Creative Learning Through the Arts—an action plan for Wales

Annual Report 2016/17

Creative learning through the arts—an action plan for Wales

Creativity and the role that the arts can play in strengthening education is at the heart of the ground-breaking programme, Creative learning through the arts—an action plan for Wales 2015-2020; an extensive hive of activity to the tune of £20 million across five years, jointly funded by the Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government.

This bold and ambitious programme is giving us the opportunity to reboot the way we think about and support the role that creativity plays in the lives of our young people.

Learning about the arts and culture, participating in the arts and developing creative skills should be prominent in the education of all children and young people. These are essential ingredients for a well-rounded, rewarding and motivational learning experience. Moreover, it is only through having high quality arts and creative experiences in schools, by valuing them and giving them their deserved place in our curriculum, by making them available to all children, especially those from deprived backgrounds, that we can nurture the potential of our learners and develop skills we need for our economy.

In March 2014 the Welsh Government issued a response to Professor Dai Smith’s report on the review of Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales (2013) agreeing to all twelve recommendations. We made a pledge to develop a plan which would formally assert the central role which we envisage for arts education in the schools of Wales, which would also deliver commitment to maximise participation and develop an action plan for arts and you people.

Creative learning through the arts is providing an opportunity for all schools in Wales to begin the process of working towards integrating the creative aspects of the four purposes of Curriculum for Wales: Curriculum for Life.

The programme is split in to two main building blocks:

This report examines the second year of Creative learning through the arts—an action plan for Wales.

An extensive hive of activity to the tune of £20 million across five years, jointly funded by the Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government.

Achievements from 2016/17

schools involved in Round 3 Lead Creative Schools projects


Round 1 schools awarded school-to-school support bringing in an additional 23 schools
Launched our Lead Creative schools school-to-school support strand


The Arts Literacy and Numeracy Toolkit launched May 2017
Our first round of Lead Creative Schools completed
Creative Agents trained
Theory of Change published July 2017: Our first independent evaluation report
Regional Arts and Education Networks committed to populating the Creative Learning Zone


applications received for school-to-school support


Arts Champions recruited across four Regional Arts and Education Networks

grants awarded through our Go and See funding scheme
Supported the promotion of Creative Industry Careers at SkillsCymru 2016

Goals for 2017-18

Support 18 Lead Creative School school-to-school development projects working with an additional 23 schools across Wales
Train over 700 teachers in the final cohort of Lead Creative Schools
Produce a series of four case study videos tracking the impact of Creative Learning via our Round 3 Lead Creative Schools
Support the promotion of Creative Industry Careers at SkillsCymru 2017
Award approx. 12 new school-to-school support applications
Deliver Creative Practitioner training as part of the Lead Creative Schools scheme
Showcase the wealth of learning that is surfacing as a result of Lead Creative Schools at TATE exchange in April 2018
Publish a report on Wales' involvement in the OECD creativity and critical thinking project


Support our third and final round of 220 Lead Creative Schools

Deliver Lead Creative Schools training to 20 representatives from the culture and heritage sector
Publish our second independent evaluation report

Support our Regional Arts and Education Networks to:

Deliver 1 national event
Make 32 Arts Champions available to schools across Wales
Provide 50 CPD opportunities for teachers and artists across Wales
Generate content and share best practice on the Creative Learning Zone
Provide 13 networking opportunities for teachers and artists across Wales

Support our Experiencing the Arts fund by:

Awarding approx. 125 Go and See applications
Award up to 25 Creative Collaborations grants

Lead Creative Schools

The Lead Creative Schools Scheme is leading the way in how we support schools to develop bespoke projects designed to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

The primary aim of the scheme, as well as improving attainment, is to improve literacy and numeracy through creative approaches to learning.

Schools enter into a long-term programme that supports them to:

Schools are matched with creative professionals who use teaching and learning techniques that are specifically designed to be practical and relevant to real-life curriculum demands. At the heart of these projects is learner choice and voice. The collaborative partnership between creative professionals, classroom staff and learners, brings the curriculum to life and is providing new ways for learners to engage with subjects and develop increased motivation for learning.

