The Power of the Arts – reaching the most marginalised and  vulnerable young people in Buckinghamshire

Date Created: 6th Oct 2021

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Artsworkbelieves that art changes young people’s lives, especially those that don’t get the chance to engage in high quality arts due to their circumstances, and our programme of Partnership Investment allows us to focus on long-term solutions in collaboration with other organisations. With investment from Artswork, along with Rothschild Foundation and Aspire Schools Multi Academy Trust, ‘Buckinghamshire Better Lives Through Culture’ enables work with marginalised and vulnerable young people at Aspire Multi-Academy Trust and their group of education settings, made up of 3 pupil referral units, 2 mental health schools, a hospital school and outreach and home tuition. They’re also a part of Buckinghamshires new Teaching School Hub and work closely with their partner schools, including all secondary schools in Buckinghamshire.

There are 3 strands to the programme: 

  • Strand 1 embeds creativity into education providers by training all Aspire Multi-Academy Trust teachers in year one, then training with Buckinghamshire schools in year two. 
  • Strand 2 creates extracurricular arts and culture youth groups for young people with significant mental health needs. 
  • Strand 3 gathers the evidence to support an Art Therapy approach for the most vulnerable students, enabling them to successfully re-engage with education and transition into adulthood.  

Work started in September 2020 but wasimpacted by Covid-19from the beginning, creating difficulty running art therapy and youth clubs via Zoom. Despite the challenges, the programme persevered and has several notable achievements including the international conference for teachers Aspire: The Power of the Arts to Change Learner’s lives” runin April 2021 with over 100 artists and arts educators from 8 different countries contributing. The live presentations were all illustrated by graphic artist Rebecca Osborne. Read our full article on the conference here.  

Another notable part of the programme occurred in June 2021, where artists were welcomed from a range of disciplines for Arts Week, in which students were introduced tohigh quality local artists using materials and skills they have not accessed before. A highlight was thejewellerymaker Sonny Baily-Aird (featured on the TVshow ‘All that Glitters’) who made silver rings with the pupils. They were so fascinatedand proudwith the resultsachieved that they stood around comparing their rings after the class, whereas before they may have been reluctant to remain calm and patient.

Art Therapist, LucySmith, who’s worked at Aspire Schools Multi Academy Trust for four years and is now one of the teachers at Stoke Mandeville Hospital School, has been leading young people in Art Psychotherapy as part of this programme, and has provided us with an update of her work so far:  

Many themes have been explored in art therapy by our young people, including anger, frustration, being seen, being helped, being understood, safety, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, loss and grief, anxiety, change, hopes for the future and friendships, just to name a few. Each young person’s art therapy is unique to them, and they have used their sessions to explore a variety of matters. One young person seems to have used the art therapy space to grieve and accept loss, to express worries and hopes about their future whilst thinking about issues from the past and to explore her self-esteem and self-confidence. Another young person seemed to value and benefit from the silence and calm environment of the therapy space, where he could use art materials to self sooth and to reflect on his morning interactions and lessons. This led to him to being able to think through and share any concerns that he had.”

“This year has been a rewarding challenge and with the end of the academic year fast approaching, I am planning and preparing for September. I look forward to receiving new referrals for the next academic year and to travel alongside more young people on their art therapy journeys.”

Buckinghamshire has a newly developing Cultural Education Partnership (CEP) and the investment work will develop important material to inform the CEP’s ambition to achieve equity in cultural entitlement for all Buckinghamshire’s children and young people. 

Artswork, Rothschild Foundation and the Aspire Schools Multi Academy Trust couldn’t be prouder of the hard work, progress and achievements so far. Click here to find out more about our work with children and young people, and click here to find out how we support other schools and education settings through creativity.



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