At Barbara Priestman Academy we are committed to providing all students with the opportunities to engage and succeed in the Arts, regardless of background, language, gender, or special educational needs, through high quality, differentiated teaching.

Our ethos is about raising standards of achievement and the quality of learning for all our students; nurturing within our students a lifelong passion for, and appreciation of the arts.

Within the Arts we aim to:

  • Implement a strategic and co-ordinated approach to arts education, including effective arts partnerships.
  • Engage all our students in a range of high quality arts experiences and cultural opportunities to explore values, attitudes, feelings and meanings.
  • Raise standards of achievement in the Arts for all students.
  • Raise the profile of the Arts within the Academy and the wider community, as well as within our link primary, secondary and further education establishments.

Empire Performance 16th July 2019

On 16th July, the 6th Form band Brittanic went to perform at Sunderland Empire, at the final of Sunderland Music Hub’s songwriting competition. The song ‘In My Head’ that was shortlisted to be performed, was written as part of the songwriting project with Sunderland Music Hub and Sage Gateshead. The boys opened the show and were absolutely outstanding! David ran onto the stage shouting, “Hello Sunderland! Are you having a good time?” He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand as he got them all on their feet and clapping along. Luke’s riff was note perfect, Dominic Y and Jude drove the song along with their chunky rhythms and Dominic P’s distorted guitar gave authenticity to their performance. Words cannot express how proud we are of them. Next stop, Wembley!

Sage Performance 5th July 2019

On Friday 5th July 2019, our KS4 band ‘The Wanderers’, performed in hall 2 at Sage Gateshead as part of the annual ‘Music Spark Show’ concert. ‘Music Spark Show’ is an exciting showcase event planned and hosted by the Music Spark Team based at Sage Gateshead, a group of young aspiring community musicians with additional needs. The show invites some of the regions most accomplished performers to Sage Two to celebrate diversity in our local communities and champion ability before disability. Our band have been working on a song writing project with our guitar teacher and staff from Sage Gateshead, funded by Youth Music. They have written their own song and this is what they performed in the concert. It was fantastic seeing them perform on stage with such confidence and musicality. This was a huge achievement for the students and we cannot express how proud we are of them. Fame at last boys!

Empire Sunderland Songwriting Project

Please see below the flyer for the final of Sunderland Music Hub’s songwriting competition, held at the Sunderland Empire, featuring our 6th Form band Brittanic!

Sage Gateshead Songwriting Project

Over the spring term, our KS4 and KS5 bands have been working with staff from Sage Gateshead and our own peripatetic guitar teacher on a project funded by Youth Music. The goal was to bring our young people together to collaborate creatively on a song writing project. To do this, each band have written their own song in a chosen style, acoustic folk pop for KS4 and heavy rock for KS5, which they will later be recording at a local recording studio. This is a massive achievement for all of the students involved, as this will be the first time any of our students have written and recorded their own material. You can even see a snapshot of song words in the image, to give you a taste of what they have produced. Well done to everyone, we can’t wait to hear the finished products!


At KS3, Music, Art and Dance are taught as discrete subjects and all students receive one 50-minute lesson per week of each of these Arts subjects.

Students begin KS4 options in Year 10 and can select an art or music option.
Drama is taught using a cross curricular approach through English.

At KS4 and KS5, students can choose from a range of differentiated arts based qualifications so they can personalise their learning route. This ensures they can maximise their achievement, creativity and enjoyment in the Arts providing the best foundation for further/higher education or employment.

Performance Qualifications

In Key Stage 4 students access an Arts Award qualification and a NOCN Entry Level qualification in Performance Skills.

Key Stage 5 students work towards an NCFE Level 1 or 2 qualification in Performance Skills. The courses are a combination of practical and written work and are suited to those who wish to develop their overall performance skills, whether it is acting, dancing or music. It could be a combination of all three.

Outside of specific lessons, Key Stage 3 students along with 6th form theatre students audition for and perform alongside one another during the annual prestigious Shakespeare Schools Festival (see below).
It is here where they get the opportunity to perform to large audiences in a professional theatre, whilst also getting the chance to work with Shakespeare Festival directors.

There is a focus on not only raising knowledge of Drama conversation and texts, but also raising self – esteem, confidence and team work skills.

