collection with Key Stage 4 students, during disrupted learning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • 3 days of writing workshops for students at Key Stage 4 (14-15 years)
  • Supported 102 students
  • Produced a Unit of Work for GCSE English

The project was developed to raise self-esteem, self-efficacy and motivation for year 10 pupils, who had struggled with disrupted learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project outcomes were for young people to work with writer Ioney Smallhorne to produce creative writing inspired by artworks from Newark Museum’s “hidden collection”. The partners called this self-esteem building, visual literacy project, ‘Collect, Connect, Create’.

The longer-term aim was that young people would develop the skills, knowledge and experience to raise their attainment in Paper 1 question 5 of the GCSE English examination. This extended writing task is an important component of the English GCSE, carrying 40 marks. To achieve at a higher level, pupils need to write a “convincing and compelling” piece of fiction, using extensive and ambitious vocabulary and demonstrating the use of different language techniques.

What happened?

The museum invited Year 10 students to uncover the hidden art collection in their museum store and choose the artworks with which they felt a strong connection.

12 young people attended the selection process which was held in a private building which is not opened to the public. The young people were able to look around, uncover things and find the artworks that they wanted to work with. This was pivotal to them gaining ownership of the project and steering its direction. These artworks were transported to the museum to create a pop-up exhibition.

Session planning was developed collaboratively by the writer and the museum learning officer with input from the teacher on curriculum and school-specific requirements. This input from school staff was essential in developing a relationship between the learning setting, the museum and the writer.

The creative writer was an experienced teacher of GCSE English and was able to bring this perspective to her creative practice. She was therefore highly effective in assisting in the development of engaging workshops and poems that were suitable for school pupils.
Partners worked together to develop resources for the workshops in order to ensure that students had a seamless experience. This new way of working was a positive experience and resulted in a successful creative partnership between the project team and young people.

After the initial selection process, a larger group of 90 year 10 pupils attended workshops at the museum over 3 days. The writer used the selected artefacts and images from the hidden collection to stimulate creative writing ideas. Activities offered to the young people included kennings, portrait poems, scavenger hunts and performance work in the adjoining theatre. Pupils were able to develop creative responses that explored language, played with similes and metaphors to create new work.

At the heart of this student-centred approach, young people responded well to working with a writer who was good at picking up on student’s feedback. This was regarded as important and helpful in generating a more adaptive way of working, and created a sense of ownership and belonging.


Alongside working in new, collaborative ways in the development and delivery of the sessions, establishing time for reflection during the project was beneficial, enabling ideas and key themes to be explored and identified which fed into the development of the final resource.


  • A unit of work which includes a film of the writer
  • 6 lesson plans and accompanying resources.
  • A pocket sized booklet which contains a portable set of student prompts to support GCSE preparation.

To access the project resources click the links shown in the Resource produced panel.

Newark Museum
The National Civic War Centre, Newark Museum
Venue leads
Sarah Clarke, Learning and Participation Manager and Denise Greany, Learning and Participation Officer
Creative writer
IIoney Smallhorne
Newark Academy
School lead
Tom Deller, Enrichment Lead
90 Year 9 and 12 Year 10 students
  • art history
  • GCSE English

Resource produced

Collect, Connect, Create

Downloadable Zip archive

A pocket sized booklet which contains a portable set of student prompts to support GCSE preparation.

Want to explore a creative approach to literacy?

Explore more ideas in the resources

Legacy outcomes

The development of an ongoing relationship between the partners and the creation of a new unit of work, based on utilising the resources.

Explore other case studies

The Whitworth

Key stage 4 (ages 13 - 14)

Raising self-esteem and building young people’s resilience, The Whitworth worked in partnership with Trinity Church of England High School and creative writer Johnny Woodhams, to increase levels of literacy across all subject areas.

  • mental health

Manchester Art Gallery

Key Stages 3 & 4 (ages 11 – 16)

A historic painting acts as the visual stimulus to help secondary pupils develop confidence in meeting the challenges of the new English GCSE.

  • art literacy
  • GCSE
  • National curriculum

Falmouth Art Gallery

Key Stage 3 (ages 11 – 14)

A collection of automata encourages year 7 boys to explore the theme of a dystopian future and write their own science fiction book.

  • art
  • automata
  • boys' writing
  • dystopia
  • literature

Looking for funding?

Check back here for an announcement on when the next funding round will open

Find out more