At a glance

We are now working with 210 Creative Agents in total across rounds 1-3 projects
pupils involved in creative learning opportunities over the first 2 rounds
Lead Creative Schools recruited over the first two rounds


invested in our Lead Creative Schools scheme


creative arts-led projects in schools


schools currently benefitting from the scheme, either as a Lead Creative School or as part of our school to school development


days of training for 937 and 710 creative professionals

Feedback from pupils

“I felt I wanted to come to school to do the project; excited, enthusiastic, energetic.”

“I wanted to come to school more to do the project.”

“I would do this again.”

"I think that this project is 10/10, it is fun."

Feedback from teachers

“The project has given me the confidence to allow my lesson to be more pupil-led which in turn encouraged a deeper level of learning. By allowing the pupils to lead, it made me more aware of the pupil’s abilities and their capabilities.”

“During the last two years, we have attempted to embed creative learning across the school in a number of ways. The staff involved directly with the Lead Creative Schools projects have attended training and benefitted in a meaningful way from working with the creative practitioners in the classroom. INSET training for other school staff has led to whole school discussions about planning and delivering the curriculum and the projects have been discussed in detail, with a particular emphasis given to the methodology. Our topic-based planning is evolving and the projects have inspired teaching staff to use techniques that are more creative in order to develop the literacy and numeracy skills of our children. Along the way, the skills of working collaboratively, creatively and independently have been acknowledged by the staff has further enhanced through this way of learning.”

Select a region

The All-Wales Arts and Education Offer

All-Wales Arts and Education Offer is designed to build on and enhance existing arts activity in Wales’ schools and to support arts organisations to broker and strengthen their relationships with education. Schools and arts organisations are encouraged to build sustained, mutually beneficial, relationships that will prepare them for the collaborative approach to education outlined in the new curriculum.

The offer is delivered in two parts:

Seeing and experiencing high-quality arts activity is one of the best ways of exciting and inspiring young people.

At a glance

Total number of Creative Collaborations grants awarded
Number of Go and See grants awarded in:
North Wales
Mid and West Wales
South East Wales
Central South Wales
Made our first appearance at SkillsCymru 2016


learners expected to benefit for Go and See between 1 Sept 2016 and 31 Aug 2017

Regional Arts and Education Network networking opportunities


Active Arts Champions across Wales


The Arts, Literacy and Numeracy Toolkit launched May 2017
Total number of Go and See grants awarded
Regional Arts and Education Network CPD opportunities
Number of Creative Collaborations grants awarded in:
North Wales
Mid and West Wales
South East Wales
Central South Wales

Experiencing the Arts Fund

There is already a rich and varied range of arts and cultural activities available to schools across Wales, but the challenge is to make this more accessible. Sometimes the barriers can be affordability, but it can also be as basic as a lack of school transport.

In March 2016, we launched the two strands of our Experiencing the Arts Fund, these are called ‘Go and See’ and ‘Creative Collaborations’.

Go and See

Schools can apply for small, one-off grants of up to £1,000 to fund single visits to high quality arts events in venues across Wales. Go and See experiences could include visits to performances and exhibitions, or visits to experience arts professionals developing and creating their work.

Creative Collaborations

Creative Collaborations focuses on arts, cultural and creative activities that are out of the ordinary and not run-of-the-mill. Schools and/or arts organisations can apply for funding of between £5,000 and £25,000 to develop more ambitious and sustained projects. In April 2017 we relaunched the fund to include two strands: Creative Collaborations: Tasters and Creative Collaborations: Projects.

"I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that our learners would be sitting here having a philosophy lesson and being completely engaged with it the whole time!"

"I really enjoyed working with National Theatre Wales because we got to express how we felt by writing poems and doing lots of grime work"

"This is the best day ever!"

"Can we go to the theatre every week?"

"I want to be an actor!"

Regional Arts and Education Networks

The four Regional Arts and Education Networks deliver a major strand of the Creative learning through the arts—an action plan for Wales. Now in their second year, the Networks are successfully providing the link between arts/cultural organisations and schools in Wales; establishing new and innovative ways of engaging arts/cultural organisations with education.

Each of the four Regional Arts and Education Networks delivers on the following remit:

The boundaries of the Networks match those of the four Regional Education Consortia

Each region has a Steering Group including representation from the arts and education sectors. The Networks meet regularly so that coordinators can share information and avoid duplication of effort.

