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North East charity, Blue Cabin, was commissioned to carry out the consultation as part of an exploration into the potential use of Arts Council England’s Artsmark programme in virtual schools.
26 children and young people, aged from five to 14 years, took part. They all receive support from virtual schools – a team which supports the educational progress of children and young people in care – in the Darlington, Hartlepool or Redcar and Cleveland areas.
Jenny Young, Director of Blue Cabin, explained: “Along with our team of Associate Artists, who are experts in working with care-experienced children and young people, we developed a consultation process which enabled children and young people to share their views in a safe, caring and creative environment.
“The results give us a valuable insight into creative experiences within virtual schools, the people in the children and young people’s lives who support them to be creative, and the artforms – from fashion design to sculpture – that they’d like to explore more.”
Artsmark is an Arts Council England programme that supports education settings to bring learning to life through arts, culture and creativity.
As part of a wider national consultation, 26 children and young people from the North East shared their thoughts via artist-led activities including zine-making, graffiti art and filmmaking.
Blue Cabin, working with Darlington Borough Council, Hartlepool Borough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, took a trauma-informed approach, ensuring the children’s wellbeing and right to be heard was at the heart of the process.
The results of the consultation showed that music and singing was the most-commonly cited creative activity that the children and young people did outside school, and that art, design, style and fashion were the areas that they’d most like to get involved with.
Children also shared their views on visiting cultural venues, with the vast majority having been to a theatre, gallery, museum, concert or dance academy. They also shared what they’d like to do and see at cultural venues in the future, with music, singing and a wide range of visual artforms being mentioned.
Kathryn Welford, Senior Officer, Artsmark Development at Arts Council England, said: “Artsmark is the Arts Council’s flagship schools programme, helping embed arts, creativity and culture across a range of school settings. Our work with Blue Cabin has informed our thinking about how Artsmark can support virtual schools in particular and the young people they serve. The report was a joy to read – the enthusiasm and creativity of the young people really shone through! It gave us lots of ideas to take forward in developing Artsmark and making sure care-experienced young people can participate in the arts and enjoy creativity the same as everyone else.”
Rachael James, Virtual School Pupil Inclusion Officer for Redcar & Cleveland, said: “The session was a great way to see art being utilised as a tool to gain an insight into how the child views the world around them. It provided an opportunity to open discussions around the creative arts and how our children and young people would like to engage with this. The children were provided with a safe space to create an island built from the imaginations of the group. It was fantastic to see the children engage with the artist and get excited about what they were going to create next!”
Owain Davies, Education Officer at Darlington Virtual School, added: “Once again, it was a complete joy to work together alongside our children and young people, and the Blue Cabin team. It was a wonderful, fun-packed day full of smiles, curiosity and enthusiasm as our group got stuck into the fantastic activities delivered by the fab Associate Artists, Laura and Paul.
“Their emerging understanding and knowledge, individual talents, and teamwork shone brightly throughout the sessions, and it was a real privilege to gain a deeper insight of what creativity and the arts mean to them. To hear their voices and views in terms of what opportunities and experiences would be important and exciting to them, in developing and pursuing their own involvement in the arts, will really help drive how – and what – our Virtual School offer should look like moving forward – and help us to open the doors to even more positive and tailored opportunities, shared experiences, and exciting explorations of their own creative and artistic potentials.”
The creative consultation report can be read here.