It may seem like we’ve gone quiet on this area of work, but in fact over the last few months, we’ve been setting the wheels in motion to move forward the work on quality principles for children and young people; the second stage of research.

In early September we worked with the metrics pilot project in the North West to understand how their work to develop a set of metrics to measure the value and impact of arts investment, aligned with the Children and young people (CYP) principles. We found clear alignment in both research projects and agreed to liaise closely over the next phases of our research but not to join the research projects together at this stage.

From November through to February 2014 the CYP quality principles research will work with a range of arts and cultural organisations (see below) to test integration of the principles in order to support our Goal 5 work – raising the standard of work being produced by, with and for children and young people. We have commissioned NFER working with Shared Intelligence to explore four research questions:

  • Are the quality principles of benefit to arts and cultural organisations and practitioners and if so how?
  • Do they impact on the quality of arts and cultural experiences?
  • Do the principles change organisational/practitioner culture and practice and how?
  • How do the CYP principles relate to the metrics pilot work?

A range of organisations will take part in this phase of the research.

There will be a second call for pilot projects later this month and if you are interested in participating please contact Lucy Bampton or Nicky Morgan for further details. This cohort will bring new sector organisations to test the principles in Spring 2014 and we anticipate a further sector conference to disseminate findings in the Spring 2014.

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.