Progression Routes/Careers

We are ambitious for the arts in Wales and part of our programme is our work on progression routes in the cultural and creative industries. At our first appearance at SkillsCymru 2016 we provided an energetic presence which gave 9645 learners the opportunity to engage in an interactive experience of performance, digital and visual and applied art based skills at both venues in North and South Wales.

Working in partnership with Wales-based arts organisations and individuals we presented a carefully planned rolling programme of live performance and interactive opportunities for learners to get involved with professionally led creative activity.

Opening the door to the expressive arts, learners benefited from the opportunity to:

Unleash the power of creativity and imagination through engagement with the creative industry
Explore and communicate ideas; engaging in creative thinking
Meet creative professionals who have forged a career within the creative industry in Wales
Experience live performance from Wales’ wealth of talent
Understand the Creative Industry as a viable career opportunity through enquiry, participation and experience

Where a highly interested or more able and talented learner was identified we worked with Creative and Cultural Skills to provide signposting to progression routes; providing further information on opportunities and career options within the creative industries in Wales.

Building on this, we also plan to work with Careers Wales to continue the promotion of careers in the arts and creative industries sectors.

The Arts, Literacy and Numeracy Toolkit: Celc

Celc was launched on 4 May 2016. It is an online resource that illustrates how the creative arts can provide stimulating and rich opportunities to help teachers meet the requirements of the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF).

We want more teachers to draw on the arts to develop literacy and numeracy skills more effectively and imaginative ways. The activities aim to be exciting, original and fun, with the aim of inspiring more adventurous and creative practice.

The resource is designed to encourage greater collaboration between artists and teachers. It aims to develop a greater awareness amongst teachers of the distinctive and ‘value added’ contribution that artists can bring in to classroom practice. Likewise, the Toolkit aims to increase artists’ understanding of the ways in which their activities in schools can support the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework.

The target audience for the Toolkit is teachers at upper Foundation Phase, KS2 and KS3 and artists interested in working with teachers at these stages.


An independent evaluation of the whole of Creative learning through the arts programme is being undertaken by Wavehill. Findings from the first evaluative report will be published in March 2018, and include early indications of the positive impact the programme is making across Wales.

The following extracts are taken from the conclusion and recommendations section of this first report. The full report can be accessed here.

“Although still at an early stage in the evaluation process, the findings of this phase of the evaluation process are generally positive, with progress being made in respects of the delivery of the programme and some evidence of positive outcomes being achieved…”

“The scale of the Creative Learning through the arts programme differs from anything previously delivered. There are now hundreds of teachers and Creative Agents and Creative Practitioners who have benefitted from the training and a consistency of approach throughout Wales, compared to what was only a handful of schools in the past. The programme is therefore providing capacity within both the education and arts sectors that had not existed previously…”

“[Lead Creative School case studies] also begin to identify important lessons learnt, including the following:

“The evidence collected to date suggests that the scheme is enabling new and different activities to take place within schools… In conclusion, it is worth noting again the substantial goodwill towards the programme throughout all stakeholder groups, with strong motivation and enthusiasm towards achieving the ambition of the programme evident. This is very positive and bodes well for the next stages in the delivery of the programme.”

Spreading the news

Communications Strategy

A joint Communications strategy ensures that teachers, schools and stakeholders are regularly kept up to date with all aspects of the Creative Learning Plan.

Creative Learning Zone

The Creative Learning Zone was launched on Hwb in March 2016. Collaboration is at the heart of the zone, it is principally a space for both schools and creative practitioners to communicate and work in partnership; it has a wide ranging functionality to support schools to enrich learning and teaching through adopting creative approaches, with dedicated areas that enables teachers to access:

a showcase for best practice case studies involving the arts
an events calendar, showing regional activity for schools to engage with
bespoke networks for teachers and arts professionals to discuss activity
CPD opportunities and resources for teachers
links to the Regional Arts and Education Networks

The Creative Learning Zone also contributes to supporting schools in moving toward the new curriculum by removing barriers to effective collaboration for teachers and arts practitioners and so increasing opportunities for schools to engage with arts and cultural experiences.


