A broad experience in the arts is integral throughout a child’s experience in primary school. The arts give expression to and extend children’s understanding, their imagination and their creativity through a broad range of experiences. The Arts Education curriculum (1999) at primary consists of three subjects: Music, Drama and Visual arts. The curriculum enables children to creatively express ideas, feelings and experiences.
The primary curriculum is in the process of undergoing review and redevelopment. As part of this process consultation is underway (to the end of 2020) on a draft Primary Curriculum Framework. In the redeveloped curriculum Arts Education is presented as one of five broad curriculum areas. Arts Education would continue to support learning in visual arts, music and drama, as well as supporting other aspects of arts education such as dance, film and digital media, and enabling schools to engage with local, national and international initiatives and opportunities.
The Creative Ireland Programme, led by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, is a five-year all-of-government, culture-based initiative that emphasises the importance of human creativity for individual, community and national well-being. Under this programme the Creative Youth Plan was published in December 2017 and aims to increase the opportunities for engagement by children and young people in artistic and cultural creativity, helping them to discover and develop new skills and talents that enhance their development and growth, and add to the richness of their overall learning experience. The Plan has initiatives both targeted at schools and out-of-school settings, as well as providing teachers with CPD.
Among key initiatives for schools under Creative Youth are Creative Schools and Creative Clusters.
Creative Schools is led by the Arts Council in partnership with the Department of Education, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs provides tangible supports for schools to place arts and creativity at the centre of school life. Schools participate in the initiative over a two year period and are provided with access to a “Creative Associate” and funding.
As of 2020, 464 schools have enrolled in the initiative. Of these there were 113 primary schools in 2018, 144 in 2019 and 119 in 2020. Each school is allocated a grant of €2,000 per year over a two year period to develop and implement bespoke creativity plans. Total funding of €3.096m is being provided in 2020 to support the initiative (between the Departments of Education and Skills and Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Arts Council). This total investment includes additional resources made available under the July Stimulus Package which has enabled the provision to each participating school of an additional €1,100 in 2020 , meaning the grant awarded for the 2020/21 school year is €3,100 per school.
Creative Clusters is an initiative of Department of Education, led by and in partnership with the Education Support Centres Ireland (ESCI, formerly ATECI) and funded through the Schools Excellence Fund. The purpose of this pilot scheme is to demonstrate how the arts and creativity can support clusters of schools to work together over a two year period to address common learning challenges, identified by those schools. The initiative commenced in the 2018-19 academic year and as of September 2020, there are 220 schools across 65 clusters involved. In 2018, the number of primary schools engaged was 54, with 64 engaged in 2019 and 62 in 2020.
Clusters receive access to a “Cluster Facilitator” and grant funding of €1,500 per participating school, up to a maximum of €7,500 per cluster, each year over the two years. As part of the July Stimulus, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media is providing an additional €1,000 to each participating school for the 2020/21 school year.
My Department also provides funding to Music Generation for the provision of performance music education for children and young people. Under Creative Youth, Music Generation is being expanded to all areas of the country. Initiated by Music Network, Music Generation has been co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Local Music Education Partnerships.