Our goal is for every child and young person to have the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts.

Why this goal?

The arts fuel children's curiosity and critical capacity. They are every child's birthright. It is vital that children engage with the arts early in their lives. The arts contribute to the development and wellbeing of children and young people. They inspire future audiences and the next generation of artists and arts leaders.

We want children and young people to:

  • have the best current and future cultural lives they can
  • develop their cultural capabilities
  • engage with, and shape culture

What will we do?

We will:

  • advocate for a coherent and targeted approach to high-quality arts and cultural provision for children and young people
  • invest in the development of arts and cultural practice and programmes that are inspired by, and produced for, with and by children and young people
  • champion high-quality opportunities for children and young people to enjoy the arts in and out of school
  • work with the Department for Education, funded organisations and artists, schools, cultural partners, local authorities and higher and further education institutions

What will success look like?

As a result of our work: 

  • there is a coherent, national approach to improve the way children and young people engage with the arts and culture, in and out of school
  • more children and young people have access to excellent art  and culture
  • England becomes a world leader in artistic programming for work for, by and with children and young people

How will we achieve this?

Bridge organisations

We will fund a network of 10 'bridge' organisations (as part of the National portfolio) that will use their experience and expertise to connect children and young people, schools and communities with arts and culture. They will connect schools and communities with other National portfolio organisations and others in the cultural sector, including museums and libraries.


Artsmark is our flagship programme for schools and other educational settings like further education colleges and youth justice settings. Artsmark strengthens their arts and cultural offer by providing an online auditing tool, benchmark criteria, support from arts education professionals, a network of committed organisations, and celebrates their quality arts offer.

Arts Award

Arts Award is a national qualification that supports young people who want to deepen their engagement with the arts, helping them to develop as artists and arts leaders. Arts Award is developed and managed in partnerships between Arts Council England and Trinity College London. The Arts Award is open to all children and young people aged seven to 25.  

Music education

On behalf of the Department for Education, we are investing more than £171 million of funding between August 2012 and March 2015 in a network of music education hubs across England. In May 2012 we announced the nationwide network of 122 music education hubs.

Music education hubs will ensure that every child aged five to 18 has the opportunity to sing and learn a musical instrument, as well as perform as part of an ensemble or choir. It will also allow young people to take their talent further - this might be through local ensembles, partnerships with nationally funded music organisations, including National portfolio organisations or through involvement in the Music and Dance Scheme.

Music education hubs will build on existing music services. A music education hub will be a collection of organisations working in a local area, to create joined up music education provision for children and young people, both in and out of school.

Additional support for music education will come from eight National youth music organisations. Previously funded by Youth Music, they will continue to offer invaluable opportunities and support for talented young musicians to develop their performance skills across a range of musical genres, regardless of their background.

In partnership with the Department for Education we will be investing over £2 million between April 2013 and March 2015 as we recognise the importance of fostering high-level talent through national youth organisations. This was highlighted in the National plan, which emphasised the importance of celebrating the considerable musical achievements and talents of young people.

Museums and schools programme

10 regional museums and schools partnerships have been awarded a total of £3.6 million funding until 2015 through our Museums and schools programme. This programme is funded through the Department for Education as a response to key recommendations from Cultural Education: an independent review by Darren Henley.

The 10 regional museums will partner with clusters of up to 100 local schools, national museums and work with bridge organisations to increase the number of high quality educational visits by schools in areas which currently have lower than average cultural engagement as defined by low numbers of schools engaging with Artsmark. It will also reach places of greatest need, as indicated by a higher than national average level of free school meal take up.

Quality framework

Together with the sector we will develop a set of principles to help us judge better the quality of the work being produced by, with and for children and young people.

We will launch a revised Artsmark scheme to increase the take-up of the award by schools and develop it for wider education settings including museums and libraries. We will consider how the scheme might be extended for National portfolio organisations

We will develop new qualifications for practitioners in collaboration with Creative and Cultural Skills, which will provide recognised accreditation for artists working with children and young people.

Cultural Education Partnership Group

The Arts Council, together with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the British Film Institute and English Heritage, has created the Cultural Education Partnership Group  to act on Henley review recommendations, align our priorities for cultural education in England, promote and advocate for the benefits of cultural education and look for ways to align our activities and resources.

The new Ofsted framework and cultural education

The new Ofsted inspection framework for 2012 will look at how well schools promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development as part of their evaluation of the overall effectiveness of the school. 

Artsmark is a critical way for schools to evidence a whole school approach to their pupils' cultural development.