Opportunities to experience the Arts

Students are provided with a wealth of opportunities to experience the Arts within and outside of the curriculum, through cross-curricular schemes and projects between the Arts and across other subject areas; working alongside visiting artists; attending theatre trips and art galleries; performing in our range of events, including our annual talent show, annual Shakespeare for schools Foundation, annual end of year celebration assemblies for all Key Stages, annual NT Connections play, assemblies and performances for our partner schools.


Partnerships with arts organisations such as Cap-a-Pie, Sunderland Empire Theatre, National Theatre, Northern Stage and No Limits provide additional opportunities for students to engage in the arts.


On 6th July the two winning acts from our talent show went to perform as part of PortFest, an outside festival style event based at Portland Academy. David reprised his role as Elton John, singing ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’, whilst Jude and Dalton reprised their performance of ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong, with Jude singing accompanied by Dalton on ukulele. The sun was shining and there was an amazing atmosphere, a perfect setting for their acts. The fact the audience was large and made up of many unfamiliar people, did not stop the boys from delivering outstanding performances.

They received lots of well-deserved praise and rightly so. Well done lads, next stop Glastonbury!

Tall Ships 2018

On 13th July the 6th Form band went to St Peter’s Campus at Sunderland University to perform as part of the Tall Ships celebrations. The backdrop for the performance was amazing, with the ships masts being visible behind the stage, the perfect setting for an outside show. David, Dominic, Luke, Dominic and Jude performed a three song set they had chosen themselves, ‘Enter Sandman’ by Metallica, ‘Basket Case’ by Green Day and ‘Nellie the Elephant’ by the Toy Dolls. The band chose the final song as a tribute to the Toy Dolls, a Sunderland based group, as they thought it would be fitting considering the history behind the Tall Ships and the heritage of Sunderland. Their set opened the show and it went down a storm with the crowd. Following our band there were performances by 4 other local schools, which also had the crowd clapping and singing along. It was an amazing morning and an experience that will not be forgotten. To perform at such a prestigious event and on the professional outside stage was a dream come true. Well done lads, here’s to our next adventure!

Brad from Cap a Pie leading a warm up with the cast of ‘Want’ 2018

Justin from National Theatre talking to the cast of ‘What are they like?’

Janet from No Limits working with some of our students.

‘Maia’ Live Music Now 2018

On Thursday 22nd March we had a visit from ‘Maia’, as part of a Live Music Now Tour. Maia, self-proclaimed inventors of Psychedelic Sci-fi folk, create a genre busting mix of sweet stunning vocal harmonies over funky blissed out grooves; punctuated by echoing banjo, guitar, shimmering mandolins, spooky brass, deep bass and keyboards.

The group were a hit with both staff and students alike, with plenty of opportunities for audience participation during their 60 minute performance.
They performed an acoustic set consisting of original material, with several opportunities to sing-along and explore the instruments. As one student wrote in their feedback, “Maia are absolutely brilliant, we would love to have them back again!”

Search for a Special Star Final 2017

On 11th July David, Dominic and Lennon represented our academy as part of the Search for a Special Star Final that took place at Columbia Grange School.
David and Dominic performed ‘Enter Sandman’ by Metallica and blew the audience away with their musicianship, audience participation techniques, as well as their stage presence and musical ability. Lennon performed ‘Shape of You’ by Ed Sheeran and impressed everyone by the standard of his singing, as well as his stage persona.
Although the standard of all performances were high, I am pleased to say WE WON!
Both acts were so good that they could not choose between them, so they were awarded joint winners.

Well done to everyone involved, a fantastic night was had by all!

M&M Productions




Student voice in the Arts

Students are encouraged to direct their own learning at Barbara Priestman Academy.

The Arts curriculum is developed with the learners and for the learners, as much as possible, through gaining student feedback and involving students in planning learning experiences.
We value student feedback and feel it is vitally important that we listen to students’ views about their experiences within the Arts and adapt teaching accordingly.

This is why when appointing new members of staff students are involved in the interview process.

Student Views

Northern Stage May 2018
  • “The Performing Arts section is outstanding. It gives people a chance to express their true ability and uniqueness to friends and family. From music to acting, I have developed exponentially over the years, taking part in the Shakespeare Festival, NT Connections and performing in my own band where I have entertained the audience. It is a true supernova of life.”


