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EACEA National Policies Platform


8. Creativity and Culture

8.5 Developing cultural and creative competences

Last update: 25 January 2021
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 Curriculum for Excellence is intended to develop four key capacities in all young people, making them confident individuals, successful learners, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society. There are eight curriculum areas which are compulsory for all pupils until S3 (14-15 years), which include the curricular areas of the 'expressive arts' and 'technologies'; details are provided below.

Additionally, Creative Learning Networks involve partnerships between local authorities, colleges and the culture and communities sectors, working together they ensure that learners are exposed to the best possible creative learning experiences in the context of the Curriculum for Excellence, increasing their achievements, confidence and skills.

Many arts-based organisations will also offer school programmes, aimed at supporting the curriculum and challenging the barriers faced by young people in accessing the arts. Examples include the schools programme run by the Filmhouse Edinburgh.

The Education Scotland publication Curriculum for Excellence: Experiences and Outcomes, which gives an overview of all the curricular areas within the Curriculum for Excellence, recognises that:

the inspiration and power of the arts play a vital role in enabling [...] children and young people to enhance their creative talent and develop their artistic skills. [...] [they] play a central role in shaping our sense of personal, social and cultural identity.

The 'expressive arts' curricular area covers participation in performances and presentations, art and design, dance, drama and music. The Experiences and Outcomes associated with the curricular area of the expressive arts state that pupils should:

experience the inspiration and power of the arts; recognise and nurture their creative and aesthetic talents; develop skills and techniques that are relevant to specific art forms [...]; be provided with opportunities to deepen their understanding of culture in Scotland and the wider world; and have their learning enhanced and enriched through partnerships with professional arts companies, creative adults and cultural organisations.

The Curriculum for Excellence: Experiences and Outcomes publication recognises that:

learning in the technologies provides a strong foundation for the development of all skills and knowledge which are, and will continue to be, essential in maintaining Scotland's economic prosperity. [...] Children and young people will develop their creativity and entrepreneurial skills and be encouraged to become innovative and critical designers of the future.

The 'technologies' curricular area covers digital literacy; food and textile technology; technological developments in society and business; craft, design, engineering and graphics; and computing science. The Experiences and Outcomes associated with 'technologies' state that pupils should develop:

knowledge and understanding of the key concepts in the technologies; curiosity, explanation and problem solving skills; planning and organisational skills; creativity and innovation; skills in using tools, equipment, software, graphic media and materials; skills in collaborating, leading and interacting with others; critical thinking; discussion and debate; searching and retrieving information; making connections between specialist skills; evaluating products, systems and services; presentation and communication skills; awareness of sustainability.

Beyond S3 (14-15), pupils are increasingly given the choice over which subjects they may wish to pursue. Pupils in S5 (16-17) and S6 (17-18) may take the Scottish Baccalaureate in Expressive Arts, which requires pupils to study two arts-based courses, alongside English or Maths and an interdisciplinary project.

Further education and training 

Many further education colleges offer courses and apprenticeships in a wide range of arts-based subjects for young people aged between 16 and 19. Resources aimed at informing young people of the available choices include a list of colleges offering craft-related subjects from Craft Scotland; Scottish Drama Training Network colleges offering drama courses; and current opportunities for young people seeking creative apprenticeships from Apprenticeships Scotland.

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

Finally, young people up to the age of 25 may undertake an arts-based qualification under the Youth Arts Award scheme. Qualifications are on offer in any area of the arts and awards can be achieved at five different levels.

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 (the learning that takes place outside the formal setting of school, college or work-place – usually referred to in Scotland by the term, Community Learning and Development). However, following budget reductions in all countries of the UK in recent years, and other changes in resourcing in Scotland, 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 and workshops, and continuous professional development activities.  Examples include:

Courses are also available for professionals working in the arts and creativity sectors; they are not specifically aimed at young people or those who work with them.

  • the Interchange programme, which is Scotland's only annual training event for professionals who use drama and theatre in their work with young people.
  • How Good is Our Culture and Sport? resources from Vocal Scotland and Education Scotland, which are designed to support improvement and effective self-evaluation for sports and culture practitioners.
  • Artworks Scotland, a national professional development initiative led by Creative Scotland aimed at artists working in participatory settings.
  • the Scottish Drama Training Network, which acts as a resource for teachers and practitioners supporting professional development and the sharing of expertise.
  • the MEd Learning & Teaching in the Performing Arts qualification, available from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, focuses on developing teaching skills for the performing arts.

Providing quality access to creative environments

National Youth Performing Arts Companies provide young people with opportunities to develop their creative skills and perform across Scotland. These include the Scottish Youth Theatre, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and YDance. Each of the latter receive funding from Creative Scotland.

Additional initiatives and programmes worthy of note include:

  • the Youth Music Initiative, a Government Initiative administered by Creative Scotland, which aims to create access to free, high quality music making opportunities for young people, both through formal and informal contexts.
  • Sistema Scotland, which is funded by a range of public and private organisations, is a free immersive orchestra programme aimed at increasing the confidence, aspiration and teamwork of children and young people in some of the most deprived communities of Scotland.
  • Fèisean nan Gàidheal, a membership organisation which funds the development of community-based Gaelic arts tuition festivals for young people; it is funded by Creative Scotland.
  • Edinburgh International Children's Festival, produced by Imaginate and part-funded by Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government, which celebrates the best of children's dance and theatre from around the world on an annual basis.
  • Starcatchers, a national arts and early years organisation working to improve the lives of children by creating performances and exploring creative activities for them.

Scotland’s Culture Strategy 2020 discusses efforts made to facilitate work in the creative industries:

the creative industries have a range of vocational qualification routes under the Creative and Creative Digital Production Modern Apprenticeship Frameworks which reflect many of the broad occupational functions in the sector. For example, the Scottish performing arts, theatres and venues sector has had access to a Scottish Modern Apprenticeship Framework to support the development of creative and cultural skills for more than five years, with employees able to study and attain a qualification at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 6 in areas as diverse as venue operations and technical theatre. Scotland’s screen and creative digital industries have been drawing on Modern Apprenticeships for many years, and are now working with Skills Development Scotland, providers and local authorities to support up to 500 young Scots develop in-demand skills and acquire practical industry insight through the new Foundation Apprenticeship in Creative and Digital Media.