Guest blog: Bronze and Silver Arts Award, by Paul Martin

25 October 2017

Guest blog: Bronze and Silver Arts Award, by Paul Martin

Paul Martin, CoMusica Arches Project Leader, and Arts Award Leader for The Sage Gateshead, is a member of a peer mentoring cohort of Bronze and Silver Arts Award Advisers, who met for the first time last month. Here, Paul shares his experience of delivering Arts Award with a focus on Bronze and Silver.

I've been an Arts Award Adviser since 2009, and joined the peer mentoring programme because I love Arts Award and wanted to learn more about what else is happening in the region, sharing practice and ideas. My role at CoMusica involves delivering projects focused on using the arts to engage young people who come to us from referral units and other organisations. We use music, art and other creative subjects to inspire and engage, as well as delivering Level 1 NCFE Personal Social Development qualifications, and Arts Award. The CoMusica Spark programme engages young people with disabilities, where Arts Award is also embedded.

We deliver Arts Award because we value the process and accreditation it provides. We fully support the ethos of Arts Award and believe young people are capable of achieving and gaining experience through an alternative means of education. Arts Award suits our learner style and environment; it's open and flexible, but has a structure which is easy to follow and integrate into our work and other project strands and teaching. Often, our young people leave school or come to us with little or no qualifications. Arts Award is a great way for them to feel, and see, that they can achieve, and get closer to their next steps, whether they're aiming for further education or employment. 

Here are some quotes from some of our young people: "Without Arts Award, I wouldn't have got into college; it’s been an amazing thing to do!", "I really enjoy doing my Arts Award, because I get to do things I'm interested in and it’s really cool", and simply, "Arts Award is class".

We use all levels of Arts Award in our Arches programme. Each young person is given the chance to progress through them, to ease them into the project or term. We've found starting them off on Discover and Explore is a perfect way for them to understand and engage in the next levels. Bronze is the most frequently achieved level of Arts Award in the Arches programme, as it's set at exactly the right standard for our young people.

Bronze is embedded into our lesson plans and schemes of work for each young person who attends the Arches. All our tutors are trained to deliver Arts Award, so whether it is a DJ session or a graffiti art session we're able to provide Arts Award within each piece of work we do. Our preferred method of delivery is work booklet-based, as we find it is easier to document, maintain records of what's been achieved, and our young people like to be able to see how much work they've done and where they need to go next. We can also show these as examples of work to colleagues, other students, and interested schools or Pupil Referral Units that may want to send young people on our courses. It’s a great resource to show creative learning.

Our process for delivering Silver and Gold is similar, but we've started to work with other departments to enable the young people to gain more from working at these levels. For example, a young person we worked with recently to achieve his Silver Award worked with members of the team from the SummerTyne Americana festival to help deliver a small art event. This worked really well, and gave other members of the organisation an insight into the world of Arts Award and what it entails. This is something we aim to continue with other young people who take on Silver and Gold levels through the Sage Gateshead and the Arches programme.

The impact Arts Award has on our young people is amazing. Often when they come to us they don't want to engage in any work at all, refusing to do anything written or that involves refection, organisation, planning or speaking. However once they realise Arts Award is for them, it's flexible and delivered in such a way that they have control, that all changes. They are proud of what they create, proud of what they do and want to show their work. It also helps us talk to them about future careers, school, education, dreams and positive behaviours, because they've engaged in a positive process. 

Many of the young people we work with leave school with little or no qualifications or certificates, but 95 per cent of them leave our programme with Discover to Bronze Level Arts Awards. We've had one young person get into university after completing his Gold Award with us, and another get onto a college course after achieving his Silver Award.

Another great example of the impact of Arts Award was through our Summer Arts College programme, held between 2011 and 2014 in partnership with Trinity College London, which administers Arts Award, and North Tyneside Youth Offending Team. Throughout this programme, the young people used music and arts activities to complete various levels of Arts Award, including Bronze, Silver and Gold.

All the young people came from an offending background and their engagement in the programme resulted in a drop in offending figures during a period in which it normally peaks. The partners involved acknowledged the effectiveness of this programme for the part it played in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.

If you'd like to learn more about the Arches programme of how we deliver Arts Award at Sage Gateshead, please email me at

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To get more information about Arts Award, visit