Sunday 16 December 2018

€1m scheme putting artists in schools to 'empower children to be more creative'

Central Model Senior School pupils Tia Fitzgerald (12), Hungbo Chen (7), Tamzin Kelly (12) and Katie Ellen McEvoy (12) at the Creative Schools launch. Inset: Richard Bruton and Josepha Madigan Photos: Frank McGrath
Central Model Senior School pupils Tia Fitzgerald (12), Hungbo Chen (7), Tamzin Kelly (12) and Katie Ellen McEvoy (12) at the Creative Schools launch. Inset: Richard Bruton and Josepha Madigan Photos: Frank McGrath
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Children across the country will be given new opportunities to engage with the arts as part of a €1m scheme that will bring artists and creators into the classroom.

Education Minister Richard Bruton believes the move means children will be better equipped to deal with challenges and obstacles as they make their way through school.

He said it will help the young people of Ireland to go on and become more than actors, artists and creative types - but also help them engage better with the world around them.

Arts Minister Josepha Madigan welcomed the launch of the Creative Schools programme yesterday, saying it would make young Irish people more confident.

An initial cohort of 150 schools will work with artists and educators to put arts and creativity at the heart of children's lives.

Participating schools will develop their engagement with arts and culture with the aim of empowering them to change and adapt the way they work.

Schools will submit applications by next month and selected schools will be announced in May.

They will then be given a one-off grant of €2,000 for the 2018/2019 academic year.

The scheme is part of a collaboration between the Department of Education, the Department of Arts and the Arts Council.

It is also part of the Government's Creative Ireland initiative to drive extra participation in cultural activities across the country.

Each of the two Government departments will provide €400,000 of the funding with the remainder supplied by the Arts Council.

"The essence of it is that we are now insuring that creative artists come and help a school itself to shape its own initiative," said Mr Bruton.

"I think that is really important, that you get that chance to shape a plan the school can bring to life for every pupil.

"It is not just about cash, it is really about the partnership we are forging here."

Ms Madigan said she was hopeful the programme would help to equip students, especially young girls, with life skills they can bring to their daily lives. She then wants to see the programme expanded and rolled out to more schools in later years if it proves to be a success.

"It is really exciting, there are going to be 150 schools who will be in a position to apply for this and it is going to really help regenerate and fire the imagination of school children," she said.

"We are hoping, as a pilot initiative, that it will be rolled out into the future.

"I think confidence is one of the biggest things children need to learn, particularly young girls. I think they can explore that and build their confidence, particularly through the arts and drama and music."

A 'creative associate' will work in partnership with each school approved under the scheme. They will develop approaches allowing for sustainable engagement with the arts and enhanced creativity in the classroom.

The scheme will target a diverse set of schools with a string focus on inclusion.

Director of the Arts Council Orlaith McBride said it was important to ensure the arts played a fundamental role in the lives of young people. That is why the scheme will be open to a range of schools at primary and post-primary levels.

"The Arts Council understands that for creativity to thrive we need not only to recognise the importance of the arts but also to build infrastructures, programmes and ways of working that place the arts at the core of school life," said Ms McBride.

"We would like to make sure a range of schools participate in the pilot phase in different parts of the country, rural and urban, Deis schools, special schools and Youthreach centres."

The scheme was launched yesterday at Central Model Senior School, Marlborough Street, Dublin, with the help of pupils and actress Cathy Belton from TV3's 'Red Rock'.

She said she hopes the scheme will empower young people and help them to discover new interests.

"The arts are a gateway to let the imagination soar," she said.

"School can be a challenging place and not being good at something can be dispiriting.

"A creative programme empowers young people to find their own distinctive voice. Everyone can take part, everyone is given a chance to explore what interests them and discover, perhaps, something that will enrich them and stay with them for the rest of their lives."

Schools can apply online to take part in the scheme between Tuesday, February 20, and Thursday, March 22.

Mr Bruton said he would like to see the programme continued for each of the next three years.

"It is really important that our schools open their doors to creative artists to come in and help teachers to inspire children to become more engaged in the arts. Every child that gets more exposure to creativity is more resilient in themselves, is more creative and better equipped to deal with challenges that may come their way.

"I think it is a really important initiative starting in 150 schools this year and we hope to grow that to another 150 next year and a further 150 the year after that," he said.

Ms Madigan said the pilot was an important tool to make education a more creative process for young people. "It means participating schools will be provided funding and expertise to enable them to explore the potential impact of the arts and creativity on school life," she said.

Irish Independent

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