Inspiration for a Wellbeing focused Arts Award  

Ruth Clarke shares creative initiatives, activities & resources that support young people's resilience & wellbeing

4 February 2022

Arts Award and wellbeing

At its heart the Arts Award is a ‘flexible framework for personalised learning, offering a series of qualifications to suit all learners’. This centeredness on the individual and the absence of a formalised curriculum, along with its validating of achievements, make it particularly helpful and relevant for wellbeing orientated initiatives.

At all levels, Arts Award invites learners to participate in and explore an artform of their choice, delve into the work, lives and intent of artists, express their thoughts and feelings in response to cultural offerings and to experience themselves as enablers by sharing skills, passing on learning or taking the lead.

The arts being ‘good for us’ probably isn’t a case that needs to be made here, however, if evidence is needed, one of the most robust pieces of recent work was carried out by Dr Daisy Fancourt, UCL. This helpful and engaging video shares key highlights from her work.

Why this is relevant now?

The covid pandemic and its impact on children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health is something that we are, sadly, only too familiar with. In early 2020 (pre-pandemic) an ONS national survey asked 10 -15-year-olds ‘what makes a happy life? The key insights gained through the survey were that ‘feeling loved and having supportive relationships’ were pivotal along with ‘safe spaces for self-expression' and the opportunity to be ‘empowered to speak and be heard’. The survey also looked at young people’s coping strategies when dealing with stress and unhappiness, not surprisingly; spending time with friends, doing creative things and being in judgment-free zones topped the list.

In June 2021, the EBPU (Evidence Based Practice Unit) undertook an evidence review to summarise mental health challenges experienced by children and young people, during and as a result of the pandemic. Aligning much of what was identified in the ‘what makes a happy life?’ survey, the recommendations in the review highlighted the need for ‘increased opportunities for play, socialization’ and ‘social learning experiences’.

How to begin? Creative initiatives, activities and resources

To illustrate how the Arts Award can be employed for wellbeing specific outcomes, we have bought together three examples of practice and related resources that speak directly to this. The examples are from a national children’s mental health charity, an arts practitioner, an arts organisation and a senior teacher.

Place2be, mental health week and art activities

Place2be is an established children’s mental health charity that works with pupils, families and staff across UK schools through one-to-one and group counselling using tried and tested training and resources.

The Art Room – is a free resource space on Place2be’s website, rich in activities that aim to build resilience and connect children and young people with others and for children to make something they want to make. During the pandemic, the Arts Room team created a series of free projects for primary aged children to make at home or school together with parents, carers or teachers, all of which can be accessed on the Art Room page.

  • The Weather Project is one example of an art activity from the site that encourages children to notice feelings.

Children's Mental Health Week 2022 is 7-13 February 2022 and the theme is Growing Together. Place2be, who initiate and lead on the week, will be encouraging children (and adults) to consider how they have grown, and how they can help others to grow. Free downloaded resources have been designed to help teachers and those working with young people to take part in the week.  All the ideas can be adapted for use in school, for home-schooling, online lessons or independent learning.

  • A great activity for primary school’s is My Support Balloon and an equally great example for secondary schools is My Changing Shapes.

The Arts Award: all the activities that can be used in the Award as part of the children and young people’s exploration of the arts as a participant and Children’s Mental Health week can be a helpful frame for planning a fuller programme of activity.

The Wellbeing Playlist; teaching and workshop resource

Music is an artform that unifies us all. It is easy to connect to and is accessible to all of us. Music is used at weddings, funerals, parties; when we want to cry, when we need to dance, when we want to fall in love, and when we want to let our anger out.

Tapping into the power of music and how we can use it to assist our wellbeing is an important skill to explore, especially as we enter teenage years.

The Wellbeing Playlist is a resource A New Direction created in collaboration with The Roundhouse, designed to help young people explore their emotions, deepen their understanding of what wellbeing means to them, and use playful experimentation to grow in confidence when expressing emotional statements.

The Arts Award: in this video, Shermaine Slocombe, the co-author of the resource, shares highlights from the resource and extends the content to illustrate how the resource can inform a wellbeing-orientated Arts Award.

Drawing attention to life, classroom activities

Hannah Peaty, Curriculum Lead, Soho Parish School discovered the life-changing benefits of practising mindfulness meditation for herself ten years ago and was inspired to share this with her students. Hannah train with two companies - Mindfulness in Schools Project and Breathing Space in Schools - both of which offer fantastic training opportunities for practitioners who want to learn to teach mindfulness to children. Hannah has now embedded mindfulness into the curriculum at Soho Parish – to find out more read here.

The Arts Award: Hannah shares two activities in the video below that can be used in the Arts Award as part of the children and young people’s exploration of the arts as a participant