Guest Blog from Richard Russell on Arts Award

Richard Russell, Arts Award Blog

TMC Arts Award Conference

13th March 2018

Great arts and culture for everyone lies at the heart of the Arts Council’s mission. Goal 5 of this strategy aims to ensure that every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts, museums and libraries. As the Executive Board lead for the Arts Council on our work with children and young people, I have seen lots of hard work go into realising this goal, through different organisations and projects such as Arts Award.

From an Impact Study of Arts Award, we know that Arts Award appeals to a wide range of young people, including artistic high-fliers and the most disadvantaged. There is evidence to suggest that Arts Award can have the most significant impact on those that have less engagement with culture to start with. The flexible framework that Arts Award provides means that it works in a wide variety of settings, including significant amounts of work happening in Youth Justice and SEN, where children and young people have often been marginalised or excluded from participating in the arts.

Arts Award is excellent platform bringing together creativity and leadership, providing a deeper understanding of the way that the arts and culture sector works. The award framework facilitates a range of arts and cultural experiences, from participating in arts activities, to experiencing the arts as an audience member and researching the work of artists. It encourages links with local cultural organisations and the Arts Award Supporter programme facilitates young people’s independent exploration of arts and cultural organisations.

The award develops several transferable skills linked to attainment in all subjects, for example, the communication skills needed for employability. Enterprise can be a component of Silver and Gold Unit 2, where students lead their own arts projects. The award also provides real life opportunities to develop numeracy skills, such as budgeting in arts project management; and literacy, such as writing for different purposes and audiences.

Arts Award is a portfolio based qualification. This assessment format, with built in structures to encourage review and reflection on artistic practice, clearly involves ‘learning how to learn’ and developing awareness of your own abilities. These skills have an overarching impact on successfully receiving the Arts Award.

Arts Award is a key part of the Cultural Education Challenge. Through the Challenge, we want to make sure that more children and young people can create, compose, perform and experience the arts. We want every child to have the chance to visit, experience and participate in extraordinary work, and be able to know more, understand more, and review the experiences they’ve had. The Cultural Education Challenge asks arts and cultural organisations, educational institutions and local authorities to come together to drive a joined-up arts and cultural offer locally, to share resources and bring about a more coherent and visible delivery of cultural education through Cultural Education Partnerships.

Through these partnerships, and our new National portfolio we want to ensure that all young people have their achievement recognised and progression supported. Arts Award is already achieving this – over 80,000 awards were achieved in 2016-17. It’s exciting to think about what this means for each of the young people that has achieved an award, and even more exciting to think about how all of those people that work in cultural education with children and young people will help to sustain this growth in the future.

For anyone considering becoming an Arts Award Adviser, I would say ‘just give it a go’! It’s an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and a great way to connect with young people and help them progress and achieve through the arts as audiences, participants and creatives. Starting with a specific project is also usually helpful. Trinity College London provide plenty of post-training support to help advisers on their way, including online resources via the Adviser hub and in-person support. The Arts Council Bridge organisations also provide great support with the Arts Award, and can easily be contacted through our website.

At the Arts Award Conference on 13 March, I am looking forward to having the opportunity to see the work that people do, and to get the chance to hear about the different ways they are working with young people. Arts Award is of course the framework around which all this work sits, and it is brilliant that The Mighty Creatives have organised this conference, showcasing the achievements of children whilst providing organisations with an opportunity to discuss best practice and further develop arts education skills. I am excited to learn about the creative, innovative and engaging approaches different people have when working with young people engaged through the Award.

Follow Richard Russell on Twitter @richardrussell1