Arts Award: The lowdown

Arts Award: The lowdown

By Jo Caird 07/06/12

Arts Award is a flexible, accredited programme that encourages young people to take their arts practice further, whether that means exploring a new area of the arts or deepening an existing creative practice – or both! Jo Caird find outs more...

Creative workshops for primary school children, theatre criticism, costume design, film-making – when it comes to the types of projects available for Arts Award candidates to explore, the list goes on and on. In fact, given that young people are free to build their Arts Award experience in any way they like, the options are practically limitless.

The programme is managed and accredited by Trinity College London in association with Arts Council England. It launched in 2005 with a mission to help young people between the ages of 11 and 25 deepen their engagement with the arts, build creative and leadership skills and gain a national qualification. As of December 2011, a total of 57,499 young people achieved an Arts Award at either Bronze, Silver or Gold level, supported by 16,481 trained advisers at schools, culture sector organisations and other Arts Award centres across the country.

What makes the programme so attractive is its flexibility. Candidates select their own activities and set their own goals with help from their adviser. At bronze level candidates take part in an arts activity, attend an arts event, research an arts hero, and share their skills by helping to run a workshop, all the while recording their progress in a portfolio of work. It all takes around 60 hours to complete and carries a Level 1 national qualification accredited on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). The challenges and time commitment required increase as you go from bronze to silver and from silver to gold, but the process is always guided by the candidate.

Ellie Taylor completed her silver and gold Arts Awards while at York Youth Theatre at York Theatre Royal. Currently studying history and politics at university, Taylor intends to pursue a career in the arts after graduating. Her experience with Arts Award, which included directing youth theatre alumni in a production at the York Theatre Royal Studio, was crucial in terms of opening her eyes to the possibilities and realities of working in theatre. “I wanted to test myself professionally and that’s why my gold project took such a long time, because it is about setting your own terms and conditions... There’s no point convincing young people that it’s easy to work in the arts.” 

Arts Award recognises candidates’ personal development in the context of individual challenges, rather than according to the achievement of particular skill levels, making the programme suitable for candidates with a wide range of abilities. Those lacking confidence when it comes to expressing themselves in writing, for example, are free to complete their personal assessments via video blog or captioned photo essay. 

Arts Award aims to increase candidates’ confidence as artists and give them opportunities they might not otherwise have access to, but there are also practical benefits to be gained from taking part. Candidates might find, for instance, that the programme gives them the edge when applying for further education. Joan Hardy, arts adviser at Belper School in Derbyshire, gives the example of two boys who were accepted by their first choice of college to study creative technologies after completing silver Arts Awards: “Their silver really helped them to get in. They did a sound and light show – it was fantastic.” 


For more information or to find an Arts Award centre near you, visit their website. 

Image: Arts Award, Trinity College London, by Paul Maven.

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