Planning a sustainable Arts Award offer in less fertile ground

13 July 2018

Ruth Clarke shares five conditions to make your Arts Award grow, identified through A New Direction’s Action Research Programme.

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Why is it that the Arts Award flourishes in some places, building year upon year with practice becoming embedded and impact seen and valued, and yet in other places, it fails to ever get started?

Six organisations partnered with A New Direction to explore this question. Working on individual experiments and testing out new approaches, they named assumptions, looked afresh and let go! Together they shared their learning, challenged thinking, supported risk, inspired change and acted as allies.

The conditions for growth they identified have been brought together to form a self-assessment framework, through which organisations can gauge where they need to place their focus in order to achieve sustainable growth. Accompanied alongside the framework is a project report that lays-out the action research approach and, through this lens, the individual action research projects.

Download the self-assessment framework & report

Meet the participants

In Barking and Dagenham, Eastbury and Dagenham Park schools joined forces to test approaches to low stress, high impact, secondary school delivery model.

Islington saw Cubitt Artists running a partnership programme to see if the Award could add value in their Institute of Anything programme – for young people and artists.

Harrow Arts Centre set up an Arts Award Local Network Cluster to see if, in their context ‘the sum could be greater than the parts’.

Working in four London boroughs, Inspireworks wanted to know if music education could be more sustainable if framed by the Award and delivered through digital content and working in seven London boroughs.

The Museum of London wanted to see if the award would provide a relevant learning framework for their supplementary school network.

Five conditions for success

1. People know about and understand the relative values of the Arts Award

This condition was identified as being critical to all the participants. If it wasn’t in place, the chances of activity taking root were minimal. Upfront investment here made a significant impact in the long term.

2. Arts Award has synergy with organisational and political ambitions

For Inspire-works, whose online teaching resource aims to reach primary schools across the country, ensuring that it met the needs of Music Hubs, primary and secondary schools, and was in tune with future music education agendas was pivotal.

3. Places are interconnected and infrastructure promotes cultural participation

Harrow Arts Centre setting up of an Arts Award Local Network Cluster to raise the Award's profile and help seed activity is a great example of what can happen when a place becomes connected, and how the Arts Award can create these bridges.

4. If Centres and Advisors are confident, practice is relevant and impactful

Museum of London invested in their supplementary school community - supporting them in being Arts Award Centres and Advisors. By working in this way, the schools have been able to use the museum’s collections to run programmes appropriate to a broad range of settings.

5. Cultural capital for children and young people is valued by all

Dagenham Park and Eastbury school's ambition was for young people to determine their own Arts Award journeys, with the school’s existing subject based cultural opportunities and resources supporting them do this. Seeding young people’s understanding of the Arts Award value through initiatives such as Young Ambassadors Programmes provides a helpful vehicle in making this happen.

Self-assessment framework and experimenting to learn

The conditions for success are each accompanied by a series of indicators, against which organisations can identify to what extent each is true for them. Through doing this organisations can start to build a picture of where they need to place their investment, where they are doing okay, and where they can be confident.

For example, the indicators for condition number 5, 'Cultural capital for children and young people is valued by all', are:

  • Cultural organisations target young people as audience members
  • Cultural organisation and activity is targeted at young people as participants
  • Cultural activity is co-created with young people
  • Young people are able to participate in cultural decision making
  • Cultural leadership programmes are in place, in schools and beyond, for young people
  • Youth voice has a visible platform (s) and is impactful

The assessment is a very quick and straightforward baseline planning tool, which can be used in the majority of Arts Awards contexts but will be of specific value for those working in areas where either there is little or no activity, or those who are starting from scratch and looking to establish a sustainable offer.

What next?

You can download the report and framework here.

The framework will be used as the basis for the 2018/19 Arts Award Action Research programme. The 2018-19 programme is designed to respond to the lack of provision for flexible embedded qualifications for SEND students. It will forge three new partnerships between cultural organisations and SEND schools, who will work together to test and embed Arts Award Bronze and Silver.

The report and framework will also be used within the Arts Award Local Network Clusters to further support their role in supporting cultural organisations and schools to take part in the Award. This year, five Local Network Clusters will be comprised of 5-8 boroughs each, and will span the whole of London.

This resource is a welcome tool in enabling activation of Arts Award in boroughs where there is less awareness and take up. Trinity, the awarding body for Arts Award, will also be sharing the resource across its networks in England.

In March 2019, A New Direction will once again be at the Tate Exchange – where the experiences of the Action Research participants will be brought together to inform and shape a Lab style programme of active, experimental learning.

Watch this space…


Image credit: Francis Augusto