Funding for creativity has been renewed in the run-up to a new cross-disciplinary curriculum in Wales that will see Expressive Arts become a main pillar of the learning framework.
Creative Learning through the Arts, the Wales-wide school arts initiative to embed the arts and creativity into schools, about to enter its second phase with an emphasis on digital programmes giving teachers and home learners more opportunities to engage online.
The announcement of £3m two-year extension to the programme, which began in 2015, will give schools new opportunities to apply creative skills in all areas of learning. As schools adapt to new ways of interacting with students, the programme places greater emphasis on digital technologies and aims “to provide creative, engaging and arts focussed online learning tools to support teachers and pupils in both school and home settings.”
More cultural enrichment experiences will be available through a curated collection of digital performances, exhibitions, readings and other arts and cultural activities. This will be an extension of the Arts Council of Wales’ (ACW) Go and See scheme, which offered schools grants of up to £1,000 for visits to high-quality arts events in venues across Wales. The fund has had to be been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis, which has seen schools and arts organisations close, and many of ACW’s arts programmes put on ice as money is diverted to sustain artists and organisations through the emergency.
Professional learning will be integral to the renewed programme, and teachers will be supported to develop creative approaches to learning through a revised Lead Creative Schools Scheme. Online learning sessions will support teachers’ current practice, but also help them plan for Curriculum for Wales 2022, a new framework for learning and teaching that is due to be launched across Wales in two years’ time.
The radical new curriculum is based on a six ‘Areas’ of cross-disciplinary learning and experience, one of which is Expressive Arts. To support teachers working in this area, creative professionals will be commissioned to develop online masterclasses that will introduce learners of all year groups to new practical techniques.
Creative Learning through the Arts is a pioneering approach to education that has been transforming the teaching methods in Wales over the last five years. Launched in 2015 and supported by £20m in funding, the programme has been evaluated throughout and an interim report found it had provided consistency to previously limited and sporadic arts and education collaborations.
Concerns were raised that maintaining the programme would be a challenge when financial support ends, and challenges still to be addressed include changing the views of schools and individuals not already committed to the arts, who have proved the most difficult to engage.
ACW Programme Manager Sian James said the additional two years of funding is “a great story for us here in Wales” and “testament to the success of the programme over the last 5 years.”
She explained: “More than 119,000 pupils from 1,200 schools across Wales have benefited… Central to the programme has been the Lead Creative Schools Scheme which has seen 604 schools engage with creative professionals in order to explore creative approaches to teaching and learning, improve attainment and develop the skills of teachers. The Go and See Fund has supported over 800 visits to high-quality arts and cultural events in galleries, theatres, arts centres and other venues. These visits have often been the catalyst for inspiring arts activity back in the classroom.
“The numbers alone are significant, but we know there are many more schools wanting to experience the transformational journey that our Lead Creative Schools tell us they have been on. And evidence from schools alongside independent evaluation show us that the the innovative approach to teaching and learning developed through the programme is having a positive impact on pupil engagement with learning, and on their attainment.”
Details of the new opportunities for schools, artists and organisations across Wales will be published next week, on Tuesday 28 April.