News and Blog

Cultural Education Meets Alternative Provision: A Project Overview from In Focus Education and Development

By Faye Phillips, Education Projects Coordinator at In Focus Education and Development

Ensuring that all young people are able to engage in arts and culture is a goal that all of our SCEP members share. To do this, it’s important that we not only focus on mainstream schools and community groups, but also Alternative Provision settings. In Focus Education and Development are known for their fantastic work in this area and so, we asked their Education Projects Coordinator, Faye Phillips, to tell us about their most recent project with Compass School.

Compass School is a specialised Alternative Provision designed to support pupils who face challenges in mainstream education. These students have either been permanently excluded or are at risk of exclusion, and require an alternative learning environment that provides additional support and resources to meet their specific needs. Throughout this academic year, students from Compass School have been attending photography sessions at In Focus Education and Development. This work was made possible by funding from the Virtual School.

Each term, different groups of Compass students attended a weekly session at the In Focus office, based in the heart of Southampton.Ā During their time with In Focus, the students learnt about how DSLR cameras work and how they can be used to capture the world in their own vision. The students were able to work with studio lighting, professional lenses and light boxes whilst learning the technical elements of digital photography.

Students mastered the use of shutter speed, gaining the ability to capture ghostly images by slowing the shutter speed to show off this movement, or using a fast shutter speed to freeze a moment in time, like making a bird in flight perfectly still.Ā They also spent time learning about aperture and how it can affect their images, experimenting with depth of field to create a variety of out of focus backgrounds and other artistic effects.

Work produced by a student at Compass School

In addition to mastering technical skills, students spent time looking at the work of famous photographers which helped inspire their practice. Each student picked a favourite image from a photographer and made their own personal response that included technical elements drawn from the artist’s work but also making curatorial decisions to make it their own. By studying the works of famous photographers, they have developed a greater appreciation for different perspectives and approaches, further enriching their own artistic expressions.

Each student’s hard work and dedication culminated in the creation of handmade books, showcasing their personal achievements and progress. These books not only serve as a testament to their growth as photographers but also provide a lasting keepsake to remind them of the skills and knowledge gained during the workshops.

As a result of their commitment and effort, all participating students from Compass School who attended these weekly sessions achieved their Explore Arts Award.Ā 

The work made by these students will be on display at Southampton City Art Gallery from July until October. The exhibition will display a diverse range of photographs and books created by the Compass School students, allowing visitors to experience the unique visions and creative expressions of these young artists.

Delving Into the Data: What the #BeeWell Survey Tells Us About Southamptonā€™s Young People

Understanding the experiences of young people can be challenging. We are often forced to rely on anecdotal evidence, conversations with parents and educators, or our own instincts developed over years working in the sector. Even when high quality quantitative data does exist, the findings arenā€™t always relevant to the young people in our local neighbourhoods. Thatā€™s where programmes like #BeeWell come in.

What is #BeeWell?

#BeeWell is a youth-centred programme that exists to improve the wellbeing of young people across England. #BeeWell listens to the voices of young people through an annual wellbeing survey delivered with secondary schools. They work closely with young people, schools, partner organisations, local government, and health systems to act on the results.

Last autumn, #BeeWell surveyed just over 22,000 Year 8 and 10 pupils in 103 secondary schools across in Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, and Southampton. The survey covered numerous topics including health, relationships, hobbies, school, and much more.

The findings, released in March, give us a better idea of how our young people are feeling.

What about arts and culture?

The hobbies and entertainment section asked young people about the time they spent on various activities, including those linked to arts and culture.

Cinema and Theatre

When asked how often they go to the cinema or the theatre, 19% of the young people surveyed said they go to at least once a month, 45.8% go occasionally, while 35.2% go once a year or less. The picture in different Southampton neighbourhoods varies slightly, with 22.2% going at least once a month in Southampton South, compared to 16.2% in Southampton West. The data also shows a slight increase in visits for those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) compared to those without.

Reading for Pleasure

When asked how often they read for pleasure, 26% of young people said they read at least once a week compared to over 60% who read several times a year or less. The data shows that boys, those in older year groups, those who received free school meals and those with SEN are all less likely to read often compared to their peers. When broken down by area, the number of young people reading often was lower than average in Southampton East, North, South, and West, but higher than average in Southampton Central.

Making Things

When asked how often they draw, paint or make things outside of school, 40.4% of young people said they do this often or sometimes compared to just under 60% who did this occasionally or rarely. When looking at how gender affects these figures, the number of young people doing these activities often drops from 50.2% for girls to 28.8% for boys.

What next?

When we compare the findings above to the high number of young people regularly engaging in sports outside of school (71.4%), we can see that thereā€™s still a long way to go to improve engagement in arts and culture. However, quantitative data can only ever tell us part of the story, to fill in the blanks we need to continue to engage in conversations with young people and other stakeholders. We need to keep evaluating ourselves and asking the challenging questions. Are our services affordable, accessible, and inclusive? Are we visible enough to the communities we aim to support? How can we collaborate with other sectors like sports or healthcare? How can get better at referring to other services in our area?

But you donā€™t have to do it alone. Through our blog and our Member Meetings, the SCEP is here to help you find creative solutions to the issues facing our young people.

Further Reading

#BeeWell Neighbourhood Data Hive

HIPS Headline Findings 2024

The #BeeWell team also completed a research briefing on PACE, where conclusions show that engagement in a wide range of activities is beneficial for wellbeing. Read more here.