Managing the programme


The Education Directorate chairs quarterly meetings of the Creative Learning through the Arts Steering Group, this includes membership from Welsh Government, Arts Council of Wales and Estyn. This Steering group is informed by other subgroups which have been set up to manage and monitor the programme.

Evaluation of the programme

An independent evaluation is being conducted across the life of the programme. Following an open competition, this contract was awarded to a consortium led by Aberaeron-based consultancy, Wavehill. Our first evaluation report, the Theory of Change was published on 20 July 2017.

OECD Creative Learning Research Project

Wales is participating in an international research project being coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This project, involving a dozen countries worldwide, has been designed to help develop and refine understanding of how creative and critical thinking skills can be assessed in an educational setting. An assessment tool has been developed by the OECD and will be used in selected schools across Wales in the 2016/17 school year. Over 800 learners and their teachers will be involved in simple online tests in the Autumn and Spring terms. The Welsh Government and Arts Council of Wales share the view that our Creative learning through the arts programme provides us with an excellent opportunity to look in-depth at our approach in Wales to the development of creative and critical thinking skills among Wales’ learners. We’re excited to be participating in this important project and grateful to the schools who have agreed to be part of the assessment activity.

Case Studies

Creative Collaborations

Dreamscape: A Creative Collaboration between National Theatre Wales and Ocean Park Academy

This project involved collaboration between National Theatre Wales and Ocean Park Academy who are a centre for alternative learning in Splott, Cardiff. The National Theatre worked with a total of 312 learners to devise a creative piece, offering them the chance to collaborate with a range of theatre professionals to explore their creativity and to encourage an increase in curriculum attainment, school attendance and parental engagement with the school.

Through a range of workshops they offered learners the chance to explore subject areas with which they were previously unfamiliar with, such as philosophy and psychology. This led to discussions and workshops around activism and the importance of the power of the voice – offering disengaged young learners the opportunity to voice their frustrations through creative expression.

The major outcome of the project was the final sharing, which was performed twice, to a total audience of 56. School governors, cultural leaders and business owners came together with parents and guardians of the learners, grime artists, break-dancers and more, covering a broad age range and cultural scope, all of whom came together in common appreciation for the work achieved by the learners.

The learners decided to create three "Escape Rooms" in order to trap the audience in an atmosphere of discomfort and force them to use their intellectual ability, with little or no guidance, to find their way out - emulated the learner’s feelings towards their own school experiences.

Through further exploration of the theme via movement workshops, protest poetry and Grime lyric sessions, the learners created three rooms to represent three different types of imprisonment; being imprisoned physically through incarceration (prison room); being imprisoned psychologically through mental health issues or labels assigned to you (future room) and being imprisoned by reputation or the stories people tell about you (ghost room).

At all times, from generating ideas to lyric writing from sound recording to set design, the pupils were leading the way with National Theatre Wales providing a creative platform and the school providing a safe space in which to explore, learn and grow.

Creative Collaborations

Cymreig Sounds of Music

Forget-Me-Not-Productions collaborated with Ysgol Hen Felin (YHF) special school and Coleg Cymoedd to create a multilingual production of ‘Cymreig Sounds of Music’ providing multiple opportunities for high quality arts experiences. The project was an adaptation of the Sound of Music, re-told from a Welsh perspective.

It was developed out of an extensive research period, followed by a series of intensive auditions, workshops and rehearsals. It seamlessly encompassed participants and the wider school/college communities through the creation of multimedia clips, musical theatre performances and props/set design. College students had opportunities to choreograph dances and direct individual scenes.

Thanks to an impeccable and well-structured project plan, each separate rehearsal produced a specific section of the performance, facilitated by the production team, but ultimately developed and refined by the participants who supported and directed each other throughout. This resulted in the quality of the rehearsals and performance being of an outstanding standard. Forget-Me-Not-Productions also fostered good working relationships with a range of other stakeholders collaborating on this project, including assistive technology specialists, lighting/sound technicians and a local equality consultancy—each of these helped shape the project.

A key outcome was the further development of an inclusive model that integrated pupils from YHF, with Coleg Cymoedd students. Participants were aged 11-19 with varying disabilities/SENs including PMLD, MLD & SLD. 14 lead characters acquired Agored-Cymru Entry-Level 3 & Level-1 qualifications, and Coleg Cymoedd students acquired credits towards their college framework. The rest of the cast covered topics related to the Cornerstones Blitz unit. The overall ethos of the project was one embedded in promoting Equality & Diversity.

