A new report reveals the impact of Wales’ arts-based creative learning programme as it enters its final year of funding.

Photo of child's classroom
A child's classroom

Almost 100,000 pupils in Welsh state schools have been reached by the country’s pioneering arts education scheme, Creative Learning through the Arts.

The latest programme evaluation reveals that 91,000 learners – from 63% of schools in Wales – have learned about arts and culture, participated in the arts, and developed creative skills across the curriculum.

“This is testament to the fantastic achievements of all the teachers, creative professionals and learners who have taken part,” commented Kirsty Williams, Wales’ Minister of Education.

Progress

The programme aims to establish arts as a key pillar of learning in schools, in preparation for changes in the curriculum due to take effect in 2022. By this time Welsh schools are due to adopt six ‘areas of learning and experience’, including “expressive arts”, in place of traditional subjects.

The scheme has two strands: ‘lead creative schools’, which partners creative professionals with schools to find creative approaches of teaching literacy and numeracy; and ‘all Wales arts and education offer’, in which arts organisations and education institutions are supported to build mutually beneficial partnerships through a series of new networks. These are also supported by grants of up to £1k through the ‘Go and See’ fund, which aims to enable visits to arts events across Wales.

Over 900 teachers have been trained in the final Lead Creative Schools Scheme. The report also reveals that:

  • 228 lead creative schools were selected and involved across the year
  • 454 ‘Go and See’ awards had been granted by 31 August 2018
  • Regional arts and education networks provided almost 120 continuing professional development opportunities to teachers and artists across the country 
  • 32 ‘arts champions’ were made available to schools across Wales

In addition, the report notes 22 creative collaborations grants had been made by 31 August 2018. This fund provides up to £15k for expressive arts projects, which have included creating theatrical escape rooms.

Challenges ahead

The programme was launched in 2015 and will have been supported by £20m in funding by the time the project concludes. Last year, an interim report found that it has been broadly positive, having provided consistency to previously limited and sporadic arts and education collaborations. 

But it also warned about challenges to maintaining the programme once financial support draws to a close, and expressed concerns that there is little evidence that the scheme is changing the views of schools and individuals not already committed to the arts.

Similarly, it expresses a concern it will be impossible to assess the impact of creative learning on attainment in maths and literacy because of a lack of access to data held by the Welsh Government.

Speaking about the latest evaluation, ACW Chief Executive Nick Capaldi said there have been “really interesting projects” that have “got to the heart of persistent and difficult issues that some schools have to deal with”.

He continued: “In this report, you can see some tremendous examples of really inspiring teaching. All of this combines to really change the nature of how a whole range of subjects are taught in schools."

Another evaluation report will be published next year, and an event showcasing learning across the programme will take place this month.

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