From education to employment

What the Artsmark means for Further Education

On Wednesday 23 May Arts Council England announced this year’s successful Artsmark education providers. For the first time, these include 16 further education colleges, 14 of which are Founder Colleges of the National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural. The Artsmark is a national award that accredits quality arts education. It is Arts Council England’s flagship programme to enable schools, further education colleges and youth justice settings to audit, celebrate and develop high quality arts education. It is a key driver in their aim to ensure every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts.

For over ten years Artsmark, Arts Council England’s national award scheme for schools has set a standard for arts activity in schools. The award recognises quality practice across all school activity, including art and design, design, drama, music and creative writing, and enables teachers to audit their arts provision to ensure more young people experience the richness of the arts. Over the last 10 years, Arts Council England has celebrated the work of schools and teachers both through the award itself and by organising celebratory events all over the country for schools achieving the highest level award of Artsmark Gold. The scheme has focused on measuring schools by setting out rigorous national criteria, supporting networks of organisations committed to providing a sustainable arts programme and promoting good practice.

Arts Council England has encouraged its funded organisations to work with schools for over thirty years but there has been less engagement with the college sector so it was good to see, as part of its re-launch in 2011, that the scheme was extended to include Further Education colleges and Youth Justice settings. Both can provide opportunities for those young people who have fared less well in more academic settings to identify and develop their talent.

From September 2011 Further Education Colleges were invited to apply for a new customised version of Artsmark for Further Education. To achieve Artsmark, colleges need to evidence quality provision, to show that they have a clear vision of the future of the arts in their college, and to demonstrate how they encourage links with industry professionals.

Since 2009 our National Skills Academy has been built through partnerships with 20 Founder Further Education colleges working with industry members across the nine regions of England. During 2012 we will extend our Skills Academy network to include ‘associate’ colleges who will work in partnership with the Founder College network to promote sound vocational training in the arts for post-16 learners.  The Skills Academy promotes industry-endorsed careers programmes and apprenticeships delivered in partnership with our industry members.  As we build our ‘Creative Community’ of Further Education colleges we will encourage all our partner colleges to apply for Artsmark status.

So it is heartening that of the first 18 college applications, fourteen were from our National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural Founder College network. For us the Artsmark standard is an important indicator of a successful creative faculty. It values breadth of creative provision including a wide range of courses and entry routes: vocational as well as academic, apprenticeships as well as traditional courses.  Creative & Cultural Skills created the first Creative Apprenticeships in 2008 and has seen growth in take-up from 0 in 2008 to over 1100 apprenticeships since then. Pioneering work in delivering apprenticeships for the creative and cultural sector is, in our view, critical to ensuring new talent for the sector.

Artsmark acts as a tool for training providers to reflect on and evaluate the place that the arts play in the life of the college.  With the Training Quality Standard disappearing last year, and Ofsted Inspections looking at the college as a whole we believe that there is more and more need for our industry sector to play a role in determining  the quality of sector-specific delivery. The new Ofsted Inspection framework for 2012 has now been confirmed and Artsmark can play a part in promoting wider values including the development of interpersonal skills.

Pauline Tambling is Joint-CEO of Creative & Cultural Skills, the sector skills council

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