The BLAST programme will see young children learning from professional artists.

They’re going to have a blast

A programme promoting artistic expression and creativity in young children has been awarded to 629 Irish schools for 2023.

The BLAST (Bringing Live Arts to Students and Teachers) residencies were announced by Minister for Education Norma Foley TD.

This year’s numbers are a significant increase from the 489 primary and post-primary schools that took part in the programme last year, which was the first time the programme ran.

BLAST aims to provide pupils with time and the space to work with a professional artist trained within the Teacher Artist Partnership (TAP) scheme, on creative, imaginative and fun projects.

The classes are designed and developed between the artist, teacher and the school.

Announcing the residencies, Minister Foley said the increase in schools taking part in the programme demonstrates the strong interest and engagement from schools in working with creative professionals

She said: “It is a fantastic artistic experience for our students. 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,” the Fianna Fail TD added.

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 announced already in September 2022, in response to the demand from schools for the initiative.

Under the scheme, which supports 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.

One example of this year’s creative clusters is a group of schools that cater for students with autism who aim to create tactile and interactive outdoor play areas.

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.”

The minister also welcomed the publication of the research and evaluation report, Creative Clusters: A Collaborative Approach to Cultivating Creativity in Schools.

The report, commissioned by the department, provides an assessment of the strengths of the programme and contains recommendations to further strengthen the design, delivery and reach of creative clusters.