Many schools around the UK have used the Arts Award Framework to encourage creativity among their students. The awarding body responsible for the Arts Award is Trinity College London. In England, it is managed by Trinity in association with the Arts Council England and 10 regional bridge organisations that drive participation [1].

The Arts Award aims to support young people who want to deepen their engagement with the arts, build creative and leadership skills and achieve a national qualification.

Since its launch in 2005, the award has grown quickly and is now flourishing in arts centres, colleges and schools, community projects, libraries, galleries, local authorities, theatres, youth clubs and youth justice settings.

Arts Award principles:

  • to offer learning and qualifications which support individual creative development in any setting
  • to place young people at the heart of the Arts Award process
  • to increase young people’s experience and understanding of arts practitioners and cultural organisations
  • to embrace new art forms and technologies
  • to reach the widest possible range of young people

To achieve a Bronze Arts Award, young people collect evidence in an individual arts log or portfolio of their experiences of: 

  • developing their interests, knowledge, and skills through actively participating in any art form
  • experience of at least one arts event/experience as an audience member and their review of that event/experience
  • researching the career and work of an artist or craftsperson that inspires them
  • experience of passing on an arts skill

To achieve a Silver Arts Award, young people collect evidence in an individual arts portfolio of their experiences of:

Arts practice and pathways

  • identifying and planning an arts challenge
  • implementing and reviewing their arts challenge
  • reviewing arts events/experiences and sharing their views
  • researching future opportunities and careers in the arts

Arts leadership

  • identifying a leadership role and planning a leadership project
  • planning the practical issues
  • being an effective arts leader
  • working effectively with others
  • reviewing their project and the development of their leadership skills

To achieve a Gold Arts Award, young people collect evidence in an individual arts portfolio of their experiences of:

Personal arts development

  • extending their own arts practice, experiencing another art form and creating new work
  • identifying and being involved in the world of the arts through placements, volunteering, training, and research
  • reviewing arts events/experiences and finding out about artists and their career paths
  • making the case for an arts issue and communicating it effectively

Leadership of an arts project

  • planning a project, identifying the project’s aims and outcomes
  • organising people and resources
  • delivering and managing an effective of the project
  • managing a public showing/sharing of the work
  • reviewing their leadership development and finding effective ways to collect and evaluate feedback from participants, audience members and other stakeholders

St. Bede’s and St. Joseph’s Catholic School

St. Bede’s and St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Bradford have used the Arts Award framework for several years to promote the cross-curricular value of the arts.

In June 2021 they were nominated by the Bradford Music Hub to become a Music Mark School Member for the 5th year running. They were also the first school in Bradford to be awarded the Artsmark Platinum status.

The school regularly have all 290 Year 7 students achieve Bronze Arts Award, as well as offering silver in year 8 and 9 and gold in year 12 [2].

Bronze Arts Award

The leadership wanted students to hit the ground running when they started secondary school, so decided to make it mandatory for year 7 students to complete the Bronze Arts Award on joining the school.

A lot of the students have difficult home circumstances and the school felt that introducing them to arts communities within the school would help give them a sense of belonging.

The Arts Award Bronze is split into 4 sections:

Part A – Taking Part: Drama is the subject where this part of the award is addressed. Students take part in practical drama workshops. They describe what they did and how they developed the different drama techniques they have been taught. Evidence of this is presented in a feedback form and a piece of writing.

Part B – Be the Audience: Music is the subject that fulfils this part of the course. The students listen to and appreciate a range of exciting music. They write about what they have learned, for example, a review of Samba music.

Part C – Arts Inspiration: Students research an artist and their work and say how their style influenced and inspired their own piece of work. Evidence of this is presented through the student’s new piece of artwork and a write-up.

Part D – Share an Arts Skill: This part is completed in dance classes. Students create a fun warm-up in groups for the rest of their class. This shows a good understanding of relevant dance skills. Evidence is gathered through a lesson plan and peer feedback.

Students go on to progress through the Arts Awards, with Silver Part 1 being completed in year 8 and Silver Part 2 in year 9. The school trained 3 members of staff to teach Gold to year 12 students.

Aside from the Arts Award the school offer a range of other creative qualifications including Art, Dance, Drama, Media, Music and Photography GCSE’s.

They also offer a Media, Music and Performing Arts BTEC, and Art, Dance, Media, Music, Photography and Theatre Studies at A Level.

Christus Lumen Gentium Diploma

When the Government changed the way schools assess students in 2014, St. Bede’s and St Joseph’s decided to create their own in-house diploma to ensure students were being developed into:

“Happy, confident, spiritually awake young people with a sense of community and with a passion and a thirst for lifelong learning.”

The school wanted to ensure that the arts were part of the diploma, alongside subjects like maths, English and science. This was due to their belief that engagement in the arts contributes to the development of well-rounded students.

The diploma for year 7 students incorporates the Bronze Arts Award as well as the Sports Young Leaders Award and English-Speaking Board and Public Speaking exams.

The fundamentals of the diploma are:

Ecclesia (Spiritual, Community and Charity): Students must contribute to the spiritual life of the school. Students must contribute once per half term. It can involve any activity that demonstrates reaching out to other members of the school community. For example, Year 11’s acting as buddies to Year 7’s

Scholastica (Academic): Students are challenged and supported to shine in all their studies

Olympia (Co-curricular): Students must participate in school life outside the classroom. Clubs in the school range from water polo, film club, board games, debating, blazing brass and dance and theatre.

The school found that a common thread in student attitudes towards the arts was a hesitancy to perform. In response, the school introduced some low-stakes performance opportunities for students to build up their confidence.

Every Friday lunchtime students are invited to participate in a mini showcase of dance, drama, and theatre. This is a chance for students to think about what they have been doing in lessons and use that as a confidence-building tool.

The Impact

The cross-curricular adoption of the arts has enabled students to develop skills and hobbies that they wouldn’t have otherwise participated in. The co-curricular aspect of the Christus Lumen Gentium Diploma, requires all students to participate in school life outside of the classroom, ensuring everyone is part of a creative community.

In 2019, the school was rated Good by Ofsted. The report stated:

“Students achieve well. Attendance is high. They have a wide range of opportunities to develop their personal and social skills. For example, some students are currently training to become mental health first aiders.”

“Leaders bring subject teaching and wider experiences together well. Pupils welcome the extensive programme of activities on offer. For example, pupils visit places abroad as part of an extended experience offer. Pupils say that ‘the school opens a lot of doors … with lots of sport, drama and music, developing our confidence and teamwork’.” [3]

Final Tips

St. Bede’s and St. Joseph’s school have created their own set of tips for schools wanting to participate in the Arts Award Framework. They advise that success comes from senior leadership support as funding is needed to implement the qualifications.

Any money made from school performances at St. Bede’s and St. Joseph’s goes straight back into a ‘Theatre Fund’ which is used to fund further productions.

The school believes that there is little value in reinventing the wheel. What skills lie in the workforce of the school already? Staff hobbies should be utilised when planning creative Arts Award lessons.

Overall, a solid framework like the Arts Award allows a school to follow a plan that ensures that all students spend a proportion of their time at school in arts and cultural education settings.

[1] The Arts Award Council

[2] Voller, Rebecca,Head of Arts & MFL Faculty, St Bede’s & St Joseph’s Catholic College

[3] Ofsted. 2019. Inspection of St Bede’s and St Joseph’s Catholic College

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The Arts Award Framework gives schools the opportunity to implement a holistic approach to teaching arts and culture. This case study examines how St Bede's & St Joseph's Catholic College in Bradford have embedded arts and culture across the curriculum.

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