Quality Principles – the recipe for quality

21st May 2017 - Ben Stones

CapeUK is supporting Arts and Cultural organisations and schools to start to embed the Quality Principles across all their work with children and young people. This blog reflects the journey of our Quality Principles Peer Support sessions. To find out more email Rachael.harrison@capeuk.org


June 2016 – The recipe for quality

So it begins: 

“Will you write a blog about the Quality Principles sessions, Sophie?”  

I’ve spent years avoiding this sort of writing.  I’m pretty good at avoiding it, to be honest.  But this is an invitation to share something about the sessions I’ve loved leading for CapeUK over the past couple of years, and this blog feels like an opportunity to share some of the magic that happens in those sessions.

It’s a pretty simple recipe:



Gather 1 small group of peers

They will all be people who work in the arts and culture sector, focused in some way on working with children and young people.  A couple will be freelancers, but mainly they’ll work for NPOs (n.b. recipe works best with a mixture of both).

In a quiet space (away from phones, email, computers)

With excellent snacks and drinks (vital to the afternoon’s morale)

Ample time allowed for space, timely prompts, creative thinking, sharing, open questions, play and laughter – 

Add a sprinkling of the Quality Principles, Theory of Change if required, some critical reflection, much imagining and dreaming – to taste.



Repeat regularly over a defined period



Then share results at work and with other colleagues within the sector.

Last week, we started the fourth round of these sessions.  I’ve so enjoyed the journey from CapeUK’s nfer pilot project in 2014 to the place we’ve got to now.  I love how with every group the sessions change, because every individual who attends is different and wants to use the space in their own unique way.  I’m struck every time by the simple power of taking a pause, away from the crazy lives we lead, and I’m struck by the power of reflection and having the time to notice.  I’m struck too by the fact that we learn as much from listening to each other’s stories and ruminations as we do from sharing our own.

This blog will follow the journey of the fourth group.  Last week, we met as a group for the first time, and had the afternoon to get to know each other. The group is made up of representatives from the worlds of music, theatre and heritage, who between them work across the whole of Yorkshire and the Humber.  Each member brought a project idea for they will focus on, and we spent our time diving deep into each idea.  

They said the session was ‘hard – immensely useful – inspiring – engaging – energizing – focusing – and fun’.  They liked the strawberries more than the grapes, and the chocolate biscuits were excellent.  Step one of this recipe is complete.

When we meet next, we will be thinking about how we can know if the work we are doing is making a difference.


Sophie Hunter, session facilitator, June 2016


Feedback from previous participants:

“What I’ve learnt during these sessions, is how to make the Quality Principles work for YOU – this is a toolkit.  You don’t need to get the toolkit out for everything, nor do you need to use all of it – sometimes you need to use some of it.  Find out how to make this work for you – it can help you, rather than it being another burden!”

“If I hadn’t done these sessions, I don’t think I would have taken the Quality Principles so seriously. I wouldn’t have wanted to work with them.  I actually do want to work with them now.”

“I’ve found it’s been the tangential things that have been the most valuable, and which I wouldn’t have got if I was on my own at a computer screen. That’s linear thinking, and here it’s all made richer by the input and thoughts of others in the group.  That’s where all the gold is.”



The Arts Council for England (ACE) have been developing the Quality Principles since 2012. Working with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) they undertook a review of existing quality frameworks and ran a number of consultation events and pilots with arts and cultural organisations, schools and young people to try and answer the question, ‘what does quality look like in work with, by and for children and young people?’ 

The result is 7 common quality principles offered as a framework to encourage us to reflect on how we measure and articulate what ‘great’ and ‘excellent’ look like in our work with, by and for children and young people. The quality principles

The full NFER report is here. – https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/ACYQ01/ACYQ01_home.cfm

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