This project has contributed to and affected the long term aims of YHF
as a forward-thinking school with the creative arts and media now high upon their agenda; continuing to build and maintain the creative links established with external organisations links with organisations such as Coleg Cymoedd and Forget-Me-Not-Productions.

Creative Collaborations

Dawns i Bawb Dance Collaboration

This project involved the creative collaboration between Dawns i Bawb and 6 local schools over 12 weeks which focused on the strengthening of relationships between schools and local communities by celebrating the welsh language and culture through the medium of dance. Dawns i Bawb is an award-winning Community Dance organisation who offers a variety of activities, working on large-scale production as well as smaller groups of individuals.

In discussion with Dawns i Bawb, each school designed their own project, community involvement and its end product. These were as follows:

Ysgol Beaumaris—the theme was World War II. Members of the community were invited to the school to share their experiences and children were also asked to research with their families. This was then used within the creative
process. The project finished with a celebration party. Family and friends
attended along with community members who contributed to the project and people from the local care home.

Ysgol y Fridd—the focus was different energy sources. Ynys Môn council has an energy island programme that focuses on using low carbon energy developments. The project concluded with a public presentation. Footage and art work from the project was taken to Gwalchmai Doctors Surgery and will be displayed for the foreseeable future for the local community to enjoy.

Ysgol Llangaffo—explored the theme of Santes Dwynwen. Members of the community were invited into the school to talk to the children, including the vicar from the local church who visited regularly. The school is due to close
at the end of the year so the children worked with our artist to create a
keepsake of the school as a physical memory of the project and the school.

Ysgol Llanllyfni—theme of Blodeuwedd. Participants were able to interpret themes and ideas offering ownership and responsibility to the work. Participants created flowers and then asked a family or community member to write on the flower what was their favourite flower and why and a memory/story. This became an abstract representation of Llanllyfni’s ‘Blodeuwedd.’ These flowers were used as set in the final performance.

Ysgol Nefyn—theme of Patagonia. Nefyn has close ties to Patagonia so is an important part of local history. An outdoor performance was held to encourage all members of the community to attend. The children created handprints that were distributed throughout the community for people to write messages on and these were then added to a post to create a tree within the community. This was to represent a family tree to show how we are all connected.

Ysgol Bro Gwydir—the project embraced welsh heritage and culture through exploring a number of cultural themes. One group performed the work to family as part of a St Davids Day celebration and then the children and families took part in an inclusive dance workshop together. The younger class took their performance to the local residential home who then also took part in an inclusive workshop together.

One of the main factors to come from this project was ‘shared ownership’ where all participants had the opportunity to celebrate their communities and themselves. Dawns i Bawb believe strongly in the benefits that Community Dance can offer to individuals and communities and they strive to be an advocate of dance to promote personal growth, well-being and cultural identity. The project itself might be finished but something lives on through people talking about it, reminiscing, wanting to stay together and keep working.

Creative Collaborations

Cory Band Collaborates with Rhymney Comprehensive School

Cory Band is rated the leading brass band in the world through the rankings at fourbarsrest.com and through holding the Grand Slam of brass band competition titles - Brass in Concert, The European Championships, British Open Championships and National Championship of Great Britain.

Cory Band collaborated with Rhymney Comprehensive School to provide a range of creative education benefits to secondary-level pupils, teachers and creative professionals associated with Cory Band. They developed sessions exploring musical composition, the performance of brass and percussion instruments, and the heritage of brass music. Specifically targeted pupils were those with no existing interest in or knowledge of brass music.

The innovative aspects of this project were: linking non-musicians with musicians of international calibre; supporting participants to connect with their musical heritage; challenging the perception of brass band music amongst young people; offering progression through Cory Academy if desired.

This project allowed students to increase their creative opportunities, develop their skills and a better understanding of the brass band network in relation to the effectiveness of approach to offer in-school learning. Furthermore, the project allowed Cory to commission a new piece of music 'Fanfare Rocks Rhymney' which proved extremely popular at its first performance and will be published and made widely available to bands.

