The Malta Visual and Performing Arts School is an educational institution for students who have a high propensity towards visual and performing arts, who show great eagerness, and have an immense aptitude to further their artistic competence and ideas. It can engage, inspire and enrich its students, excite their imagination and encourage them to accomplish their creative and expressive potential.

It aims to develop the students’ creativity, critical thinking, aesthetic knowledge and understanding of art practices, through observing, researching, making and responding with growing self-confidence.

It will be situated in Ħamrun at what is presently known as St Thomas More Boys Secondary, which is in its final phasing out stage. It will operate with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to achieve its full potential as a leading visual and performing arts learning institution, boasting of large classes, studios, labs and workshops apart from other facilities for specialised education like science labs, design and technology labs, computer labs and gym, and recreational facilities.

It will in time have a refurbished hall where performances can take place and that will provide true-to-life experiences for the students-performers. Its multi-purpose hall will serve many objectives, from morning assemblies, staff meetings and SDPs, shelter area on rainy days, sports activities, exhibitions and so forth. Transport will be provided to and from school to all destinations across the national territory from where students come.

Entry to the arts school is based on the principle that all Maltese citizens are entitled to engage fully in any art form of their choice and to be given an extensive and balanced support in the specialised knowledge and skills of each. It will accept students in Year 7 from all over the national territory, after successfully finishing studies in Year 6 (primary level) with a promising performance in the academic field.

Forthcoming entrants have to provide evidence of their skills and abilities in their selected study of choice as well as show a strong sense of dedication, perseverance and commitment. This will be achieved by means of practical performance audition sessions and an interview.

However, apart from the arts, the school will also evaluate the students’ academic prowess with pride and will provide instruction and learning experiences which are second to none in the academic subjects. It will strive to be a comprehensive educational institution and for such a purpose will assume the commission of, as well as the concern for, the students’ security and welfare with regular individual guidance sessions, and when the time is ripe, with choice career reflections.

The school responds to the directives listed in the NCF, which state that general capabilities include the knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions which, together with the curriculum content in each learning area of all art forms and the cross-curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the 21st century.

To support such a guarantee students will have to collaborate with a pledge to reach outstanding attainment levels, within a high-quality educational structure that ensures clear policies and feasible plans. The school will thus provide and sustain services that can help create an even-handed and hence a general peaceful mood around the school between staff, students, and parents and also generate a preliminary rapport with the visual and performing arts community that eventually yields immense fulfilment.

The school will generate a preliminary rapport with the visual and performing arts community that eventually yields immense fulfilment

The courses proposed by the school are carefully built on practice. Thus, apart from their personal and social development as engaged citizens, who will be equipped to acquire further life-long skills, students will be geared towards employability.

They will be provided with the necessary knowledge, expertise and attitudes that can help them find employment later on, maybe even professionally, as actors for stage and camera work, dancers, painters and sculptors, musicians and digital artists. Each art form focuses on its practices, terminology and unique ways of looking at the world.

Needless to say however, the school is geared to operate on a dual pathway system, meaning that apart from the artistic possibilities, students will also have the option to pursue a career in other fields away from the arts.

At the beginning of the final year, (Year 11, or Form 5) the school will stage a series ofindividual performances to which interested people and corporate entities in the visual and the performing arts will be invited. This will help to build the future of the students and will serve as a showcase of what they can do.

The school will follow the present national curriculum which leads to MQF Level 3 certification. The assessment will follow national assessment procedures, at the end of which the SSC&P will be issued to each student.

Each academic year the school takes in up to 48 students. In Year 7 (Form 1) students are divided into three classes of 16 students each. This will take place irrespective of the fact that in the first two years all students will embark on a preliminary foundation course that includes exposition in all of the five art forms. Ten students will be chosen for drama, music, dance, and art. Eight students will be chosen for media studies.

The school should provide the real key to the process of creating the permanent footing in young students to pursue a genuine interest in the visual and performing arts. The road towards true professionalism starts here.

When designing the programmes for each MVPA subject, one will have to identify the stakeholders who are needed at a national level.

These may be the Malta Arts Council, Heritage Malta, Malta Film Commission, the Public Broadcasting Station, Żfin Malta, Teatru Manoel, St James Cavalier Creative Centre, Pjazza Teatru Rjal, and the Mediterranean Conference Centre, as well as scores of private enterprises.

Other further and higher education institutions have to be consulted so that there will be a smooth progression for students who would like to further their studies, particularly if interest in students take them to either the Mcast or the University of Malta, both of which intend to set up their own visual and performing arts courses.

Finally, the private sector is also a relevant player. Non-governmental entities and companies that make the arts their business will surely look favourably at the product that this new school will yield. They will perhaps offer some form of guidance and suggestions in certain particular matters.

The school will open its doors at the beginning of the new scholastic year. Its first intake is 46.

Żep Camilleri is coordinator of the Malta Visual and Performing Arts School.