The Better Lives Through Culture programme launched in 2021, aiming to create better lives for children and young people through culture.
At the time, children’s mental health was worsening. Confidence was low and inequalities were widening. We knew arts and culture could help. The need to widen access to cultural education felt urgent so, as a Cultural Education Partnership, we embraced that mission.
Two years on, as concerns over wellbeing continue to grow, the evaluation and film of Better Lives Through Culture offer hope.
Better Lives through Culture
Better Lives Through Culture aimed to enable children and young people, who weren’t participating in arts and culture, to access cultural education.
It consisted of a Creative Curriculum project and a Creative Mentors project, both co-designed with young people. The two projects involved 325 children and young people, 40 teachers, 4 artists and 6 early career creatives.
The programme, delivered in partnership with Artswork with Bridge Investment funding from Arts Council England, has delivered “life-changing” results.
“My whole life has changed. I went from working one day a week in an art gallery. Now I’m working full time in a school that specialises in autism.”Creative Mentor
Students worked with local artists to develop Creative Curriculums, offering new ways to learn different subjects.
Banister Primary School explored Geography and Science curriculum through dance and movement. Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill collaborated with a writer to address literacy and oracy within Art and Design. Cantell School added music to the English curriculum, while Woodlands Community College introduced a multi-artform approach to History.
“There has been a turnaround in the children’s confidence in wanting to have a go and be involved and to share.”Banister School SLT Teacher
Teachers reported increased confidence, engagement and teamwork for all pupils. Learning benefits included improved retrieval for Primary pupils and access to learning for children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).
“Linking movements to vocabulary is really helping them to secure that language.”Banister School SLT Teacher
Teachers have learnt new ways to work with their pupils that improve access for students with SEND. Primary age SEND students who normally cannot demonstrate the vocabulary they know through writing have been able to show their knowledge through movement. When studying butterflies, students could flutter like a butterfly or act out a life cycle when they could not write the terms. Teachers reflected it gave them a different way to support the students to be successful.
“Most importantly, the children are enjoying the sessions. They are excited to be having an input in the planning process and those who are usually reluctant to answer and share are more willing to since these sessions, which is fantastic!”Banister School Teacher
As part of the programme, Early Career Creatives also took part in mentoring training. Equipped with new skills they then mentored young people from Cantell School.
The project nurtured creative talent across the city and helped shape career pathways for mentors and mentees. The young people who were mentored described how the process had helped them improve their knowledge of careers in the arts.
With the number of young people affected by poor mental health predicted to continue rising, galvanising cross-sector expertise to address wellbeing is vital.
Better Lives Through Culture has shown the important role arts and culture can play in building confidence and enjoyment, enhancing learning, and equipping young people with skills for the future.
Southampton Cultural Education Partnership is passionate about continuing to nurture creative and cultural education for all children and young people in the city. We are proud to have worked with so many Southampton students and artists. 135 have achieved Arts Awards in the process.
With your help, there is so much more we can do to achieve better lives through culture.
Thank you to
Our partners and funders: Artswork, Arts Council England, Artsmark, Arts Award, University of Southampton
Artists and Organisations: Abi Thommes and Arts2Educate, Louis Duarte and SoCoMusic Project, Natalie Watson, Susmita Bhattacharya and ArtfulScribe
Schools and Colleges: Banister Primary School, Cantell School, Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill and Woodlands Community College
Creative Mentors: Issa Loyaan Farrah-Kelly, JJ Gale, Jilly Evans, Ellen Gillett, Aidan and Amy Spencer
And all the brilliant young people who took part in Better Lives Through Culture.