To discuss the programme in more detail the team can be contacted at

You Said, We Did

We surveyed Southampton Cultural Education Partnership (SCEP) members in the spring of 2023 about the future of the SCEP. Key things you said you valued about the SCEP were:

  • The generosity of spirit SCEP engenders and how egalitarian our spaces feel
  • How our meetings increase your understanding of the cultural sector in Southampton and new policies and strategies
  • That our work improves your practice through sharing approaches, projects and training
  • Developing your networks which feeds into new projects and work
  • That we extend the reach of the cultural sector into other areas in the city e.g. Youth and Health services

You said you liked the meetings being a mix of online and in person, and that the SCEP newsletter was useful for finding out about new funding and activities, although you asked for bullet points at the top of each newsletter on its contents.

We also asked about your priorities and the areas you felt the SCEP should focus on. You told us childrenā€™s health and wellbeing was a key concern, how young peopleā€™s employability skills were supported, and how we ensure that it was easy for children in Southampton to know what was on offer and access arts and culture. As a result the SCEP Steering Group agreed our three strategic aims which are:

  • Increasing Health & Wellbeing for children and young people through arts engagement
  • Pathways & Progression: testing out new approaches to conserve capacity and resources including referrals processes
  • Building a workforce for the future: providing inclusive training and skills development opportunities for young people and the cultural sector

Over the past year, as well as concentrating on how the SCEP delivers our strategic aims, we have focused on delivering the things you value about the SCEP. We have:

  • Set up termly member meetings that are online (October 2023) and in person (February 2024)
  • Planned in extra time to in-person meetings for networking
  • Added a section to meetings for members to present emerging practice
  • Added bullet points to the top of our newsletters

We look forward to continuing our work with you to nurture creative and cultural education for all children and young people in the City over the next year.

Creative Health and the Role of Arts Organisations in Health and Wellbeing

By Rosanna Sloan

Rosanna is the Interim CEO at The Arts Development Company and the SCEP Steering Group lead for Health and Wellbeing.

Creative Health is the practice of using culture and creativity to improve peopleā€™s health, wellbeing, and quality of life. You may have heard of dance classes for those with Parkinsonā€™s disease or music therapy for dementia patients, but Creative Health supports people of all ages. Many cultural projects for children and young people have direct or indirect benefits to their health and wellbeing, and so, you may be working in Creative Health without even realising.

“When we remember the WHO definition of health, which states that health is more than merely the absence of disease and infirmity, but the attainment of the highest level of physical, mental and social well-being, then the value of the arts becomes apparent.”

WHO Arts & Health Lead, Christopher Bailey

We are currently facing a mental health crisis for children and young people.

It is a sobering statistic that there is a 50% increase in the likelihood of a young person having a mental health problem. 50%. The effects of the pandemic, exam pressure, social media and so on are having a tangible impact on the wellbeing of young people. It is concerning that 34% of young people who get referred to the NHS for treatment are not accepted. Our health facilities are struggling, and this is where the arts can help.

Social Prescribing

Social prescribing is when an activity or service is ā€˜prescribedā€™ instead of, or in addition to, medication. It is an area that needs further demystifying for arts organisations. There are, in some areas, dedicated Social Prescriber or Link Worker roles that prescribe activity to support a patient’s recovery.

“Our measures should reflect this holistic approach, focusing not solely on reduction of symptoms but on how the arts may help us cope, achieve our potential, be productive, and active members of a community.”

WHO Arts & Health Lead, Christopher Bailey

What I am seeing as I delve further into the research and on the ground delivery of Creative Health, is that these two distinct sectors need a translator to bridge the communication void between them. The two sectors use different terminology and the funding systems behind creative health from the healthcare sector are not clear. However, there are organisations that are trying to support this, including the organisation I work for The Arts Development Company.

Creative Health isā€”as demonstrated across many research papersā€”a highly successful and cost-effective way to improve a person’s health. It allows people to live happier, longer, more fulfilled lives, which in turn reduces strain on healthcare services. And so, it is an area that more arts organisations need to tap into.

What can we do?

As arts budgets are being reduced, we need to tap into the funding streams for Creative Health and identify projects that deliver health benefits for its participants. In our SCEP newsletters, we already see many examples of our members working in this area, but how can more of us get involved?

“We know that time is an important factor in establishing good programmes, so we must work together as a sector to ensure our services have longevity.”

We need to read up and be engaged in the conversations and research papers around Creative Health. We need to find a way to collaborate with health services and each other to create multi-year projects that are effective and provide stability for those that need them. Too often, wonderful projects happen, they support their participants for a short time, and then a lack of funding spells the end of all that work. We know that time is an important factor in establishing good programmes, so we must work together as a sector to ensure our services have longevity.

In addition to this, we should keep our eyes open to examples of best practice for people of all ages and question the health outcomes of our projects so we can provide data for future potential funders. We should use the right language and take advantage of the excellent work that has been done already in this area, for example using the Creative Health Framework as a way to consider and plan Creative Health projects.

As the SCEP Steering Group lead for Health and Wellbeing, I would welcome any of our members to get in touch to connect on your Creative Health projects and your interest in this area.

Further Reading:

Creative Health Talks

Creative Health Quality Framework

Creative Health: The Short Report

Arts Council

National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH)

NCCH Roundtable on Education and Training: Creativity for Health and Wellbeing in the Education System

Social Prescribing (Barnardos)

Join us for the SCEP Expo on Monday 11 March

Join Southampton Cultural Education Partnership (SCEP) for an evening of networking and celebration at John Hansard Gallery on Monday 11 March, 17.30-19.00.

We are delighted to host the Connecting Culture Project and the young Cultural Connectors as they launch the Young Peopleā€™s Manifesto for Culture and Creativity in Southampton. Connect with arts and cultural organisations and meet SCEP members who will be sharing examples of activities and resources available for children, young people, and schools in Southampton.

Cultural Connectors at What’s Next Southampton? Credit: @devplacephotos

Directions to John Hansard Gallery can be found here. If you’d like to attend, please RSVP below.