Newcastle High to introduce selective fine arts class

Impressive: University of the Arts London representatives Marie Li and Lynda Doyle with Newcastle High's Jody Robinson. Ms Doyle said UAL interviewed 60 students this month, up from 30 last year. Picture: Simone De Peak
Impressive: University of the Arts London representatives Marie Li and Lynda Doyle with Newcastle High's Jody Robinson. Ms Doyle said UAL interviewed 60 students this month, up from 30 last year. Picture: Simone De Peak

NEWCASTLE High is poised to introduce an element of selective admission to its historic school, by offering 30 places in a unique year seven class to students at partner primary schools who have shown talent in fine arts.

The school’s head teacher of creative and performing arts, Jody Robinson, said she was training specialist visual arts teachers to run fine arts classes at primary schools this year, with the aim of offering 30 current year six students places in the Art Masters Class in year seven in 2019.

“We’re determined for this to be successful,” Ms Robinson said.

“We know Newcastle believes in the arts and that in a recent census we had the most artists per capita. 

“We see that in our classrooms and at our parent teacher nights.”

Ms Robinson said the class would offer students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the fine arts. “They’ll still do what everybody else is doing but their teachers will have an art perspective,” she said.

“Whatever we do in maths we’ll try to replicate that in art and vice versa.

“This won’t be tokenistic, but it also won’t be like selecting athletic students to become athletes.

“They won’t be selected because they want to be an artist, but because that is how they see the world.”

Ms Robinson has introduced a series of changes at the school, including inviting teachers-in-training to observe Newcastle High staff; encouraging students to compile a portfolio of work that ticks boxes of university selection criteria; a team of teachers educating senior visual arts and music classes; and inviting students to show in the school’s gallery.

The school has caught the eye of representatives from the University of Arts London (UAL), which boasts alumni including Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Jimmy Choo.

UAL’s Lynda Doyle and Marie Li visited the school on Monday to see the facilities and speak with students about their work and described the resources as “very impressive”.

“It’s great that it’s not prescriptive – the students initiate their own works so it comes from them, their backgrounds, what they’re interested in, their journey and their ideas.

“The final outcome is always theirs, they’re not just copying other artists.

“They’re doing research, development, pushing their projects forward and experimenting and we believe that makes their work more original.”

They also held interviews at the school for four recent-school-graduates who have applied to study at UAL.

“It’s really important for students to realise their work is on par with their peers from bigger cities – their level is just as good.”

Representatives regularly visit Australia to recruit students, but have previously only held interviews in Sydney and Melbourne.

UAL offered former Newcastle High student Max Galbraith a place last year.

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