East Riding Youth Dance delivers a 12 week community dance programme across the East Riding. Since 2016, they have incorporated Arts Award into that programme. This Case Study reviews the challenges that created and benefits it produced.
June Mitchell is Community Arts Officer at East Riding of Yorkshire Council and is candid about how she felt about implementing the Arts Award in her Youth Dance programme: she didn’t want to!
“None of us wanted to do it, we were worried about the workload. And our young people were coming to dance; we didn’t want it to suddenly feel like school.”
However, a commitment had been made and, reluctantly, June and 11 other members of the Youth Dance team attended Arts Award training. Immediately, the barriers started to fall. They realised quickly that they didn’t need to change their programme at all – the young people just needed to document it.
East Riding Youth Dance is made up of 8 groups – from schools in Beverley, Bridlington, Goole, Hornsea, Pocklington and Withernsea along with Kings Mill and Riverside special schools. All but two of these have two age groups operating. Each group works on a dance over 12-week blocks and then present their work at a Platform Day, usually at Bridlington Spa.
The Platform Day is logistically tricky and long: each group needs their own technical rehearsal so the Youth Dance team work hard to keep everyone entertained with other workshops, selfie pose areas, and other sharing experiences. Having heard about Arts Award Discover in a Day, they decided to put all 84 dancers through on a Platform Day. There had been plenty of preparation done throughout the 12-week period but the actual portfolios were to be built on the day. This served as an excellent opportunity for the dancers to reflect upon and evaluate what they’d learnt whilst creating and rehearsing their dances.
The first time through was a partial success. Virtually all of the young people were on board and it provided a real focus for the day. There was also a ready-made support network, as they were all creating portfolios together. Where they realised quickly that they’d made a mistake was in trying to assess all 84 on the same day. They quickly realised this was an unmanageable task. The assessments had to be postponed until after the Platform day.
Now that their programme has had a chance to bed in, it’s all systems go. The plan to have all groups moving uniformly through the levels at the same pace as the 12-week periods come and go proved very quickly to be unrealistic. Some young people only come for one period, others miss a period through illness or exams, and not all the dancers progress at the same rate.
Now that the staff are comfortable with the assessments, they have become very adept at personalising the levels so that some young people in the same group are still working at Discover level whilst others are preparing to start their Bronze. They now have young people at every level up to Silver and plans afoot to do Gold in the future.
Depending on which level the young people are working at, they begin their journey at the start of the 12-week period and aim to finish on Platform Day. June and her team consciously programme workshops and talks from arts professionals and allocate the young people to the relevant sessions. For instance, June herself gave a talk about her job at the Council, Andrew from Bridlington Spa talked about his and Dawn, a dancer, discussed hers. Thus for young people gathering information about professionals for their portfolio, valuable and inspiring case studies are to hand.
Lynn, a support worker with Youth Dance attends weekly sessions and is a prolific assessor! Sometimes it’s easier for the support workers than the session leaders to work directly with the young people on their journeys and portfolios, and she is relishing the role. As she explained:
“The Arts Award process is good for their evaluation; they have the chance to reflect on what they’ve learnt and what they’d like to do next. It leads them towards their next challenge.”
For example, one very enthusiastic member loves make-up and design so she naturally started helping others. It was a really quick win to facilitate her working with dancers from other groups on the Platform Day and thus enabling her to ‘pass on’ her arts skills to others – a key component of the Bronze award.
The planning of both the 12-week sessions and the Platform Day has been made easier and more focused with the framework of the Arts Award around it. The wonderfully supportive moderation visit they received after the first assessments only encouraged them to be braver and more imaginative.
All the staff now see the benefits and the value to the young people of the qualification. For some young people with complex needs, this might be one of very few qualifications that they receive.
June is aware how fortunate she was to receive some funding for the training in the first instance and funds the awards themselves through her ACE funding. Through shrewd budgeting she is managing to stretch a three-year fund over five years because,
“Now I’ve seen how focused and energised everyone is, I want to ensure the Arts Award remains at the heart of Youth Dance in the East Riding”.
Interested in East Riding Youth Dance? You can find out more at http://www.eryd.co.uk/
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