  • “I have felt many of my skills have improved greatly: confidence, teamwork and my stage presence. I always love to be in the spotlight entertaining people, because when I’m up there on stage the rush through my body makes me feel like a rock star.”
    David (KS5)


  • “I enjoyed taking part, as an actor in ‘Want’. My acting skills and it helped me to build my confidence. It is a good opportunity to build up social skills.”
    Benjamin (KS5)


Shakespeare Schools Foundation November 2017
  • “I liked being on stage and working with different people. I looked forward to doing the show in front of an audience. I’d never been on stage in front of an audience.”
    Joshua (KS3)


  • “I’ve enjoyed everything about Shakespeare. I like working with people who I haven’t worked with before and getting to know them. I wouldn’t normally get the chance to work with older students.”
    Imogen (KS3)


  • “This is the first time I’ve done this kind of thing. The Shakespeare language is so hard because they don’t use it today. I would like to perform Shakespeare again.”
    Jasmine (KS4)


  • “I have made self-improvement by pushing myself. I have learnt to be patient and try to improve myself. Sometimes I achieve, sometimes I don’t, but at least now I try.”
    Philip (KS5)


  • “I could not do a lot of things last year, but I can now as I have the confidence to do the things I couldn’t.”
    Heather (KS3)


  • “This time I have a bigger part because I have shown Emily what I can do. This make me feel happy because I’m doing it for someone else too.”
    Chloe (KS4)


At Barbara Priestman Academy we recognise the importance of working within the local community to enhance and enrich our Arts provision.

We regularly invite Parents into the Academy to experience the impact of the arts first hand, through the quality of the students’ performances, along with local SEN and mainstream schools/academies.

Arts Award

Arts Award is a qualification at 5 levels, aimed at developing creativity, communication and leadership skills in young people aged from 7-25.
It starts at Discover, then goes on to Explore (Entry 3 equivalent), Bronze (Level 1 equivalent), Silver (Level 2 equivalent) and Gold (Level 3 equivalent).

We currently offer the award at Discover, Explore and Bronze level, delivered through the Performance option at KS4.
The award at Explore and Bronze level is an accredited qualification.

National Theatre Connections

NT Connections is the National Theatre’s festival of new plays for youth theatres and schools.

Each year the National Theatre invites ten writers to create new plays. Youth theatre companies up and down the country present premieres of the plays first in their home venues, then as part of a festival at their professional partner theatre.

Taking part gives young people the opportunity to experience the whole theatre-making process and the many roles involved, from performing on stage to operating lights and sound to name just a few.

Our students have been part of NT connections since 2013 and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, developing many new skills whilst working in a professional acting environment. In summer 2016 our theatre employability group were chosen to open the NT Connections Festival in London, where they performed in the Dorfman Theatre within the National Theatre itself. This was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience, the students will never forget.


Academy staff who are involved also get to develop new skills as they are required to attend a Director’s weekend in London. It is here where they get to continue their professional development by working with the National Theatre staff, including Directors, to help them look at the overall creative process involved in staging plays of such a high calibre.

‘Want’ by Barney Norris 2018


On 7th February 2018 the 6th Form theatre employability group performed ‘Want’ a brand new play by Barney Norris, as part of National Theatre Connections. ‘Want’ tells the story of 7 young people as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood, something we’ve all gone through.

The play is funny and moving and makes you think about your own experience of that time – the brilliant bits,the difficult parts and the possibilities. Rather than performing the play in our academy hall as in previous years, this year for the first time, the performance took place at Arts Centre Washington.

The cast gave a very good performance of the play after working extremely hard on scene transitions, vocal projection and vocal clarity. They will be completing further work on these areas over the coming weeks as well as focusing on character development and development of the storytelling aspect of the play, as part of the transition to Northern Stage. Only 3 out of the 7 cast members had previous experience of performing as part of NT Connections, but this was not obvious as they all worked together brilliantly and provided support for each other. They should be very proud of all they have achieved.


