Meet Cat, Onion's Education Engagement Officer

Originally contracted in April 2018 as Contains Art’s Education Engagement Officer, Cat Smith’s role now encompasses education and engagement with students and young people across all strands of Onion Collective’s work including the creative and cultural side at the East Quay development as well as the bio-manufacturing factory at the Paper Mill site. Having worked as a primary school teacher and arts coordinator across Somerset for 13 years, Cat has an extensive background in education and arts provision for young people. Cat manages Contains Art’s Studio Digital programme and will also be leading the education element of a forthcoming Maritime Heritage Project and will also construct education programmes for East Quay and the bio-manufacturing project.

Hello! My name is Cat Smith and I am Onion’s new Education Engagement Officer. Not totally new to the Onion office, my introduction has been gradual as I have been doing this role with Contains Art for the past couple of years. I am also known to many local school children having taught at Knights Templar First School and I ran the after-school art club at Danesfield Middle School last year. With my background in primary education alongside links I have already forged with our local schools, I can’t wait to create even more exciting opportunities that enhance the learning offered to our local children and young people.

Creative education is now high on the agenda of our local schools, many of whom have recently embarked upon Artsmark, a creative quality standard which provides a clear framework for teachers and education professionals to plan, develop and evaluate their arts and cultural provision. I am passionate about supporting children’s learning through meaningful contact with artists and industry professionals, providing opportunities to develop young people’s creativity, self-confidence and decision-making skills, amongst other things.

This has been happening already with Studio Digital, which is a free programme run by Contains Art for teenagers aged 14+ who are interested in gaming, designing, you-tubing, making films, graphic design or anything digital.

Within this programme, the group visit various organisations working at the forefront of the creative digital marketplace, and employ industry experts, often young professionals, who support the teens in carrying out real-world tasks. Throughout the process, the teens develop their digital skills and learn about a range of digital career options and pathways available to them. This generation have so many digital skills embedded from an early age, so it’s all about tapping into these skills and developing new ones, whilst imagining new and exciting careers options in the digital arts. We have a lot of fun in the process!

The prospect of creating an education programme that challenges, motivates and inspires

our young people is incredibly exciting. The definitive long-term goal being to raise ambitions, aspirations and ultimately the employability of the next generation. All manner of interesting jobs will be available in and around Watchet so we need to provide an education programme which equips children and young people for this shift in the local economy and jobs market.

I am completely delighted to become part of the Onion team and to play my part in establishing lots of incredible opportunities for the children and young people of West Somerset and beyond!

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