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Minister Foley announces call for applications from schools for BLAST 2023 and Creative Clusters initiatives

The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD today invited primary and post-primary schools to apply for the arts in education initiative, Bringing Live Arts to Students and Teachers (BLAST) 2023.


BLAST will be running in 2023 for the third time. The 2023 programme will enable 425 new arts in education residencies in schools over the course of the year.


The aim of BLAST is to provide pupils in schools all over the country, time and the space to work with a professional artist 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.


Minister Foley said: “I am extremely proud to announce the launch of BLAST 2023, which builds on the great success of the BLAST 2021 and 2022 Programme.


 “When I first launched BLAST in 2021, I had hoped that it would open up the minds and the hearts of our children by providing new and creative collaborative experiences and opportunities for our children and young people and for our schools. The evidence over the past two years has shown that school communities have embraced BLAST beyond our expectations. Creating an environment and putting arts and creativity at the centre of education is important not just for developing creative capacities and skills but for encouraging social responsibility and personal qualities such as resilience, empathy and a capacity for collaboration.” 


“In 2022, BLAST ensured over 15,000 students could benefit from this experience along with teachers and schools. Some of the trained artists available to schools covered topics such as multimedia, fine art, mosaics, stained glass sculpture/animation and performance art.


“From my many school visits I have seen firsthand a myriad of colourful, collaborative and creative projects that have transformed and indeed illuminated so many spaces in our school communities.   


“BLAST has shown that school is a fantastic environment for children to have new and different experiences, to make new friends, to be creative and importantly to have fun while learning.”


Further information on BLAST, guidelines and the application form will be available from and from the 21 full-time education support centres’ websites. The application process will open on 23 March 2023 and will close on 19 May 2023.


The Minister has also invited primary and post-primary schools across Ireland to apply for Creative Clusters, an initiative taking place as part of Creative Ireland and under the Schools Excellence Fund.


Under this scheme to support schools to build capacity in creativity, schools in each cluster will enjoy access to a specialist facilitator, 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 2023-2025.


Minister Foley said: “Education is going through a critical time of unprecedented change and reflection. There has never been a better time for us to embrace the arts and creativity in our learning environments and to embrace joy. This is a wonderful opportunity for schools to work together on a project of their choice and schools are given complete freedom to design and develop their own project, with support from a local facilitator and their local education centre”.


“I hope that this exciting initiative will help schools to further enhance creativity in their classrooms. It is important that our children are enabled to express themselves and learn to adapt and collaborate. ‘Creative Clusters’ gives students of all ages the opportunity to develop these essential skills, enjoy and explore artistic and creative expression.”


To date, the Creative Clusters initiative has seen schools around the country work together to develop creative projects and collaborate on new ideas based on their local experience and unique perspective.


The Schools Excellence Fund of the Department of Education sets out to encourage and recognise excellence and innovation in our schools. This initiative will help deliver on the Creative Youth pillar of Creative Ireland, which sets out a commitment that every child in Ireland has practical access to tuition, experience and participation in music, drama, arts and coding.


Further information on Creative Clusters is available from the Department’s website:


The application process will be open from 23 March 2023 until 12 May 2023.


Notes for Editors


How will this BLAST Arts in Education Residency initiative work?


The Education Support Centre


Schools will apply for a BLAST Arts-in-Education Residency to the full-time education support centre in their area. The Register of Approved Artists in each education support centre will be arranged by artist and discipline, include relevant required and approved training experience, examples of previous work and examples of relevant or related experience in an educational and community context.


The Artist


Artists from any artistic discipline who have been trained in partnership working with schools will be registered with each of the 21 full-time education support centres. Artistic disciplines include visual arts, crafts, music, dance, drama, literature and film. Creative disciplines will be expanded as the BLAST Residency Programme develops over the next number of years.


The artists on the Register of Approved Artists will have been previously trained and have engaged in school residencies under Teacher-Artist Partnership CPD and Residency initiative or the Arts in Junior Cycle Programme which are both approved and led by the Department of Education. Artists are currently trained and registered on the Online Register of Approved Artists managed by the education support centre network nationally. Garda Clearancefor artists for successful school applications will be sought by the education support centre. The education support centre will also arrange for payment of the artist which will further remove the administrative burden on teachers and schools.


The School

The schoolmust be in the catchment of the local full-time education support centre. Schools may submit only one application.


This initiative encourages:


  • Schools, primary and post-primary, that have not recently had an opportunity to participate in such creative initiatives.
  • Schools supporting inclusion and enhanced arts-in-education engagement with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and SEN.
  • Schools that have a track record in teacher-artist partnership working in the classroom and school.
  • A whole-school commitment to the project, but it is a requirement that in large schools’ engagement with BLAST is recommended to take place in one or two classes. However, in small schools, it may take place as a whole school initiative.
  • Projects should have regard to the relevant school curricula where appropriate and have a focus on process.



BLAST Arts-in-Education Residency funding


The artist’s fee is €1,100 (inclusive of €200 travel) per residency, funded by the Department of Education via each education support centre. The education support centre will pay the artist. The artist will be funded for 20 contract hours including six hours’ planning/development/review time and 14 in-school contact hours. Approved funded residencies can be delivered throughout the academic year, commencing in September 2023.


This initiative is supported by the ESCI education support centre network, Teacher Artist Partnership CPD programme, Arts in Junior Cycle, NAPD Creative Engagement Programme and the Arts in Education Portal.

Further information on BLAST, guidelines and the application form will be available from and from the 21 full-time education support centres’ websites. The application process will open on 23 March 2023 and will close on 19 May 2023.


Creative Clusters– Schools Excellence Fund


Creative Clusters is an initiative of the Department of Education, led by and in partnership with the Education Support Centres Ireland (ESCI). Creative Clusters provide schools with access to creative people, skills and resources that will support them to draw on their own skills and experiences and those within their wider communities. Creative Clusters is an initiative under Creative Youth 2023-2027 which was launched on 28th March 2023 as part of the Creative Ireland Programme.


The new Creative Ireland Programme is a five-year programme which connects people, creativity and wellbeing. It is an all-of-government culture and wellbeing programme that inspires and transforms people, places and communities through creativity. It is an all-of-government, culture-based initiative that emphasises the importance of human creativity for individual, community and national wellbeing. It is led by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media. The programme is grounded in the belief that every person has creative capacities, the development of which contributes to their personal wellbeing as well as to the general wellbeing of our communities.


The programme consists of five pillars:

  1. Our Young People
  2. Our Communities
  3. Our Cultural and Creative Infrastructure
  4. Our Creative Industries
  5. Our Global Reputation