The Welsh Government and the Arts Council have joined forces in a national schools initiative that will embed the arts and creativity into the curriculum with a view to driving up educational attainment levels, particularly among disadvantaged students.
Walt Jabsco (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
A radical five-year action plan designed to bring about a step change in the range and quality of opportunities that children and young people are given to engage with and learn about the arts and culture has been launched by the Welsh Government in partnership with the Arts Council of Wales (ACW). Responding to research showing that pupil motivation, behaviour and educational attainment is improved when the arts are embedded across the curriculum, the plan describes how schools will be supported – by ACW in partnership with regional education consortia, local authorities and the wider arts and cultural sector – to develop a more creative approach to teaching and learning.
The initiative has come about in response to Chair of ACW Professor Dai Smith’s report, Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales, in which an arts-rich approach to teaching was recognised as a potential “game-changer” for education in Wales. The plan, ‘Creative Learning Through the Arts’, details a programme of intensive effort aimed at ensuring that the benefits of creative education are fully realised in Wales. It is being given £10m by the Welsh Government, which will be matched by a further £10m of ACW Lottery money.
The plan contains several elements that build on the most effective ingredients of the Creative Partnerships scheme in England, which came to an end in 2011 when funding was withdrawn. Among these is the opportunity for schools across Wales to become part of a new ‘Lead Creative Schools Scheme’, which will bring creative practitioners – artists, musicians, actors, film makers, designers – into schools to work with pupils and teachers. Through the scheme, around a third of schools will be supported over a minimum of two years to find creative approaches to literacy and numeracy, particularly aimed at reducing the attainment gap between learners eligible for free school meals and their peers. Participating schools will be allocated a trained creative professional who will work with them to introduce sustainable changes in teaching practice. Senior management will be required to provide support to embed the programme within whole-school policy and teachers will be given opportunities for professional development and expected to share the knowledge, skills and experience they gain within their own school and with others.
To increase and improve arts experiences and opportunities for children and young people, an all-Wales Arts and Education Programme will offer schools greater access to professional artists and arts organisations, to enhance and complement their teaching. This will be delivered by four regional Arts and Education Networks, closely linked to the regional education consortia, challenge advisors, and the coordinators responsible for the Lead Creative Schools Scheme. To ensure that schools benefit fully from participating in the programme, they will be asked to nominate a senior member of staff to take the role of School Creativity and Arts Champion, who will be the link between their school and the opportunities available through the regional network.
Other plans include a new arts and creative learning portal, hosted on the all-Wales learning platform Hwb, which will provide resources and information on opportunities for schools. An ‘Experiencing the Arts’ fund will also be available for schools to draw on to support visits to venues such as galleries and theatres, and for new and innovative collaboration between schools and arts and cultural organisations.
Opportunities for more able and talented children and young people to participate in enrichment activities and work alongside leading arts professionals are not currently available across the whole of Wales, and ACW will be conducting a mapping exercise to develop a more comprehensive picture of what is available and identify gaps in provision and resources needed to support this work.
Commenting on the launch of the plan, Professor Smith, said: “My report of 2013 presented Government with a key challenge – embed arts and creativity in our schools across Wales and there will be a sea-change in attendance, aspiration and importantly achievement. The Welsh Government has responded with vigour and commitment and I look forward to seeing delivering the benefits that our schools deserve and need.” Paul Collard, Chief Executive of the agency Creativity, Culture and Education, which developed the Creative Partnerships model and extended it across the world, told AP: “The Warwick Commission rightly pointed to the fact that ACW with the support of the Welsh Government had already produced a vision for the future of cultural education in Wales and lamented the absence of such a document on England. They have now followed up with a detailed implementation plan which will make that vision a reality for young people in Wales, a strategy which builds intelligently on the experience of Creative Partnerships in England and around the world to create a plan appropriately adapted to the Welsh context. What Welsh vision and investment now so cruelly exposes is the inadequacy of cultural provision for young people in England.”