Artful Alliance graphic – researching cultural education for care-experienced people

Virtual schools and creative organisations selected for national action-research into cultural education

Four virtual schools and four creative organisations have been selected to take part in a national action-research project, exploring how cultural and creative education can benefit care-experienced children and young people, and what organisations and staff need in order to deliver it safely and successfully.

Brighton and Hove Virtual School, Leicestershire Virtual School, Norfolk Virtual School and North Yorkshire Virtual School will take part in the Artful Alliance programme, each working in partnership with a creative organisation.

Jenny Young, Director of Blue Cabin, which has been commissioned by Arts Council England to lead the Artful Alliance programme, explained: “Over the next 12 months, these virtual schools and creative organisations will work together to help us to understand not only the impact that cultural and creative education can have, but also how we can make sure that care-experienced children and young people are able to access it.

“The creative arts have been proven to improve people’s life chances so it’s vital that care-experienced children and young people have every opportunity to access creative and cultural education and that we understand what organisations and virtual schools need in order to be able to deliver it.”

Each virtual school applied to be part of the project in partnership with a creative organisation and each pair will work together to deliver and evaluate an action-research project.
Project evaluation will be led by tialt (There is an Alternative) and the findings will help inform Arts Council England’s understanding of how cultural and creative education can benefit care-experienced children and young people.

Brighton and Hove Virtual School will work with Theatre Royal Brighton’s Creative Learning team, who run workshops, talks, tours, courses and events for schools, children and adults.
“I am delighted that Theatre Royal Brighton is working alongside Brighton & Hove Virtual School on such an exciting project. This is an amazing opportunity to develop our work for care-experienced children and young people and to pass on our learning and experience to other relevant organisations as well as our fellow Ambassador Group venues across the UK,” said Jackie Alexander, Senior Creative Learning Manager at Theatre Royal Brighton.

Leicestershire Virtual School will work with Care to Dance CIC, a social enterprise led by social workers and dancers which supports care-experienced young people through the medium of dance.

“We believe that all young people should be given a range of opportunities through the arts to develop their skills, confidence and passion. We are currently on our Artsmark award journey and hope to enhance our offer by working closely with Care to Dance to provide our young people with the opportunity to develop their self esteem via the medium of dance. We want to use this project to develop our offer further by looking at the impact dance can have on our children in care and how we can work collaboratively to improve and support our young people,” said Donna Chapman, Leicestershire Virtual School Head and Vicki Taylor, Leicestershire Virtual School Deputy Head.

“We believe that every young person should have the opportunity to engage with dance. We believe that dance can provide a universal language where young people can creatively express themselves through, in a safe environment where they can build positive and meaningful relationships. Working in partnership with Leicestershire Virtual School has enabled a collaborative approach to supporting care-experienced young people through a trauma-informed lens. Joining this project, we hope, will further enhance the impact our service can have on young people through exploring what elements are important to making a successful programme,” added Beth Vecchione, Director of Strategy at Care to Dance CIC and Amelia Channon, Artistic Director.

Norfolk County Council’s Virtual School will partner with Norfolk Music Hub, which is also led by the county council and provides music education for children and young people in Norfolk.
“We have been looking to work significantly more closely together to develop innovative activity for some time and the Artful Alliance programme appealed instantly as an awesome opportunity to galvanise our working relationship even further. The joint training, mentoring and support network opportunities interwoven across the programme will support legacy, upskill the wider workforce and allow us the opportunity to foster an ethos of opportunity across our county allowing our young people to flourish,” said Alison Brain, Norfolk Music Hub Lead.

Keeley White, Norfolk Virtual School Head, said: “Partnership sits at the heart of virtual schools and this is an opportunity to strengthen our links within Norfolk and beyond whilst focusing on two of our priorities – trauma aware practice and widening participation opportunities across the arts. Both are essential elements in in supporting children and young people of all ages to thrive.”

And Norfolk County Councillor Penny Carpenter, cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “The joint training, mentoring and support network offered by the Artful Alliance programme provide an excellent opportunity for us to upskill staff in both our Virtual School and Norfolk Music Hub. This will enable us to develop our ability to offer truly innovative creative opportunities in the future for our care-experienced children and young people.”

And North Yorkshire Virtual School will work in partnership with Creative Briefs, a Hull-based organisation which runs creative projects nationally for young people who benefit from learning differently.

“We know how powerful it is to have access to a range of different experiences, particularly for our care experienced children as you never know where they will find that spark that can set them on their journey. It is a real pleasure to be part of this piece of action research that will help others to see just how valuable it is,” said Natalie Bosomworth, Education Liaison Advisor for North Yorkshire Council Virtual School.

“Through this partnership, we have a brilliant opportunity to co-create work with professionals and young people – finding the key to unlock young people’s potential through creative activities that celebrate their strengths … all in a supportive structure that allows us to refine our approach,” added Jason Bowers from Creative Briefs.

Representatives from each organisation will take part in training in trauma-informed approaches, social pedagogy, attachment and recovery, delivered by Blue Cabin, Kazzum Arts and Professor Richard Rose of Therapeutic Life Story Work International. They will benefit from input from Blue Cabin’s Associate Artists, who are experienced in delivering creative programmes for care-experienced children and young people, and will receive therapeutic supervision from Blue Cabin’s Therapeutic Supervisors.

In summer 2024, findings from the programme will be shared with virtual schools and cultural organisations nation-wide, to inform cultural and creative programming for care-experienced children and young people.

Jenny Young added: “Last year, Blue Cabin worked with Arts Council England to carry out a creative consultation with care-experienced children and young people in the North East of England, to understand their views of the arts and creativity. We’re looking forward to building on that work and helping to advance national understanding of how care-experienced children and young people can benefit from creativity and to further our understanding of the benefits of partnership working between virtual schools and creative organisations.

“It’s encouraging that Arts Council England recognises the importance of more investment, understanding and training to inform practice in this area.”

Find out more about the Artful Alliance programme here.

Artful Alliance is supported by funding from Arts Council England.