Upholding the rights of children and young people to cultural entitlement
“Every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” Article 31, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Arts Council upholds the rights of children and young people to enjoy their full cultural entitlements. The Arts Council's strategy Partnership for the Arts 2006-2010 and the current Strategic Overview 2011-2013 identify children and young people as an important constituency, with a wide range of programmes and supports in place for both ‘in-schools’ and ‘out-of-schools’ activity. In 2006, the Arts Council established a Young People, Children, and Education (YPCE) team to oversee policy development, manage advocacy initiatives, and administer funding programmes in this area of its work. 2009 marked thirty years of involvement by the Arts Council in the development and support of programmes for children and young people.
The Arts Council is keenly aware of the lack of sufficient existing national data sets to support meaningful 'data mining' within the arts in Ireland generally, and that data gathering is poor in relation to children's and young people's participation, even quantitatively. There is a need to gather sufficiently precise and differentiated data relating to, for example, the nature of arts experiences; the location in which they occur; quality assurance, particularly regarding initial and continuing professional development of artists and teachers; and the demographic context. The Arts Council welcomes the National Data Strategy launched in 2011 by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The Arts Council's YPCE team is engaging with the process with a view to increased national understanding of the role of the arts in children’s lives, increased information on children’s participation, and on the range of services which support children's engagement with, knowledge of, and enjoyment of arts and cultural activities.
Art-Youth-Culture: FYI was a consultation initiative held in 2010 which brought together more than 60 young people between the ages of 15 and 23 to discuss their participation in cultural life and the arts with their peers and key policy-makers during three days of arts-based workshops, discussions and meetings. Participants shared their experiences, concerns, and ideas with policy-makers and cultural providers through a day-long series of round-table discussions and artistic presentations, the themes and format of which were determined in advance by the young participants. Thirty-five representatives from key public agencies and government departments whose activities impact on young people’s experience of arts and culture attended the event. A dedicated website was designed and managed by a youth arts collective. The event, which took place in Dublin, was funded with support from the European Commission (Youth in Action). Art-Youth-Culture: FYI has been selected by Leargas as an example of good practice for inclusion in a European Commission publication focusing on youth entrepreneurship (education).
In July 2008, the Arts Council published Points of Alignment: The Report of the Special Committee on the Arts and Education. The Special Committee was established by the Minister for Arts Sport and Tourism in tandem with the Minister for Education and Science. The Report focuses on arts-in-education provision in Ireland and makes five key recommendations to improve such provision. Arts-in-education involves artists and arts organisations of all disciplines (theatre, dance, visual arts, literature, music, film etc) visiting schools to present work and to engage in both short and long-term projects in which they collaborate with students and teachers. It also includes visits by schools to galleries, theatres and arts centres for exhibitions, performances and workshops of all sorts designed to enrich the school experience of thousands of young people throughout Ireland. The Report was presented to both Ministers in July 2008.
The Public and The Arts 2006 (Arts Council) identified that the top priority for the public in terms of spending on the arts was “arts programmes and facilities dedicated to working for and with children and young people”. The same study also found that 82% of respondents agreed that “arts education is as important as science education” and that “lack of an arts education at school is a significant obstacle to developing an interest in the arts”. It concludes that while there has been some progress in arts provision for young people both within the formal school system and in the public domain, “relative to their demographic significance, the developmental import of childhood experiences and the economic dependence of young people, however, it would appear that further progress is required and would be welcomed by the Irish public”. The 2007 National Economic and Social Forum (NESF) report identified that “concerns have been raised about the level of expertise available among teachers and within schools to adequately implement the arts curriculum”. It went on to suggest that it would be “useful to have more links between artists, arts organization and schools to do this”.
Arts, Education and other Learning Settings, A Research Digest an online resource which makes available, in summary form, a very wide range of research, including a number of action research projects, undertaken in the field of arts-in-education in Ireland. While the focus is on arts in schools, other settings also feature such as: arts in youth work; arts in healthcare; and arts in communities. The digest contains summaries of seventy-two publications of which fourteen are summarised in detail. It spans an almost thirty-year timeframe of 1979 to 2007.
Artists~Schools Guidelines providing practical guidance for artists and teachers on how to design, manage and evaluate schools-based arts initiatives collaboratively. The guidelines were disseminated widely within the arts sector and to every school in Ireland. The Arts Council and the Department of Education and Science each contributed 50% of the total costs of this research initiative which was managed by a jointly established working group.
The Ark, A Cultural Centre for Children is an example of a facility dedicated exclusively to arts programming for children. The Ark, which opened in 1995, is Europe’s first custom-designed cultural centre for children. Located in an award winning building in the heart of Temple Bar, Dublin, it houses an indoor theatre, outdoor amphitheatre, gallery spaces and a workshop. Over the last three years, the Ark’s work has expanded greatly through significant public investment with a particular focus on intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity.