Questions have been raised about Artsmark, Arts Council England’s flagship scheme promoting creative learning in schools, following engagement figures which have slowed. The proportion of schools engaged in the scheme increased by just 1% between 2005 and 2017, despite an overhaul of the project in 2015 and over £10m of investment since 2006/07. It seems the scheme is not as popular as it once was, with the majority of schools that have either applied for or held the award in the past have decided not to re-engage with the scheme.
For the students taking part however, Artsmark is a worthy initiative. It is awarded to schools that undergo a process of improving their arts and cultural provision, and can take up to around two and half years for a school to achieve the award. The award is then valid for two years. In June 2005, 3,067 (13%) of these schools held Artsmark. By January 2018, this number had increased to 3,378 (14%), representing schools that either currently hold or are working towards an award.
Despite this, ACE calculates that over 9,000 schools in total (37%) have engaged with Artsmark at some time. As different schools may now be involved in the scheme, this means at least around 6,000 schools used to participate but are no longer involved. Artsmark was re-envisioned in 2015, following an unsuccessful period of outsourcing to Trinity College London between 2012 and 2014, in which applications for the award fell drastically. Alongside the refresh, ACE set out an aim for 50% of schools to sign up for the award by 2020, but now ACE intends to register 20% of schools in England by 2022 and “engage more broadly with 50% of schools”.
According to analysis by ACE, there are over 24,000 schools in England eligible to hold Artsmark, comprising primary, secondary, independent, special schools and pupil referral units. There seems to be much to be done in order to welcome those schools to the Artsmark scheme.