Call for applications from schools for Arts in Education initiative – BLAST 2024/25

Minister for Education Norma Foley, TD, has today invited primary, post-primary, special schools and YouthReach to apply for the BLAST – Bringing Live Arts to Students and Teachers – arts in education initiative 2024/25.

Minister Foley is delighted to confirm that BLAST will be running in 2024 for the fourth time. The 2024 programme will enable 425 new arts in education residencies in schools over the course of the year.

BLAST aims to provide pupils in schools all over the country, time and the space to work with a professional artist/creative practitioner on imaginative and joyful projects. BLAST is a key Department of Education initiative of the Creative Youth Plan 2023-2027 which aims to foster creativity in schools focus and to provide young people with opportunities to learn and develop the key skills and competencies of collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, and innovation.

Innovative BLAST residencies are designed and developed between the artist/creative practitioner, teacher, students and the school community under the coordination of the 21 full-time Education Support Centres Ireland (ESCI) network.

Minister Foley said: “I am extremely proud to announce the launch of BLAST 2024, which builds on the great success of the BLAST 2021, 2022 and 2023 Programme.

“When I first launched BLAST in 2021, I had hoped that it would open up the minds and the hearts of our children and young people by providing new and creative collaborative experiences and opportunities for our children and young people and for our schools. The evidence over the past three years has shown that school communities have embraced BLAST beyond our expectations. Creating an environment and putting arts and creativity at the centre of education is important not just for developing creative capacities and skills but for encouraging social responsibility and personal qualities such as resilience, empathy and a capacity for collaboration.”

Among the projects in schools from BLAST in 2023, were:

  • Music Helps Me Relax: Ballinadee NS, West Cork students took part in BLAST with a creative practitioner, and during their music-focused residency, the group used discussions and creative methodologies to guide their project. From tentative beginnings and learning how to play a new instrument, the students completed their residency with a whole school performance on the ukulele.
  • Hedgerow Parade: St. Josephs Special School, Waterford students explored the Irish countryside through story and myth, using this impetus to delve deeper into the flora and fauna of the locality. Through detailed conversations between the students, teacher, and creative practitioner, each session was tailored towards the learning and abilities of the students. The residency culminated in a spectacular parade, where the children wore their masks and re-enacted the rhyme, sound, and movement they had learned in their sessions.
  • Share our similarities. Celebrate our differences: Maynooth Post Primary School, Kildare students explored their theme with a creative practitioner and photographer, enhancing their social interactions and artistic skills by working in partnership to create exceptional artworks using green screen animations to combine self-portraits with short video clips and editing the work on apps. The students learned curatorial and technical skills like mounting and presenting their work for a final exhibition, but the residency was built on developing relationships and fun.

Minister Foley said: “In 2023, BLAST enabled 425 new arts in education residencies in schools, ensuring thousands of students could benefit from this experience along with teachers and schools. Some of the trained artists/creative practitioners available to schools covered topics such as multimedia, fine art, mosaics, stained glass sculpture/animation and performance art.

“BLAST has shown that schools are a fantastic environment for children and young people to have new and different experiences, to make new friends, to be creative and importantly to have fun and be creative while learning,” she said.

How will this BLAST Arts in Education Residency initiative work?

Centralised BLAST 2024/25 Application

Schools and YouthReach Centres can apply for a BLAST residency in the school year 2024/25 through the centralised application link here .

You will find an overview of questions in the BLAST Application Guidelines.

The Education Support Centre

Schools will apply for a BLAST Arts-in-Education Residency through a centralised application process. Their local full-time Education Support Centre will have a Register of Approved Artists/Creative Practitioners available on their website. This list will include Creative Practitioners name, discipline, training, examples of previous work and relevant or related experience in an educational and community context.

The Artist/Creative Practitioner

Artists/Creative Practitioners from any artistic/creative discipline who have been trained in partnership working with schools will be registered with each of the 21 full-time Education Support Centres. Creative disciplines include visual arts, crafts, music, dance, drama, literature and film. Creative disciplines are being expanded as the BLAST Residency Programme develops over the next number of years.

The artists/creative practitioners on the Register of Approved Artists/Creative Practitioners will have been previously trained and have engaged in school residencies under TAP+ (Teacher-Artist Partnership+ CPD and Residency initiative) or the Oide Creativity Programme which are both approved and led by the Department of Education. Artists/Creative Practitioners are currently trained and registered on the Online Register of Approved Artists/Creative Practitioners managed by the Education Support Centre network nationally. Garda Clearance for artists/creatives for successful school applications will be sought by the education support centre. The Education Support Centre will also arrange for payment of the artist which will further remove the administrative burden on teachers and schools.

Eligible Schools and YouthReach Centres

The school must be in the catchment of the local full-time Education Support Centre. Schools may submit only one application.

This initiative encourages:

  • Schools, primary and post-primary, and YouthReach Centres that have not recently had an opportunity to participate in such creative initiatives.
  • Schools supporting inclusion and enhanced arts-in-education engagement with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and SEN.
  • Schools that have a track record in teacher-artist partnership working in the classroom and school.
  • A whole-school commitment to the project, but it is not a requirement that all classes work with the Artist/ Creative Practitioner.
  • Projects should have regard to the relevant school curricula where appropriate and have a focus on process.

The following schools may not apply to participate in BLAST:

  • Fee charging schools i.e. Schools not in receipt of capitation grants from the Department of Education / education and training boards and are not in the free-education scheme.

BLAST Arts-in-Education Residency funding

The artist’s fee is €1,100 (inclusive of €200 travel) per residency, funded by the Department of Education via each education support centre. The education support centre will pay the artist. The artist will be funded for 20 contract hours including six hours’ planning/development/review time and 14 in-school contact hours. Approved funded residencies can be delivered throughout the academic year, commencing in September 2024.

This initiative is supported by the ESCI network, Teacher Artist Partnership CPD programme (TAP+), Oide Creativity and the Arts in Education Portal.

Further information on BLAST, guidelines and the application form will be available from and from the 21 full-time Education Support Centres’ websites.

The application process will open on 19 March 2024 and will close on 10 May 2024.

The Creative Ireland Programme

The Creative Ireland Programme 2023-2027 is a five-year all-of-government, culture-based initiative that emphasises the importance of human creativity for individual, community and national wellbeing. It is led by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. The programme is grounded in the belief that every person has creative capacities, the development of which contributes to their personal wellbeing as well as to the general wellbeing of our communities.

The Programme consists of five pillars:

1. Our Young People

2. Our Communities

3. Our Cultural and Creative Infrastructure

4. Our Creative Industries

5. Our Global Reputation

Creative Youth – the plan for Pillar 1

This programme aims to support the integration of the principles and key skills outlined in the Arts in Education charter and the Creative Ireland Programme (2023-2027), Pillar 1 Creative Youth.

On 28 March 2023, the 2023-2027 Creative Youth – a Plan to Enable the Creativity of Every Child and Young Person was launched. The ultimate aim is to deliver the Government’s commitment to ensuring that every child and young person up to the age of 24 in Ireland has practical access to tuition, experience and participation in creative experiences. The Department of Education, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Department of Further and Higher Education and the Arts Council are key partners in delivering Creative Youth.

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