Festivals engagement programmes reach almost every school in Edinburgh

24 February 2020

Today [24 February 2020], Edinburgh’s major festivals can reveal for the first time the extent of their year-round school engagement programmes, which have reached almost every school in the city over the period January 2018 – May 2019.

The new report - Inspiring Creativity in Pupils - finds that Edinburgh’s Festivals have reached more than 90% of schools across the city through wide ranging activity which takes place both during and out with live festival time. Through mapping of activity across the 18 month period, the study shows that festivals have engaged with every secondary school in Edinburgh, and almost all the city’s primary and special schools. There have been over 58,000 pupil engagements – the number of times pupils have been involved in festival activities - with many benefiting from multiple opportunities.

From Gilmerton to Granton, Corstorphine to Craigmillar, the festivals are working with children and teachers across the whole city to bring young people enriching experiences and opportunities for creative learning. These cover regular longstanding education programmes as well as new projects, through which festivals have supported learning in areas including music, drama, visual arts, science, technology, film and many more.

In addition to their spread throughout Edinburgh, there is a clear focus to the festivals’ engagement. It is within areas of the city with the lowest attendance at festivals that there is the highest participation in school programmes: a great step toward an Edinburgh where everyone regardless of background has the opportunity to make the most of the festivals. Two thirds of residents attend shows and events at the festivals each year, and every ward has at least 50% of its residents attending, but it is hugely important to enable young people to engage with culture and develop the next generation of festival-goers.

There are several examples of programmes working over a long-term period, involving deeper engagement to create truly collaborative projects that will be of lasting benefit. As well as directly working with pupils, the festivals also work with teachers on continuing professional development opportunities. These encourage and enable teachers to see the wider creative learning possibilities of engaging with festivals and help teachers bring creativity into the classroom.

A few examples of projects that the festivals have been working on, alongside some comments from teachers who are involved, include:

  • Teachers' Theatre ClubA new collaboration between Edinburgh International Children’s Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society that aims to encourage Edinburgh’s teachers to see more live performance, become more confident in discussing this with their students and enhance students’ learning experiences.
Serena Jagpal, Pentlands Primary School, said: When applying to be a part of the Teachers’ Theatre Club, I saw it as interesting CPD. I never thought for a second that it would give me so much more. Over the course of the project I have engaged in discussions with a wide range of professionals in the arts, experienced theatre that I would never have thought to go see myself and discussed how I would use these shows with my pupils ….what has taken me by surprise is the camaraderie I have experienced. I hope this project runs for many years to come and I urge as many teachers as possible to experience this.
  • Leith Academy residency: A three-year Edinburgh International Festival residency with Leith Academy, involving new cultural opportunities as well as developing pupils’ personal and vocational skills. The residency includes a series of projects, from pupils working with artists in residence to learning about marketing and branding with the festival’s own teams. In addition, students are supported to gain a Personal Development Award at SQA level 6, with workplace experience with staff at the festival.
Mike Irving, Head Teacher, Leith Academy said: In 2019/20 there is an ever greater need to look creatively and collaboratively at our curriculum. Our work with the Edinburgh International Festival helps us harness the skills of creativity, teamwork, problem solving and communication daily. This particular branding event allowed our young people to not only see how branding ‘comes alive’, but to actually be part of creating it from start to finish with skilled professionals…In a world where the jobs young people will do is a dynamic and fluid one, we are very grateful to the wonderful opportunities the young people of Leith are being offered through the residency in order to open their horizons of what their ‘next steps’ may be.
  • Edinburgh Science Festival: Every year Generation Science offers a programme of interactive shows and hands-on workshops for primary schools, delivered in the classroom. The Careers Hive, which gets underway this year from 24 February, is an interactive showcase for careers in science and technology, targeted at secondary school pupils and designed to highlight opportunities from studying STEM subjects. Through Generation Science and Careers Hive, Edinburgh Science reach 81 schools across Edinburgh and more than 12,500 pupils.

With over 90% of the city’s schools already getting involved, the ambition of Edinburgh’s Festivals is to use the collective picture of schools’ engagement to inform the targeting of future projects and initiatives and enhance the lives of many more young people for years to come.

Key facts and figures from the report include:

  • The festivals engaged with 92% of Edinburgh schools, including 118 of the 122 schools managed by the City of Edinburgh Council
  • There were over 58,000 pupil engagements
  • Council wards with the lowest audience attendance at festivals are among the highest in terms of engagement with school programmes

Key facts about Edinburgh’s Festivals include:

  • The festivals generate a significant economic impact of £280 million in Edinburgh and £313 million in Scotland
  • Edinburgh’s Festivals generate over 4.7 million attendances per year, with Edinburgh residents making up 40% of the collective total
  • 50% of local festival audiences do not attend theatres, museums, live music or galleries out with festival time, making the festivals a vital part of the city’s cultural offer

A Google map showing festivals’ engagement in Edinburgh in the period of the study can be found here.

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