‘Three’ by Harriet Braun 2017


On 14th and 15th February 2017 the 6th Form theatre employability group performed ‘Three’ a play by Harriet Braun, which focuses on three relationships. Each couple tell their story throughout the play with help from a narrator and also from their inner voices, who share each characters’ ‘real’ thoughts and feelings, which can sometimes be embarrassing or downright hilarious! The cast portray the relationships as they develop and take us on the journey each couple experiences. There are a lot of difficult themes for the cast to think about and portray, especially those around feelings and emotions. They gave a fantastic performance of the play and did an even better job when they transferred the play to Northern Stage for one night. The cast had worked extremely hard on developing the storytelling aspect of the play during the second round of rehearsals, including a lot of character work. Their portrayal of each relationship and the journey experienced by each couple was done with maturity and an understanding beyond their years. Well done to everyone, we are so proud of you!


National Theatre Connections Festival in London 27-29th June 2016


After three years of participating in National Theatre Connections, we were actually chosen to perform at the National Theatre Connections Festival, in the National Theatre itself!

This year marks the 21st anniversary of Connections, so nearly 500 companies, rather than the usual 250, performed plays within their partner theatres. Out of those 500 companies and 10,000 young people taking part, our company was chosen along with 11 other companies to perform. Our prize was a trip to London where we got to perform our play ‘What Are They Like?’ in the Dorfman Theatre. We also got to participate in backstage tours at both the National Theatre and at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the Southbank. It was an amazing experience for all involved, especially when the writer of the play, Lucinda Coxon, asked to meet the cast following their amazing performance. The reaction from the crowd was priceless, a standing ovation within the theatre that continued as the cast walked through the auditorium! To top it off we even spotted Gordon Ramsay parking his car outside the theatre!


‘What Are They Like?’ by Lucinda Coxon 


On 8th and 9th March our 6th Form theatre employability group, along with two students from Hope Wood Academy, performed ‘What Are They Like?’ by Lucinda Coxon as part of National Theatre Connections 2016. The play focuses on the relationship between parents and their children, with the cast taking on the role of parents in a variety of different scenarios. The students were absolutely fantastic, receiving well deserved praise from everyone in the audience. They demonstrated great team work during rehearsals and in the actual show, which was also mentioned in feedback given by the National Theatre Director who watched the opening night performance. The group then performed the play again for one night on Wednesday 27th April at Northern Stage Theatre in Newcastle. The performance was even better than their home performances, with students giving confident, polished and thought-provoking performances as part of the ensemble.


Angels – 2014


Our Theatre Business performed ‘Angels,’ a brand new play written by Pauline McLynn, in February over two nights at Barbara Priestman (our home venue), then again in April at Northern Stage (our partner venue), as part of NT Connections 14. The play focuses on a group of teenagers who take part in a community project in a graveyard, overseen by three angels. It was a team performance involving staff and students from the Theatre Business, Media Business and the Design Business. We also had a student from Y7 taking on an acting role and a student from Y11 taking on a dancing/vocal role. The whole team worked well together, producing a performance to remember.


Mobile Phone Show – 2013


Our Sixth Form Theatre Business performed ‘Mobile Phone Show’ by Jim Cartwright at the Northern Stage in Newcastle, our partner theatre, on April 23rd, as part of NT Connections 2013. This followed a successful two night run here at Barbara Priestman. The performance at Northern Stage opened a festival focusing on performances of all 10 plays within NT Connections. The students were absolutely fantastic, receiving well deserved praise from everyone in the audience, including the staff from the Northern Stage, who said our performance was one of the highlights of the festival!

Shakespeare Schools Foundation

The Shakespeare Schools Foundation (SSF) is an inclusive, non-competitive Festival, where four schools per night perform 30-minute plays in their local professional theatre. SSF provide the scripts, resources, training and the framework needed so schools can direct Shakespeare with up to 30 of their students. Shakespeare Schools Foundation inspires young people from ages 8-18 to challenge themselves through performing. It is the UK’s largest youth drama festival.

The school has participated in the Schools Shakespeare Festival for a number of years now, with students given the opportunity to take on such iconic plays as ‘Romeo & Juliet’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. We work closely with the local festival coordinators and develop plays tailored to the strengths and needs of our students incorporating aspects of movement and mime as well as dialogue.

Performances of our plays take place at Newcastle’s Northern Stage theatre with four schools performing their abridged plays to a paying audience: it is a great experience for the students as they have the opportunity to work with not only representatives from SSF but also students from other schools from across the North East and get to perform their roles on a huge stage in a professional theatre environment.


A Midnight Summers Dream 2017

On Tuesday 7th November, twenty two of our students performed ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Northern Stage Theatre in Newcastle.

