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EACEA National Policies Platform


8. Creativity and Culture

8.5 Developing cultural and creative competences

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 07/12/2020 - 18:45

On this page
  1. Acquiring cultural and creative competences through education and training
  2. Specialised training for professionals in the education, culture and youth fields
  3. Providing quality access to creative environments

Acquiring cultural and creative competences through education and training

Secondary school curriculum 

The arts, science and technology and English with media education are all compulsory areas of learning at Key Stage 3 (11-14) in Northern Ireland:

  • the statutory requirements for the Arts encompass the areas of Art and Design, Drama and Music. They provide important opportunities to develop young people’s practical, exploratory, expressive, design and problem-solving skills at a level appropriate to their age, maturity and physical dexterity. The strands share a number of overlapping concepts and skills relating to creativity and expression, analysing and interpreting observations and experiences and the communication of ideas, thoughts and feelings.
  • the statutory requirements for Science and Technology, which includes the subject strand of ‘Technology and Design’, aim to ensure that pupils develop creative and critical thinking in their approach to solving scientific problems and develop a range of practical skills related to scientific methods of enquiry.
  • the statutory requirements for English with Media Education aim to ensure that pupils are exposed to and engage with a range of stimuli, enhancing their creativity and stimulating their curiosity and imagination; pupils are encouraged to become critical, effective and creative communicators.

Pupils at Key Stage 3 are also expected to develop the cross-curricular skills of communication, using mathematics and using information and communications technology (ICT). Pupils are encouraged to refine their creativity, alongside their thinking, problem solving and decision making skills. For example, using ICT has a clear focus on creative technologies. At Key Stage 3, ‘desirable features’ include: working with images; working with sound; music technology; working with moving images/animation; 2D/3D CAD; game making; web design, etc.

‘Cultural Understanding’ is a designated Key Element within the curriculum; the minimum requirements for all Areas of Learning /subject strands include explicit reference to these. Every subject strand at Key Stage 3 also has the statutory learning outcome: ‘demonstrate creativity and initiative when developing ideas and following them through’.

Pupils at Key Stage 4 (14-16) have a larger degree of flexibility with regards to the subjects that they study. However, they must be given the option of studying at least one course from a number of areas of learning, including the arts. They must also develop the same cross-curricular skills as those at Key Stage 3 and must refine their creativity, alongside their thinking, problem solving and decision making skills.

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and assessment (CCEA) offers a range of qualifications to support this, including Art and Design, Moving Image Arts, Drama, Performing arts, Technology and Design. 

Digital literacy and new technologies 

Additionally, Creative Learning Centres offer skills development programmes for young people and teachers in the fields of digital literacy and the deployment of creative technologies to support the curriculum and new approaches to learning in the classroom. The centres aim to work specifically with the most disadvantaged young people and those who experience social exclusion, as well as schools in rural areas. They are funded by the Department for Communities through Northern Ireland Screen.

Moreover, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) offers a Moving Image Arts qualification, developed with Northern Ireland Screen. Students may study Moving Image Arts at GCSE (Key Stage 4) and A Level, developing their creative and critical abilities through learning in the craft of filmmaking. Teacher development is provided by Northern Ireland’s three Creative Learning Centres. It is the only qualification of its kind in the UK.

In partnership with Northern Ireland Screen, the BFI Film Academy has been established to provide young people aged 16-19, wanting to develop their careers in the screen industries, with filmmaking skills in industry-led after-schools programmes available across Northern Ireland. The scheme is delivered by the Creative Learning Centres and Cinemagic and involves up to eighty participants each year. NCFE ‘Preparing to Work in the Film Industry’ accreditation is offered to all participants. Specialist BFI Film Academy residential programmes in filmmaking, animation, visual effects, screenwriting and documentary are also available for those wanting to pursue careers in specific areas.

Finally, the Into Film Club, which is hosted by Northern Ireland Screen, is a UK -wide after school initiative giving five- to 19-year-olds the chance to access and enjoy film critically and creatively. Participating schools are encouraged to view at least 15 films each year, upload their film reviews on to the club website and to make short films as part of the scheme. The project is free to access and is available for all schools in Northern Ireland.

