Arts Award and youth justice: What’s the picture?

Arts Award and youth justice: What’s the picture?

Picture of Julie Neville

BY: Julie Neville
14 Sep 2015

Arts Awards are qualifications that are flexible, accessible and personal – which means they’re delivered in a huge variety of contexts, including youth offending teams and prevention settings.  This week we take a look at the effect Arts Award has had within youth justice organisations.

Unitas (the national charity for young people at risk of social exclusion) have put Arts Award at the core of their Summer Arts College (SAC) programme, which aims to ‘improve basic skills and reattach young people to mainstream education’[1] over the key summer holiday a period (a period which traditionally ‘exacerbate[s] both low attainment and detachment from mainstream education’[2]).

Clayfields 02And it’s worked - Unitas’ five year report on the programme concluded that ‘...there were moderate and statistically significant increases in literacy and numeracy scores and an Arts Award, achieved by virtually all completers, was the first qualification achieved by eight out of ten of the young people. There was a pronounced increase in the numbers of young people wanting to re-engage with ETE (education, training, employment)... There was a marked and statistically significant fall in offending rates during the programme.’[3]

Arts Award’s flexible framework means young people can explore their own arts interests, and express themselves creatively in their own personal way. It measures individuals’ progress rather than setting a standard for attainment, and can be adapted to meet the requirements and timeframes of your organisation. For many young people who have become disengaged with or have had negative experiences of education, Arts Award can act as the stepping stone back into education, volunteering, training or work.

What do other youth justice organisations have to say about Arts Award?Clayfields 01

Clayfields House Secure Children’s Home: ‘Our Arts Award programme develops team work, trust, relationships, literacy, emotional health and wellbeing, gives appropriate means of self-expression through the arts and nurtures self-control, which young people need to re-integrate back into society.’

Islington Youth Offending Service: ‘The Summer Arts College has been successful in providing young people with a ‘taste of success’ which has proved instrumental in motivating the young people to strive for further success and raise their own aspirations of what they can achieve. To date, five of the six young people who took part in the programme remain in full-time education, training or employment. The sixth is currently working with The Princes Trust and has attended a number of interviews. None of the young people have re-offended and one has been offered a place at the British Film Institute Academy for talented young people in the film industry.’

Odd Arts (arts organisation working in criminal justice contexts): ‘The Gold Arts Award is certainly a step up from Silver. It is not to be underestimated but nor should the interest and potential of these particular young people: young people who have offended. Attempting an Arts Award within a secure setting can be part of a larger, life changing experience and ethos for the young people.’

Want to get involved?Clayfields 03

You can find out more about delivering the awards in youth justice and prevention contexts on the website and in the Arts Award youth offending, prevention and resettlement leaflet.

Visit to find out more about becoming an Arts Award adviser or give our help desk a call on 020 7820 3383 if you’d like to have a chat about the awards.

All images courtesy of Clayfields House Secure Children’s Home

[1] Unitas, The Art of Engagement?, 2014, p. 23

[2] Unitas, The Art of Engagement?, 2014, p. 23

[3] Unitas, The Art of Engagement?, 2014, p. 150

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