The Culture Challenge – Using Arts Award to Engage with Young People Outside of Mainstream Education

Most of us know how good it feels to achieve something – whether that’s trying our hand at a new musical instrument, finishing a piece of writing, or creating a piece of art. But it can be easy to forget these achievements or dismiss them as unimportant – especially if you’re not used to feeling good about yourself, or you’ve rarely valued your work, and achievements before.

That’s where Arts Award comes in. By following this national programme, young people work towards a nationally recognised accreditation. They create portfolios, collaborate, share their skills, and once they’ve completed their Arts Award, they are awarded with a certificate. There are five different levels (Discover, Explore, Bronze, Silver, and Gold), four qualifications, and an introductory award, and it’s aimed at young people aged up to 25.

Our associate, Ed King, of Irie Vibes, recently went into Luton’s Avenue Centre for Education (ACE) to talk to them about Arts Award and advise them as to how they could incorporate it into their timetable.

ACE is a setting that works with young people who are struggling in mainstream educational places such as schools and colleges, and works with these young people to help them achieve their potential. They do this by doing things differently. For instance, there is no uniform, students come in on different days, the number of pupils attending are much lower than schools or colleges, and students are encouraged to be themselves, and are supported to recognise their own potential.

The Avenue Centre for Education website states:

“…We focus on helping students develop the ability to recognise, understand, handle and appropriately express their emotions so that they are more able to achieve and realise their potential classroom learning and academic progress.”

Ed found that the young people at ACE were already doing lots of varied creative, arts-related activites. He said,

“…Promoting the Arts Award Bronze to ACE was a great way for the students to gain a nationally recognised accreditation.”

The Arts Award can be woven into all sorts of settings from after school clubs to specialist educational centres like ACE – where, we believe, it is especially valuable. When young people fall outside of the ‘normal’ educational route, it can be easy for them to fall into feelings of low self-worth. Arts Award can help address that. By having a qualification to work towards, young people have something to focus on, work together on, and be a part of. We believe that this, in turn, can help to boost self-esteem, confidence, and positive learning behaviour. And when the certificate arrives in the post? There’s certainly no forgetting the work they’ve put in, the things they’ve learned, and the new qualification they’ve gained.