Cambridge City Council – Activate

Shortlisted in the 2018 Hearts for the Arts Awards for Best Local Authority Arts Initiative.

Activate is a two-year programme addressing the needs of children in years 7 & 8, at Coleridge Community College, who’s access to culture is limited or non-existent. Activate is managed and funded by Cambridge City Council with a range of arts and cultural organisations including NIE Theatre, Cambridge Junction, Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge Museums, Museum of Cambridge, and Menagerie Theatre.

There’s data showing that a significant proportion of Children in Cambridge, who receive free school meals, have very poor educational outcomes: for example, Ofsted data for Coleridge Community College shows that 33% of ‘pupil premium’ students achieved expected progress in English compared to 78% of other pupils, and that 29% of pupil premium students achieved expected progress in Mathematics compared to 75% of other pupils. Additionally, the Social Mobility Index (published 31 January 2016), shows that Cambridge is the 5th worst local authority area nationally in terms of youth social mobility.

The combination of different arts and cultural forms combined to create The Museum of Us, an innovative performance installation that included and represented the cultural lives of the participants in a unique way, depicting aspects of Cambridge never seen before.

The project is growing very effective partnerships with the council, the school (including the governing body of the Multi-Academy Trust) and six arts and cultural organisations who have not worked together before. All the organisations have experience of working with young people in challenging circumstances but each organisation brings a different specific area of expertise.

The project has collected excellent evidence of impact from the community involved through a 360 degrees approach involving teachers, pupils and arts practitioners. Teachers are tracking pupil progress with the PASS measurement tool and the arts practitioners gather regular evidence of impact from pupils and parents. This evidence will be used to allow the project to continue as a 6-month annual programme, using a mixed model of Pupil Premium and external funding.

“I cannot thank you enough for the amazing change in confidence for my son. He started the year incredibly shy and quiet. Since Activate he has gone on to be awarded ‘Drama student of the Year.’” Parent

“It is like there are two schools, one where we hardly talk and Activate, where we have fun, act, make stuff, socialise. We already have lots of in-jokes… we are making our own history.” Pupil

What the judges had to say:

“Key to the success of Activate was local authority leadership in bringing together six arts organisations who had not previously worked together, with the aim of addressing poor educational outcomes. Activate is a triumph of collaborations and sustainable thinking.” Culture Counts