The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD today announced the awarding of BLAST residencies to 629 schools in 2022-2023, the second year of the BLAST (Bringing Live Arts to Students and Teachers) programme.
This is a significant increase from the 489 primary and post-primary schools that took part in the programme in its first year and demonstrates the strong interest and engagement from schools in working with creative professionals through this programme.
Minister Foley said: “The BLAST initiative provides opportunities for individual primary and post-primary schools to collaborate with established artists on a whole range of innovative creative projects. It is a fantastic artistic experience for our students, and last year, over 480 schools participated, resulting in a creative experience for thousands of students.
“This year, I am delighted that it has been possible to increase the number of schools participating, so that we can offer BLAST residencies with real artists to 629 schools and further expand the number of students who can avail of the opportunity to enjoy creative experience in the classroom and learn in new ways.
“Creative thinking and creative expression benefit our students both by providing opportunities for learning and through enhancing wellbeing. Engaging in creative projects enables children and young people to express themselves, provides them with opportunities for connection and collaboration, and gives them the space to explore new ideas and learn new skills”.
Minister Foley also welcomed the creation of an additional 21 Creative Clusters for 2022-2024, comprising a further 77 primary and post-primary schools. This doubles the number of participating schools and clusters this year, up from 21 clusters announced already in September 2022, in response to the demand from schools for this collaborative creative initiative.
Under this scheme to support schools to build capacity in creativity, schools in each cluster will enjoy access to a specialist facilitator or artist, or creative expertise in whatever their chosen area of interest or theme might be. These resources will help the schools to build a project of learning and activities tailor-made for their students. As part of this funding allocation, a cluster may receive up to €15,000 funding to help bring their plans and ideas to fruition in 2022-2024.
Minister Foley said: “The further expansion of Creative Clusters this year enables more schools to avail of this opportunity – it means more children and young people have the opportunity to develop essential skills in adapting and collaborating, and to enjoy and explore artistic and creative expression.”
School Clusters in this year include, for example, one cluster of schools that cater for students with autism, which aims to create tactile and interactive outdoor play areas, and another cluster of primary schools working together to create a shared interest and knowledge of coding. Such varied themes reflect the local experience and unique perspectives of each cluster, and demonstrate how students can benefit from creative engagement in multiple ways.
The Minister has also welcomed the publication of the research and evaluation report, Creative Clusters: A Collaborative Approach to Cultivating Creativity in Schools. This report, commissioned by the Department, provides a valuable assessment of the strengths of the programme and contains recommendations to further strengthen the design, delivery and reach of Creative Clusters.
The evaluation report is available here
The list of schools taking part in BLAST Arts programme for 2022-2023 is available here
Notes to Editors
The Creative Ireland Programme is a culture-based, all of Government initiative which places creativity at the centre of public policy, and is designed to promote individual, community and national wellbeing. BLAST and Creative Clusters are two of the key “in-school” initiatives developed and rolled out under Pillar 1 – Creative Youth. In December, Government agreed to extend the Creative Ireland Programme to 2027.
BLAST (Bringing Live Arts to Students and Teachers) aims to provide pupils in primary and post-primary schools all over the country, time and the space to work with a professional artist trained within the Teacher Artist Partnership (TAP) scheme, on creative, imaginative and fun projects.
These innovative classes are designed and developed between the artist, teacher and the school under the coordination of the Education Support Centres in Ireland (ESCI) network of 21 full-time education support centres. For example:
- A music percussion programme in a DEIS school that has special classes. The programme’s focus is on three younger classes in a school along with special classes. The programme will offer therapeutic and sensory benefits while also tying in with wider music education in the school, including allowing for a whole school music programme.
- Design of a school crest, using either or both of traditional art materials and technology. The hope is to include all students in the school and link in to its history, culture, heritage and ethos. The project will be documented through digital photography and the final product will appear on students’ proposed new PE tops.
Creative Clusters is a pilot initiative of the Department of Education, led by and in partnership with the 21 full-time education centres and funded through the Schools Excellence Fund. A Creative Cluster consists of between three and five schools collaborating on the design, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of an innovative arts and creative learning project which supports them to address a common issue or challenge, identified by that cluster. For example:
- A cluster of five schools working on a theme entitled “Create a play area”. All five schools are in the unique position that they cater for students with ASD and have either ASD units or are a dedicated special school. Through this project they hope to broaden their student’s experiences of natural habitats and the natural world around them. They propose to create an interactive, tactile and creative outdoor play area within each school environment through the cooperative work between all the staff across the five schools.
- Three primary schools working together as a Creative Cluster whose theme is “Cracking the Code”. In forming a cluster, they aim to create a shared interest in coding between the three schools and seek to create games or activities in coding that the children can share with other classes in their school supporting critical thinking and problem-solving skills through creativity in coding.
The Schools Excellence Fund is an initiative of the Department of Education to encourage and recognise excellence and innovation in our schools. It is available to primary and post-primary schools.