Creative Youth Network

The Creative Youth Network set itself a tough challenge: working with professionals at a handful of six pilot schools in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, it needed funding in order to develop its Complimentary Creative Education programme for young people who are at risk of disengaging from school.

Using the arts as a vehicle to improve skills, self-confidence and relationships, the project helps young people develop strategies to deal with areas of the curriculum and school life they may find difficult which, in turn, increases positive behaviour, attendance and engagement in education.

The bid from the Challenge Fund was for £50,000. This was matched pound-for-pound by payments from each of the six pilot schools involved in the initial eighteen-month scheme. The Challenge Fund investment meant that the schools were able to participate in the trial for free at the start and then, once relationships were established and work delivered, the schools would gradually begin paying for the service until they were covering the entire cost. The Challenge Fund money was crucial as it allowed the Creative Youth Network to create a model of practice it wouldn’t have otherwise been able to develop or deliver. It allowed for the opportunity to build relationships with schools and a subsidy to reduce the financial risk to them.

Most schools provide little support to students aged 11 – 16 who are at risk of disengaging. Aside from a learning mentor and the Special Educational Needs department there isn’t usually a dedicated complimentary education programme within mainstream schools. Sessions run for one day or one half day per week and students work towards the Arts Award’s Bronze and Silver levels which is a national qualification for individuals awarded by the Arts Council. During the pilot scheme around 96 students across the six schools were enrolled each term. These were students who were at risk of being in neither education nor employment after school, from disadvantaged backgrounds or with poor attitudes towards schooling. Sessions are provided both in and out of school but within timetable. The creation of individual art work during the weekly sessions has had an enormous effect on the students’ self-esteem, confidence, engagement and behaviour. End of term exhibitions have built on this by instilling a sense of pride in the participants as well as their teachers and families.

The Challenge Fund money also enabled the Creative Youth Network to recruit a Complementary Education Co-ordinator who is skilled in working with young people from challenging backgrounds. Their involvement means that the scheme has developed into a holistic service which sees the students which are struggling due to family and home life brought into the Creative Youth Network’s 1-2-1 youth support scheme. Here they can get extra support, access to clubs and be introduced to positive influences. The schools involved in the project report that this has led to an increase in motivation and attitudes to learning.

The scheme has proved so successful that all of the six pilot schools have signed up for a further two years of delivery. Thanks to the Challenge Fund investment and the hard work and dedication of the Creative Youth Network this successful model of practice, programme structure and its measurable outcome means it will soon be rolled out to more schools. The Complementary Creative Education programme offers schools a much more cost-effective way of supporting young people at risk and retaining them in education.