Go and See

Maesyrhandir CP School
Gangsta Granny, Theatr Hafren

Maesyrhandir CP School in Newtown were awarded a Go and See grant to take all of their KS2 learners (7-11 years) to watch Gangsta Granny at Theatr Hafren. Maesyrhandir CP School had been reading of David Walliams’ books with their learners in school and recognised that this new experience would have a positive impact on the learners’ longer term learning. Before the visit the children undertook a Literacy project on the book; learning about the physical structure of a book as well as how a book is constructed
with author’s note, title pages, story structure, etc.

“The value of this theatre visit is immeasurable. For some children it was their first experience of a live performance. One child asked ‘how did the people get out of the telly?’ It was a very positive experience from a social, creative, inspiring point of view.“ —Senior Administrator

Teacher feedback was as enthusiastic as the pupils, “M’s parents didn’t want him to go to the theatre as he’s never been before and with his special needs they were worried he wouldn’t cope with the stimulation and environment, but I persuaded them to let us take him and if there were any problems I would take him out to calm down. M sat with his mouth open on the edge of his seat the whole time, only turning to grab my hand and grin at me and laugh. It was the loveliest thing.” —Teacher

Go and See

St Joseph’s RC High School
Merch yr Eog, Wales Millennium Centre

St. Josephs RC High School applied for a Go and See grant to support the study of 15 A Level students (aged 16-18) to attend a performance of Merch yr Eog at Wales Millennium Centre to support Welsh at KS5 and cross-curricular opportunities in French, Drama/Theatre. The students were given the opportunity to attend the performance and a Q&A following the performance.

“Can I just say thank you for all of the support that was given to us as well as the ease of the application. All pupils enjoyed the experience and said that they would love to see more performances in Welsh in the future, especially rather than simply reading it from a text book.”—Teacher

St. Joseph's RC High School applied to the Go and See Scheme to link into the media unit for AS and the A2 course. The school has reflected that students will now be able to share their experience in their speaking exam and that some of the Year 12 students have gone on to discuss the production in their Written Coursework.

Go and See

Ynystawe Primary School
Mission Gallery Swansea

Following their successful Go and See application, Ynystawe Primary School Swansea took 25 learners (aged 9-11) to attend the Mission Gallery in Swansea to learn how to create an exhibition space for their artwork.

The project aim was to promote creativity and develop high order thinking skills that will be transferrable across the learning landscape.

The pupils studied the work of Anne Gibbs in the exhibition of ‘The language of Clay’ curated by Ceri Jones and were given the opportunity to study how art pieces are curated effectively.

“Visiting the Mission Gallery offered our children a dynamic opportunity to immerse themselves in a learning experience which provoked their imagination and allowed them to explore new things in a rich and stimulating environment. It allowed them to take ownership of their own learning and embrace the work of a contemporary Welsh artist which in turn allowed them to explore and develop their own curiosities and become artists themselves. These valuable opportunities offer children a foundation for creativity and allow them to make connections to the world around them.”—Sarah Williams, Deputy Headteacher

“Through this opportunity the pupils have been inspired and enthused to exercise their imaginations and creativity. It has further developed our pupil’s entrepreneurial skills whilst setting the bar even higher when producing quality pieces of work. Thank you for such a unique opportunity.”—Helen Houston-Phillips, Headteacher

The pupils will continue this work in school and have been very kindly offered an opportunity to exhibit and sell their work once again during the Christmas period.

Go and See

Ysgol Merllyn
Hay Festival

Following their successful Go and See application, Ysgol Merllyn School in Flintshire took 44 pupils aged 9-11 to the Hay Festival in May 2016 to attend the pre-festival activities aimed specifically at Key stage 2.

The children, who are from an area of significant deprivation, were able visit workshops such as the Shakespeare workshop and a female science show. They listened to inspirational talks from CBBC presenters and watched some of the fringe activities, dance workshops and public speaking.

The aim was for the children to have a literary experience beyond what we could be offered at school and the exposure to the Shakespeare workshop gave them an appreciation of literature far outside the school curriculum. After the trip, the teachers were then able to plan learning based on the authors and used the How To Train Your Dragon series of books to plan creative writing. Reading is essential and to love reading is what we want for all our children.