8.1 General context
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Main trends in young people's creativity and cultural participation
The Children's Omnibus Survey, which has been coordinated annually by Arts Council of Wales since 2007, provides data on young people's attendance and participation in arts events and activities. The survey data originates from interviews with a sample of young people aged between seven and 18 years. Headline findings from the 2018 Omnibus Survey show the following trends:
- 89.3 per cent of young people interviewed reported attending an arts event at least once a year, which is an increase in attendance levels recorded in 2016 (82.9 per cent).
- more girls (93.7 percent) than boys (85.1 percent) reported attending arts events at least once a year.
- As was the case in both 2016 and 2017, carnivals and street arts and plays were the two artforms which had the highest level of attendances during 2018; 58.9% and 47.7% respectively.
- Children and young people in grades ABC1s 2 are more likely to attend an arts event once a year or more than those in the C2DE group (92.9% and 86.4% respectively), following the same trend of the previous seven years.
- Participation in visual arts and crafts, once a year or more often, is the most popular activity, followed by creative writing (63.1%) and musical activities (45.7%).
Barriers to accessing cultural experiences
Professor Dai Smith’s 2013 Independent report for the Welsh Government into Arts in Education identifies a number of barriers challenging young people's participation in cultural experiences as follows:
- the cost of transport means access to the arts outside of schools can be expensive; additionally, many schools charge pupils for instrument lessons
- the delivery of arts is inconsistent across Wales; moreover, rural schools are at a disadvantage due to smaller staff teams, slower internet connections and higher travel costs
- there is a decline in individuals training to work as secondary school art, music and drama teachers
- the administration associated with inviting artists into schools can be prohibitive: insurance and criminal records checks (known as DBS checks) are expensive to carry out
- the school accountability system (overseen by Estyn, the education inspectorate), focuses on outcomes for literacy and numeracy, so marginalising creativity and the arts, which are perceived as 'soft options' and are increasingly becoming extra-curricular activities
- awareness of opportunities and the local 'arts offer' varies from school to school
Additionally, Professor Smith notes that involvement with cultural activities in Wales is linked to an individual's socio-economic background (which includes location, upbringing or aspiration) and concludes that accessibility should be increased for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Welsh Government's strategy, Light Springs through the Dark: A Vision for Culture in Wales in 2016, defines 'culture' as:
the arts, music, literature and heritage [...] all of the creative activities that give people purpose, and a sense of belonging and identity.
The value of arts and culture is framed in several ways:
- as a means of improving literacy and numeracy, and reducing the attainment gap between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers (An Independent report for the Welsh Government into Arts in Education, Smith, 2013)
- as a mechanism for developing confidence, skills and employability (Light Springs through the Dark: A Vision for Culture in Wales, Welsh Government, 2016)
- as a means to break the cycle of poverty and promote social justice (Culture and Poverty: Harnessing the power of the arts, culture and heritage to promote social justice in Wales, Andrews, 2015).
As outlined in Professor Smith's report into arts education in schools, 'the arts' include:
the making, performance, expression or appreciation of one or more of the following art forms: music; drama; dance; film and digital media; visual arts and design; literature and creative writing.
The report goes on to highlight that the 'arts in education' involves two key elements:
First, using the arts as a pedagogical tool to improve student performance and achievement across the curriculum and [second], visiting arts venues or working with arts practitioners in order to enhance knowledge and understanding of a particular subject.