Blog Post: How your school could work with The Culture Challenge – from founder Kayte Judge

It’s the end of another year. If you can, take a moment to reflect. How many cultural activities has your school engaged in? Have your students done more or less than you thought they would? How about next year… what would you like your students to do? Is there something new you’d like them to try, or something they could rediscover? You might find this form useful.

The Culture Challenge is a cultural bucket list that we’ve developed in Bedfordshire with the aim of giving young people an outrageous sense of entitlement to the arts. The list was developed in consultation with young people, cultural leaders and teachers, and as a result of the ROHB┬áseed funded network, that enabled cultural providers and schools to come together to identify the barriers to cultural engagement for schools and young people.

Once you’ve had a look at The Culture Challenge checklist, you might see some areas that could do with a few more ticks in boxes. Maybe your students could do with a bit more from the ‘Words and Verse’ section for instance. No problem. Use the Directory on The Culture Challenge website to find practitioners you can engage with. It’s here. The Directory lists practitioners in seven different categories –

  • Arts & Crafts
  • Culture & Community
  • Music & Performance
  • History & Heritage
  • Nature & Adventure
  • Words & Verse
  • Media & Technology (This is new so isn’t on the checklist yet – we are working on it, promise)

Each provider describes what they offer, information about costs, the names of two referees and some photos. Each practitioner is asked whether they are insured and have safeguarding measures in place.

Want to see which of these cultural practitioners are near your school? Use The Culture Challenge Map. By using this you’ll be able to link your school up with the local creative economy. By investing in the local scene, you’ll create jobs, work, and future opportunities for your learners. If you value the arts in school, then commit to value the artists around you. It is a virtuous circle.

Once you’ve whittled your list of cultural practitioners / potential creative activities down, get in touch with your chosen provider(s). You’ll find their contact details on their listing in The Culture Challenge directory.

Want to know why you should?

Some schools take a whole school approach and make The Culture Challenge part of their school year. Others use it with students at risk of dropping out, and other use it alongside Arts Award. Cultural engagement can help with social mobility and referenced the research gathered by the Cultural Learning Alliance shows this in a really robust way. The evaluation of our pilot project showed that 82% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that taking part in the project increased the number of cultural activities that have taken place in their school, and 73% felt that it would have increased the cultural activities undertaken by young people outside of school. 91% of teachers agreed or strongly agreed that the cultural activities had a positive impact on their learners.

Here are some of the key things we’ve learnt over the years that really help schools engage with cultural provision in a meaningful way:

  1. Open up: provide opportunities to meet with cultural providers. They want to work with you and have lots to offer. Many will have spent time trying to get through to schools. Put your feelers out. Think critically about how a great quality cultural provider could currently get their information, offer or event to the right person in your school.
  2. Be proactive, not reactive: when planning, ask yourself what cultural activities could support your curriculum needs. Even better – identify the problem you are trying to solve and write a brief with your young people. Ask cultural providers to collaborate with you in finding a response. You can find planning forms to help your thinking here.
  3. Take risks: Try something new. See what happens.
  4. Collaborate with your learners: ask them what they want to do, ask them to investigate what is out there, ask them for their wish list, tell them your budget! Ask them to contact the provider.
  5. If you value the creative arts, value creative artists: Find a budget and pay artists. Talk about money upfront. If you need help with funding, ask Kayte (kaytej@bedfordcreativearts.org.uk).
  6. Learn from one another: Evaluate the project – it helps you both. Provide feedback to the practitioner, and ask for feedback too. We have a wide range of evaluation tools available to you here.
  7. Together, schools and cultural providers are irresistible to funders: You know what social needs you need to meet in your school, you are data rich, you have the young people with you. If you worked with other schools and creative or cultural providers to trial interventions around confidence, literacy, communication or whatever it is you nee, then the funders will (very probably) fund you.
  8. Celebrate progress: if you’ve tried something new, celebrate; if your learners have tried something new; celebrate. It feels good and breeds an appetite for more. Certificates are available to download here.
Photo Credit: Sunny Copice Forest School
Photo Credit: Philharmonia Orchestra
Photo Credit: St Thomas More School