Gold Arts Award: a route to creative self-discovery and future pathways

17th November 2021 - Kayla Herbert

Written by Tess Parker, Story Tiller Communications.

Young African-american man reading his speech on paper in front of audience


It is not easy growing up in this fast-paced, competitive world. With educational institutions pressed to ‘perform’, arts subjects side-lined and declining arts qualification take up , chances to develop as a creative, young person are reduced. The Gold Arts Award qualification is designed to counter this. It inspires budding arts professionals through creative learning and skills development. In this case study we hear from a Further Education (FE) setting and a young adult who have gone for ‘Gold.’

Gold Arts Award is a Level 3 Certificate qualification (RQF) which has been engaging and inspiring young people since 2005. Encompassing 150 rewarding, learning hours (including self-directed study, hands-on and documented work) it enables young people to develop arts research, practice and leadership skills.

The FE Gold Arts Award journey: Elliot Hudson College

Elliot Hudson College is a high performing sixth form based in the suburb of Beeston, Leeds. Founded in September 2015 and part of the GORSE Academies Trust it prides itself on being a community built upon clear beliefs and values. It champions diverse, life-long learning experiences to prepare its students for Higher Education (HE) and future careers.

Elliot Hudson College has a commitment to unlocking extra-curricular opportunities for its learners. The College champion the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) which prepares students for life-long learning beyond Further Education (FE).

In tandem with the 2019/20 academic year, Miriam Olutayo, Teacher of Product Design (Faculty of Culture and Society) was part of a staff cohort that pitched a Gold Arts Award pilot to the college’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT).

Coming from a creative industries background in graphic design, Miriam could make a strong case for the enrichment value of the Gold Arts Award. The qualifications personal development and leadership foci, along with its 16 prospect UCAS points, was a key persuader for the SLT.

“It’s absolutely vital for students to gain access to extra-curricular experiences to ready them for the wider world.” Miriam Olutayo

Teachers as Gold Arts Award Advisors – leading creative change

With the backing of the SLT, Miriam and her colleagues trained as Gold Arts Award Advisors. This training equipped them to understand the Gold Arts Award Qualification Specification and deliver it in an impactful way for all.

Dedicated support from the IVE Arts Award Associate staff would prove essential throughout the pilot. IVE is a key advocate for the qualification in the Yorkshire region and supports individuals and organisations to maximise its potential.

Miriam and her colleagues worked hard to ensure that they engaged students who would benefit from and commit to the Arts Award experience. The qualification takes total dedication from both teachers and students alike. With several compulsory stages, including the submission of an individual portfolio and end of project presentation, it is an in-depth process. But the rewards are plentiful for those who stay the course.

It was down to the Elliot Hudson Arts Award staff to sell those rewards to the students. With an initial sign-up of 20, they were off to a good start. As the qualification progressed there was a slight decrease, but 16 students remained committed right to the end.

Key to the qualification’s success was a weekly hour of teacher and student contact time. This allowed for key instructional details to be delivered and project schedules and goals to be kept in check.

Across the student cohort Miriam noticed universal gains in confidence, communication skills, independent learning and teamwork.

“I was surprised at how confident I felt and acted throughout the workshop, which was one of the skills I wanted to develop.” Abbie H

Some of the most striking impacts were to be seen amongst the English as Additional Language (EAL) students. Individuals that had previously shied away from speaking up found their voice in the group work and final presentations.

“The EAL students were very timid originally. They engaged with the qualification, worked with others and developed new confidence.” Miriam Olutayo

In addition, students were able to develop their own creative practice and explore new artforms by researching and engaging with external artists and arts organisations. Their unique, individual journeys saw them exploring drama, poetry, visual arts and more.

“I believe that researching an art’s practitioner and a musical has really impacted my main art form and new.” Megan

Miriam and her colleagues were delighted that all 16 students achieved their Gold Arts Award. On top of this, 50% of the cohort have gone on to Higher Education studies, with 25% of those choosing an arts path. This notable outcome highlights that with key leadership backing, teacher training and external support the Arts Award can truly impact young lives.