Further Education and Training

A number of training and apprenticeship programmes are on offer for young people over the age of 16:

  • the Northern Ireland Creative Employment Programme, which is aimed at young people aged 16-24 who are disproportionately affected by current levels of unemployment, gives them the chance to access on-the-job training and experience in the creative organisations.
  • Northern Ireland Screen offers work experience to young people aged 16 to 18 who are studying Moving Image Arts at AS or A-Levels, or those who have already been selected for the BFI Film Academy in Northern Ireland; the programme involves set visits, post-production and animation company placements.
  • the Youth Arts Community Leadership Programme (Arts Apprenticeship Scheme) offers young people aged 18 to 24 in Belfast training and employment opportunities within the areas of youth work and youth arts facilitation.
  • courses on offer from the Bauer Academy, which promotes diversity across creative industries and gives young people who are 17 and over the opportunity to learn media skills from leading professionals; the courses on offer are free and applicants do not need any prior experience or qualifications (note that courses are on offer to applicants from the whole of the UK).
  • the Creative Skillset Trainee Finder Development Programme accelerates the recruitment of qualified trainees who are over 18 in the film, television, computer games, animation and VFT sectors (note that this initiative is not specific to young people).
  • the Creative and Cultural Skills network, a UK-wide network, works with education providers to shape the next generation of creative practitioners; organisations recognised by their awards give young people opportunities to work and learn in the creative industries, ensuring that employers have a skilled generation of talent and helping the creative industries to grow.

Further information about apprenticeships is available in the article on 'Traineeships and apprenticeships' in the chapter on Employment and Entrepreneurship.

Non-formal learning and youth work 

Young people’s natural desire to develop their creativity and self-expression remains an important area of focus for youth work and non-formal learning. However, following budget reductions in all countries of the UK in recent years, some youth organisations no longer offer support for young artistic and cultural activities as part of their general provision. Other organisations, which have developed specialist experience (in relation to performing arts or sports, for example) may continue to offer targeted provision, on behalf of a local authority, area health authority of other commissioning body. This will usually involve close collaboration with cultural and educational institutions at the local level.

The Arts Award programme supports young people up to the age of 25 to develop their creative and leadership skills through the achievement of a national qualification which is comprised of five levels. Young people participating in the programme experience arts events, participate in arts activities, take on arts-related challenges and share their skills with other young people, recording their achievements and progress. They are supported by an adviser who acts as their mentor and assessor.

There are no entry requirements or time limits for completing the award and anyone working with young people can deliver it, from teachers and museum staff to arts practitioners and youth workers across the UK.



Specialised training for professionals in the education, culture and youth fields

Specialised training programmes for professionals are on offer from a large number of organisations through two main methods: curriculum support resources, such as those provided by the Digital Film Archive; and workshops and continuous professional development courses, such as those advertised by the National Society for Education in Art and Design.


Moreover, a number of youth arts organisations deliver professional development training for their own staff, whilst also inviting professionals from external organisations to attend, such as Multiple Realities, an ongoing arts led cultural development programme hosted by WheelWorks.


Providing quality access to creative environments

Notable programmes and projects aimed at widening the access of young people to creative environments include the following:


  • Sticky Fingers Arts, which receives funding from Arts Council NI and delivers high quality arts events aimed at children from birth to 12 years old; their work prioritises disadvantaged children, with many of the activities on offer free to the participants involved.

  • the Ulster Youth Orchestra, which enables young people to achieve their musical potential through the provision of high quality professional tuition.

  • the annual Belfast Children's Festival, which is aimed at all children under the age of 18 and involves events both inside and outside of school. 

  • Cahoots Northern Ireland, a theatre company producing innovative work for young children in conventional and unconventional locations.

  • the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast, which provides studio space and learning and performing facilities for children and young people and gives emerging bands the opportunity to perform and showcase their talent.

  • Belfast City Youth Orchestra, a membership organisation which provides talented young musicians with the opportunity to receive musical tuition and perform in concerts.

  • Replay Theatre Company, which produces innovative work for young people under the age of 19 and works towards ensuring that they have access to high quality art provision.

A comprehensive list of organisations and programmes currently funded by Arts Council Northern Ireland can be found here. A significant number of them target young people specifically.