Arts Award Explained

We spoke to DanceXchange Class Coordinator Cat Boffy about the Arts Award scheme for young people.

Arts Award: Ages 11-25

Arts Award is an accredited qualification for young people. You have to be at least 11 years old when you take it and the upper age limit is 25. Generally, it suits people around 15 to 16, best. There are different levels that you can do - Bronze, Silver or Gold. You have to do more work at each level, but then the qualification is worth more.

The Gold Arts Award, for example, is the hardest Award, but it has 35 UCAS points attached to it, so it has been quite good for people thinking about university and applying for courses. 

It is open to anybody, regardless of their arts ability, or if they have a disability or any particular access needs - making it really accessible. 

There are a lot of options for the young people taking part. You can make it your own; you really can choose what you want to look at. It is arts specific - not dance, music or theatre specific, you can use any kind of art. 

For example, if you were doing the Bronze award, which is the entry level, the first section you have to do is “Explore the arts as a participant”. So you go and you take part; that can be taking part in a local dance class, music lesson, anything like that, as long as it is an art.

Part B is “Explore the arts as an audience member” - so you simply have to go and see something. That can be going to see a play, a dance performance or your favourite band – anything that’s of interest to you.

Part C is “Arts, Heroes and Heroines”, which always proves really popular with teenagers. You simply have to research your favourite arts hero or heroine, and that can be anybody. For example I have seen someone choose Beyonce, and someone else choose Eminem. You research your subject and then create some sort of document – perhaps a poster or a video – whatever form you are most comfortable with.

I saw one video in which the young person interviewed a cardboard cut out of Patrick Swayze! So you should not be put off thinking that you are going to have to do lots of written work or sit down at a desk – Arts Award is not like that at all.


Part D is the Arts Apprenticeship, which can be you sharing your skills with other people. If you have been choreographing your own dance, for example, that you want to share with your friends, you could teach them that. That then counts as your Arts Apprenticeship and that is all you have to do to get your Bronze.

We always try and remind you people that a lot of them are already doing these things. If you are taking dance classes, play in an orchestra, going to gigs, then you are already fulfilling some of the criteria, so why not get your Arts Award as well?

After Bronze, you can move up to Silver and Gold, which have the same basic requirements and with some more advanced tasks too. 

You can jump straight in at Gold if you want to - you do not have to work your way up the levels, which is a great option. Bronze is obviously aimed at slightly younger children. If you are 17 or 18, you might want to start straight at Gold level.

Arts Award: Ages 7-11

They have introduced a new Arts Award for younger children, aged 7-11, called “Discover and Explore”, which is a more straightforward, simpler, and less work. It is more about taking part in activities, because it is for younger children.

Arts Award Explore is an Entry Level 3 Award in the Arts, so it is still an accredited qualification for young people. That is the first part and then Discover is the second level. Again, you do not need to start with Explore, you can go straight onto Discover.

For Explore there are four sections. Again, it is not about sitting and writing, especially at that age, you can be doing anything really.

Part A is Inspire - you just have to take part in arts activities and develop your art skills. So it can be a painting or pottery class, or a dance class, anything like that. Or perhaps music lessons, if you are doing those through school. Again, if you are already doing them, why not?

Part B of that is Explore – which is simply requires you to go see other arts. Perhaps an art exhibit or a show or again, a gig or anything like that.

Part C is Create, and is probably the most flexible part. You just create something to demonstrate your art skills. It can be a poster or a collage, or if you have been doing a pottery class, you could make a piece of pottery.

Image: Tim Cross

Part D is Present - simply presenting your work to others. That could be to your friends at school, or to your family. Again, similar to the Bronze, Silver and Gold, you are already fulfilling the criteria if you are taking a dance class, so why not get a qualification as well?!

You can do Explore and Discover in a day, or half a day even. Bronze, Silver and Gold have no time limit. For example, the Silver can be achieved during a week’s summer school. Alternatively, you could do one session a week over a whole term or you can do it quite concisely, because a lot of the work is down to you. It can be completed really quickly. 

How to Apply                                                                                   

You have to register yourself so that you can be moderated, which costs around £16.00, and you get a workbook which shows you exactly what you need to do. There are also Arts Award Welcome Centres that you can find on the Arts Award website.

For example, DanceXchange is an Arts Award Welcome Centre, which means that you can get discounts on tickets and classes here to help you achieve your Arts Award. There are more Welcome Centres around the country. There is also a financial support scheme to help young people access performances or art that they might not otherwise be able to afford.

The first thing to do would be to go on the Arts Award website, I think. Have a thorough read of everything on there. There is lots of information, there are lots of case studies, there are lots of videos that you can watch and see other people who have done it, the kinds of things that they have been able to do. Make sure that it is something that you want to do.


West Midlands Youth Forum activities at MY Dance Festival

You can find Welcome Centres on the Arts Award website as well. So you can find centres like DanceXchange that are either offering it or offering associated discounts and go from there.

It might be that your nearest arts organisation is not currently offering an Arts Award, but you can still get the discounts if you can find it elsewhere. Or it might be that they are getting ready to start another batch of Arts Awards, and you’ll just need to wait a little while to start.

What recent DX activity has been undertaken by people doing their Arts Award?

The most recent would be the West Midlands Youth Forum, who are working towards their Arts Awards. Most recently they planned some events as part of MY (Midlands Youth) Dance Festival in Nottingham.

How can an organisation deliver Arts Award?

You have to have a trained Arts Award staff member to deliver it. That person has to go on a training course, which varies in length. To deliver Explore and Discover, it is a half day training course. For Bronze and Silver, it is a one day training course.

You are given an induction pack, which explains all of the different criteria that young people would have to meet in order to pass it. You look at lots of examples and do lots of tasks so you know it back to front, and then you can deliver it. You qualify as an individual, so whether you are freelance and you work in 20 different venues or if you are just based in one, you can deliver it wherever you work.

You can find out more about Arts Award here.