The cast was made up of students from all Key Stages, including those who have performed many times, and some for whom it was their debut performance.

The play itself is a very complex story to tell, but our students brought the tale to life adding lots of humour during their own interpretation.

They had the audience eating out of their hands and provided lots of comedic moments, so much so that William Shakespeare himself would have been proud!

An audience member had this to say about the actors and their performance: “They were confident, funny, professional and gave a great performance.”

The students showed an amazing amount of focus and professionalism beyond their years and we are very proud of each and every one of them. Thank you to everyone involved, staff, students and parents. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

Midsummer Night’s Dream Report


Macbeth 2016


Seventeen of our students performed Macbeth at Northern Stage. The cast was made up of students from all Key Stages, including those who have performed many times, and some for whom it was their debut performance.The delivery of the play was absolutely fantastic, with the cast telling the story clearly and with lots of emotion.

The students showed an amazing amount of focus and professionalism beyond their years, experiencing great success.

The performance, directed by Emily Landells and Hannah Wilson was absolutely fantastic and the cast should feel very proud of themselves!

Macbeth Report 2016


Romeo and Juliet 2015

A group of fifteen students from Key Stage 3 and 5 participated in the Shakespeare Schools festival where they performed Romeo and Juliet.

The play, directed by Emily Landells and Bethany Coyne centres around two families, the Montagues and the Capulets.

It is a tragic love story about ‘a pair of star crossed lovers’ from rival families.

Our performance told the tragic tale with emotion and humility. The cast fully understood the story and were able to deliver a passionate performance.

Romeo and Juliet Report 2015

The Tempest 2014

Fifteen of our students performed The Tempest and Northern Stage as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival. The play, directed by Emily Landells and Bethany Coyne, is a comedy focused around a storm, ‘The Tempest’, Prospero (a magician), Miranda (his daughter), Ariel (a Sprite), and several other characters.

The cast worked extremely well as an ensemble, supporting each other throughout the rehearsal process and within the actual performance.

A brilliant show, job well done!


Macbeth 2013

On November 12th 2013, some of our students performed Macbeth at Northern Stage as part of Shakespeare Schools Festival: this was the sixth consecutive year in which our students have participated in this event. Their performance, directed by Chris Graham, was absolutely fantastic. The students showed an amazing amount of focus and professionalism beyond their years, experiencing great success. 

“Taking part in Macbeth was a magnificent experience. It was good to see all of the cast working together. It was great having the opportunity to play a darker, more sinister role.” J. Hughes (Student Intern)

“I enjoyed playing a serious role as I usually take on comedic roles. It was a fantastic night.” A Larmar (student)

“It was my first time taking part in Shakespeare Schools Festival. I enjoyed my role and the high I got from performing on stage.” A. Rowlands (student).


Arts Council England believe every child should have the opportunity to create, compose, and perform, as well as to visit, experience, participate in and review extraordinary work. Awarded by Arts Council England, designed by schools and for schools, the new Artsmark award will help schools to deliver a high quality arts and cultural education and provides an excellent way to demonstrate this. We were awarded Artsmark Gold status, based on the old award, in October 2013 after a visit from an Artsmark assessor, who was very impressed by the standard of challenge offered to our students along with the quality of our arts provision.

Arts Council England has seven Quality Principles to raise the quality of work by, with and for children and young people. The Quality Principles are embedded throughout the new Artsmark award to better support schools to achieve their ambitions for high quality arts and cultural provision.

The seven Quality Principles are:

  1. Striving for excellence and innovation
  2. Being authentic
  3. Being exciting, inspiring and engaging
  4. Ensuring a positive and inclusive experience
  5. Actively involving children and young people
  6. Enabling personal progression
  7. Developing belonging and ownership

We are currently working towards gaining Artsmark status based on the new award. A Statement of Commitment is required which is the key arts planning document that ties arts provision to overarching aims in our academy development plan. Once the Statement of Commitment is submitted, we then have two years to work towards our aims, before we must submit a case study to show our learning journey within the arts and how we have incorporated the Quality Principles within it. Arts Council England will reflect on the Case Study evaluative report against the original Statement of Commitment to assess distance travelled, i.e. how well we have met our aims and the improvements that have been made, and will award a ‘level’ of Artsmark award which the academy can hold for two years before reapplying.