Since 2012, a research project has been underway with a range of arts and cultural organisations, devising and testing a set of principles which should underpin high quality work by, with and for children and young people.

Progress update

Testing of the quality principles is underway. We are working with National Foundation for Education Research and Shared Intelligence  who have designed an evaluation approach which includes skills development for sector practitioners. The approach encourages critical thinking about the goals and theories of change which underpin their pilot, supporting the research to leave a valuable legacy not just a report. Practitioners will be better equipped to achieve and demonstrate high quality, build evaluation and learning into their everyday work and help others to do likewise.

The first two cohorts of organisations testing the quality principles are currently working with NFER and Shared Intelligence. 

Expressions of Interest to join Phase 3

We have invited expressions of interest from organisations to join phase 3 which will begin in July 2014. Find out more.

Previous Quality update

Goal 5 in Great art and culture for everyone and Culture, knowledge and understanding is that: every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts and culture. One of our immediate priorities underpinning this goal is: raising the standard of work being produced by, with and for children and young people.

There has been an abundance of work commissioned by, with and for children and young people but practitioners have many different approaches to evaluating the quality of the young person's experience or the outcomes achieved by their practice. This results in a number of challenges:

  • it is difficult for practitioners to see how their work compares with what others are achieving
  • we are unable to build a coherent body of evidence on what enables a quality experience and why/how different projects, activities and ways of working achieve different and/or better outcomes

The Arts Council has therefore identified the need to develop a discussion with the arts and cultural sector to understand and compare the quality of work by, with and for children and young people whether as participants, audience members or artists.

Our work around this was triggered by the publication of the Culture and Sport Evidence (CASE) programme's report Understanding the impact of engagement in culture and sport in 2010. The report confirmed both an inconsistent approach to definitions and ways measuring quality.

Defining quality in work by with and for children and young people is inherently challenging, however, Arts Council has embarked on a long term 'raising standards' debate in order to champion excellence, self-improvement, sharing of inspiring practice and encouraging sector-led improvement.

Our approach is one of facilitation, and to develop bottom-up solutions built upon practitioner experience and expertise, through a series of commissioned research activities, sector workshops and potential development of tools to help signpost the way to existing good practice and frameworks.

To support our work in this area, we have developed a roadmap setting out milestones and a final destination for 2014. Milestones include:

  • establishing an external reference group to support Arts Council in developing an appropriate methodology and outcomes - August 2010
  • commissioning the National Foundation of Educational Research (NFER) and Shared Intelligence to undertake a literature review of a range of quality frameworks used across the cultural sector - September 2011
  • holding first quality seminar, at CBSO, Birmingham, with online conversations initiated across the sector - December 2011
  • publishing literature review findings, including suggestions around seven quality principles - July 2012
  • identifying potential emerging principles - June 2012:

- striving for excellence
- emphasising authenticity
- being inspiring, and engaging
- ensuring a positive child-centred experience
- actively involving children and young people
- providing a sense of personal progression
- developing a sense of ownership and belonging

  • holding second quality seminar, at Sage, Gateshead. A young people-led and facilitated event putting the voice of children and young people at the heart of the debate - July 2012
  • posting event film footage and a summary of the two quality events on Arts Council website - September 2012 

We are aware that there is great support and interest in this area of the Arts Council's work. Our initial event and online discussion suggests that practitioners are keen to engage and establish 'communities of interest' as a means of testing emerging principles and sharing of practice.

We wish to encourage this and to share an emerging definition of quality and a set of potential quality principles.

We intend holding additional quality seminars in the next year, to test and refine emerging thought. We will also be considering how this work plays into existing Arts Council processes such as Artsmark, artistic assessment and self-evaluation. We also want to test the value and sectoral interest in a 'toolkit' developed to signpost good practice to support a range of outcomes.