“I felt that participating and volunteering my time for this read-through event really helped me to see in more detail the process that goes into developing a piece that works for the stage.” Oliver

Elliot Hudson’s Arts Award team are planning to build on their 2019/20 success in September 2022. Miriam believes there is great potential to make Arts Award a key part of the college’s enrichment offer. The students agree that it has made a difference to their lives and learning too.

“This voluntary role has allowed me to build on my skills such as communication skills both written and verbal, leadership skills like taking the lead with an image in my mind.” Abby M

The individual Gold Arts Award journey: Mattie Margison

Twenty-four-year-old, Mattie comes from a family of artists; his early life was rich with creative experiences. He first got into dance by taking part in drama and dance courses, inspiring him to audition for Ludus Dance which would set him on a path to study a BA (Hons) Dance at the University of Salford.

In September 2019, as Mattie entered his final university year, he was looking forward to his end of degree dance show. But in March 2020, Covid-19 cancelled these plans and shifted students to remote learning. As Mattie tried to bounce back from this blow, he was introduced to the potential of the Gold Arts Award qualification.

“Gold Arts Award was a sweet turnup for me. It took me in a new direction and opened my eyes up to different art forms.” Mattie Margison

As Mattie joined the rest of the world in ‘staying at home,’ he embarked on a new creative journey. Always fascinated by graffiti art he decided to explore how this visual medium might meld with contemporary dance to produce a, unique, ‘live from the living room’ performance.

He set about researching the history of graffiti and capturing ideas about different props, staging and dance moves.

“You can learn a different kind of art than you’re used to. It gives you the space to explore and figure out new ways.” Mattie

Through Gold Arts Award, Mattie also had the opportunity to support Primary school pupils to explore dance as part of their Bronze Arts Award qualifications, putting his interpersonal and leadership skills to the test.

“I loved the creative unknown and potential for new creativity.” Mattie Margison

Kate Veysey, IVE Arts Award Associate, was a key figure and mentor through the process. Working remotely to support Mattie, she supported him to stay on track with key milestones.  

“We laid out a game plan, identifying strengths and areas for support. Her encouragement was key.” Mattie Margison

For Mattie, having the right guide to navigate the process was critical. For Kate, the experience of supporting Mattie has been a rich one. 

“Mattie grasped the concept of the ‘Gold’ in the early days and has been really brave with each section, taking on exciting challenges that push his practice and enable him to work in new ways. He has gone from strength to strength over the eight months, and I am so proud of what he has achieved and excited to see the work he will do next as a dance artist and leader.” Kate Veysey

In summer 2020 Mattie graduated with a First-Class BA Hons in Dance. He is eagerly awaiting the moderation results of his Gold Arts Award portfolio.  

Whilst his passion for the arts shall remain, he is also open other avenues. One route includes training to be a police officer. Longer term, he loves the idea of launching his own dance company and working with young offenders. 

Whatever career path he takes Mattie is sure that the Gold Arts Award has helped him to go with the flow and embrace new possibilities,   

“I’m loving the limbo, the opening of doors.” Mattie Margison

Gold Arts Award – a learning tool for changing times

Now more than ever, we must equip our young people with the broadest set of life skills to help them thrive in this changing world.

In this case study the evidence is clear that Gold Arts Award has a crucial role in honing the creative, interpersonal and leadership skills of future generations. In line with this, IVE shall continue to champion and support Arts Award excellence across the region.

If you are interested in learning more about Arts Award, please click here Arts Award – IVE (weareive.org). For more information about training as an Arts Award adviser, please click here Online training options – Arts Award. Don’t miss this Bronze Arts Award case study during COVID-19 lockdown.

Download the full case study as a PDF here

If you’d like to learn more about Arts Award, contact our schools engagement manager, Aoibheann at aoibheann@weareive.org.

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