Illustration taken from a page in the My Creative Track booklet listing artforms including music, digital, drama, dance, literature and visual arts

The programme

Our journey with Virtual Schools started with a regional research and development programme in 2015, where we developed a strategic partnership with the 14 Virtual Schools in the West Midlands in order to make a positive difference to the cultural experiences and opportunities for the 12,000 children in care/care experienced children and young people in our region.

We’ve worked closely with our friends at The Mighty Creatives in this innovative programme of activity.

 

Artslink

The first phase of our work focussed on setting the foundations through the Artslink programme, underpinned by a model of progression pathway, which provides a range of experiences and opportunities to enable children in care/care experienced children and young people to develop their interests and talents. Artslink is managed by the West Midlands’ Virtual Schools Children in Care Foundation and was funded by the Virtual Schools (VS) with matched Partnership Investment from us.

As part of Artslink, Arts Connect supported the training of Virtual School staff in arts leadership, becoming Arts Ambassador Leads and developing new structures in their respective Virtual Schools.

All the VS work in collective geographical hubs to co-produce and deliver cultural opportunities for children in care/care experienced children and young people and their carers, in their local area as well as participating in a region wide programme across the West Midlands.

 

My Creative Track

We worked in collaboration with our colleagues The Mighty Creatives, to research, produce and develop My Creative Track a model for arts engagement and progression, that is used to plan, monitor and support each child and young person’s experiences.

 

The West Midlands Children in Care Foundation

We helped found and co-invested in a new charity to ensure the continuation of this work – The West Midlands Children in Care Foundation who fundraise, run arts and sports programmes and training for professionals. They also measure and assess the impact of their arts programmes for the children and young people they work with.

The Foundation is active in advocating with Government on the needs of children in care/care experienced children and young people.

 

What are we doing now?

In the last year we have supported a network wide performance project with Women and Theatre and worked with five VS to test and pilot the use of the Artsmark framework to make recommendations to Arts Council England (ACE) about the potential for its use with VS nationally.

Our newest initiative with the strategic support of ACE Midlands, continues to develop the VS partnership in exciting directions and creating new knowledge through an action-research programme with cultural sector partners that will run to December 2025. We will be exploring dimensions of the question ‘“How do we best engage care experienced children and young people with arts and culture?” and sharing the models and outcomes of this enquiry. You can find out more here.

 

What are Virtual Schools?

Virtual Schools are statutory services based within every Local Authority, they exist to promote high aspirations for children and young people under the care of the Local Authority.They do not exist in real terms or as a building. Children and young people do not attend it, they still remain the responsibility of the school they’re enrolled at.

The Virtual School is simply an organisation created for the effective co-ordination of education services at a strategic and operational level. Every care experienced child/young person will be registered with a Virtual School and each Virtual School works very differently.

 

Get in Touch

Please contact Arts Connect for further information our work with Virtual Schools.