Arts Award Case Study: Culture Bridge North East

10 January 2023

How Culture Bridge North East has championed Arts Award across the region

Arts Award supports children and young people to develop as artists and arts leaders. It deepens engagement with arts and culture, develops creative and leadership skills, and importantly, leads to a national qualification. A central part of Arts Award is the balance it strikes between flexibility and structure. The framework requires high quality reflection and discussion, and a demonstration of young people’s independent skills. The nature of how this is demonstrated and recorded, however, is entirely open and accessible. It's a balance of rigour and flexibility, which is often found missing in other formal qualifications. 

Since 2010 GCSE arts entries have fallen by 40% and in 2022 overall entries declined by 4%. Working within this context, options like Arts Award will become increasingly valuable for both schools and arts organisations. It provides the quality and rigour of a formal qualification, and allows young people to maintain and develop their creative skills across multiple art forms. The reasons behind the fall in GCSE arts entries are complex. Teachers and pupils are having to work within a wider education system which often does not adequately prioritise or fund creative learning. Arts Award can provide an alternative route for educators working in challenging circumstances, and can support pupils who are often failed by more formal education structures. 

At Culture Bridge North East, we champion best practise in Arts Award across the region. Organisations and schools that deliver Arts Award well are those who keep the voices of children and young people at the heart of the process. The best examples we see are delivery teams who truly value the ideas of the young people they work with. They know how to keep a project responsive to young people’s interests and skills development, and will also challenge young people with new concepts and ways of working. 

One of the greatest challenges was the development of Arts Award provision during the pandemic. In the years running up to 2020, we saw a thematic shift in organisations moving away from delivering Discover level, and moving into progression in the higher levels. The level of support and resources required for higher levels was not sustainable during the challenges of online delivery. However, the cultural sector made a significant shift into digital delivery of Discover level. It presented fewer delivery barriers, during a year when the cultural sector continued to experience significant financial and staffing challenges. 

There was also a major central shift to all Arts Award adviser training moving online. This provided easily accessible training, which particularly supported teachers, who may not be able to travel from school easily. We were also acutely aware that this shift online would impact our regional knowledge, our relationships with newly trained advisers, and the regional flavour of how Arts Award is delivered across education and cultural sectors in the North East. In response to this, we commissioned a series of films and digital resources to showcase and support regional delivery. It is vital that future delivery of Arts Award in rooted in young people’s own communities, and reflect the cultural landscape in which they live. 

For anybody thinking of delivering Arts Award, it is important to understand that you are not on your own. The strongest and most impactful delivery always occurs through partnership. Schools often lack budget and capacity to deliver as centres. When this is the case, schools can partner with cultural organisations who are experienced in delivering, and develop bespoke programmes that can be embedded into the curriculum and school development. This doesn’t need to be a huge task, and can start with a very simple step. As a teacher in Consett described this year, ‘I hadn’t realised that just so much could happen just by making that one phone call!’ 

Discover Arts Award

Arts Award inspires young people to grow their arts and leadership talents: it's creative, valuable and accessible. 

Find out more at