The Minister for Education Norma Foley 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.