A local approach to creative education

,  5 November 2015

We often hear about the need for sustainability and growth in the creative sector. In order for this need to be met, it’s crucial that schools and colleges engage with cultural organisations on a local level. We've been doing exactly that in Suffolk with Creative Choices events.

Image Simon Mills, Photos by Si
Image Simon Mills, Photos by Si

Creative Choices events are an excellent way of making the connections between cultural employers and students, providing a platform for building great relationships.

It is a real treat to build a different kind of relationship with schools and their students.

Emphasising practical, hands-on experiences for young people, they are a chance for them to meet face-to-face with professionals and hear about their career routes.

Now in its second year, Creative Choices Suffolk is building steam. This autumn saw four cultural organisations open their doors to secondary schools, providing a programme of day-long practical workshops and professional insights into careers in the creative and cultural industries.

A unique model for creative collaboration

High-quality collaboration is what makes Suffolk’s Creative Choices events unique, involving four cultural organisations, opportunities for 300 pupils from schools from across the county, and 20 work experience students from Suffolk New College.

The model has even been endorsed by Suffolk County Council and embedded into its strategic creative learning offer. 

The organisations involved are:

My role has been to work with them to develop unique days of workshops, ranging from communications and marketing to technical theatre lighting and sound, and from customer services to producing and community arts.

Roles included: chaperoning school students through the day of activities; acting as ambassadors; photography; and filming the events and producing edited films.

Jeanette Siddall of DanceEast said: "Suffolk Creative Choices was a lovely day at DanceEast. We enjoyed having the young people around and sharing their enthusiasm, and it was a great opportunity for some of our younger and newer members of the staff team to reflect on and articulate what they do and why they are passionate about it. 

"We have lots of relationships with schools but it is a real treat to build a different kind of relationship with them and particularly with their students." 

Feedback from the schools

Hartismere School was so delighted with Creative Choices in 2014, it decided to bring students to each of the four venues in 2015 and is considering bringing further students next year. 

Dianne Joy, learning resources coordinator at the school, said she could see how Creative Choices would be relevant to students from a range of subject areas and is thinking of bringing Business Studies students in the future.

“Creative Choices is great for our students, they get so much out of the practical hands on activities. This experience gives them lots to talk about at college interviews... it’s really motivating, informative and inspirational.”

Real life work experience

College students found the work experience opportunities to be invaluable.

It's so important young people have the opportunity to learn about careers in one of the UK’s most successful growth sectors.

They told us: “It’s great to have real life experience and more responsibility... this will help me through my life.”

Adam Day, a level three Media student, even said: “It has been amazing for me. As a result of this work experience I’ve been offered work at Aldeburgh Music next year!”

The extent of the collaboration that makes Creative Choice Suffolk benefits all that are involved in profound ways. Schools get a comprehensive offer right across the county. Cultural organisations develop their partnership working, share knowledge and expertise, and benefit from the added value brought by the work experience students.

Suffolk New College enjoys the relationships formed with industry partners and excellent work experience opportunities for its students.

Inspiring experiences with local employers

Jayne Knight, arts development manager at Suffolk County Council, worked with Creative & Cultural Skills to get the programme started in the county two years ago.

She said: “It is so important young people have the opportunity to learn about careers and find out about the jobs in one of the UK’s most successful growth sectors.

"These are often jobs that young people know nothing about. Creative Choices gives inspiring and challenging experiences with local employers.

“The creative and cultural sector is wide-ranging in Suffolk. We have worked hard to build a nationally significant, locally cherished rich cultural offer. There are many opportunities, and so it is important young people get a good understanding of career options.”

For further information about creative careers, visit Creative Choices.

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