Cultural Learning Alliance

A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.

Caitlin Moran
The Times, 18 August 2011

Practice

Culture and Creativity Ambassadors' Network, Newcastle and Gateshead

The Cultural Ambassadors’ Network is a partnership initiative supported by Gateshead and Newcastle City Councils in the North East of England, running since 2002.

In May 2007 the current partnership was formed, offering support to creative learning professionals across two cities.

Members of the Network are either:
  • Ambassadors – teachers, youth leaders and other staff with responsibility for groups of young people.  Ambassadors include Managers in Looked After Children services, Extended Schools and individual youth centres, or
  • Cultural Partners – artists or organisations offering culture to education or groups of young people within Newcastle or Gateshead, although Partners can be based anywhere.

We aim to maintain one Ambassador in each state-funded school and in youth services and centres. Ambassadors are generally approached or nominated to volunteer for the role, as they are considered to be proactive members of staff with an interest or remit involving arts or culture.

Cultural Partners apply to be registered in our Directory and then they can access the Network and our distribution channels, such as bulletins and print mailouts.  We encourage them to provide references from relevant people that Ambassadors can contact when choosing suitable artists.

The Network is managed by two Coordinators, each with responsibility for the Ambassadors in their city, working together to share the management and maintenance of the Network and its services.

We provide:

  • a fortnightly Ambassadors e-bulletin with news from the Cultural Sector
  • a termly print mailout for brochures and flyers, helping to ensure that print reaches the right person and that schools and centres receive information simultaneously
  • a public-facing wesbite, sharing news and opportunities from the Network
  • a members-only web area for discussions between Ambassadors and members of the Network
  • support as required by Ambassadors who want advice on working with artists, and conversely for Cultural Partners who want news and thoughts from the education and youth sectors

We also have an annual AGM event held in different venues and constantly evolve our offer in response to the needs of members and to align with Local Authority strategies and priorities.

The lessons we have learnt have taught us to remember what the Network is not. It is most effective as a facilitating tool, which is owned by the Ambassadors and the Cultural Partners. The core function is to disseminate information and share knowledge and practice, in order to ensure that the cultural learning resource of the region reaches the significant adults in our children’s lives.

The key outcome is that schools are much more demanding of the cultural sector, and the quality of the experience for young people has evidentially improved.

For example, Gateshead is among the country’s top 25% most deprived boroughs and in summer 2009, 82% of 16 year-olds got five or more GCSEs at A* to C.  If you include English and Maths, Gateshead hit 52%, against a national average of 51%.  Looked After Children did well too, because they attend the same passionate and adventurous schools. Gateshead’s 11 year-olds perform at, or better than, the national average; the borough tracks groups of youngsters in schools against socio-economic indicators in all communities, and can tell the story of value added, from entry at age 4.

For more information or discussion, please email andrew.garrad @ newcastle.gov.uk   and/or visit the website at www.ncan.co.uk

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2009 Summer Show at Benton Park Primary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
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