Children and Young People Strategy: Increasing the diversity of our work with Children and Young People 2016 - 2018
Written for Cornwall Museums Partnership by Chloe Hughes
Foreword from the learning group
In April 2016 the Learning Group came together to help shape the first Children and Young People’s Strategy for Cornwall’s museums. Alongside a development day exploring our collective ambitions, we also took part in a study visit to Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, to see how museums were engaging with children and young people elsewhere. This is the first time that museums in Cornwall have developed a strategy for their collective work with children and young people and it signals a clear ambition to expand and improve opportunities for children and young people to get involved in museums.
Many museums in Cornwall are already engaging with children and young people in Cornwall every day, whether through family, school or community group visits or through workshops, participatory museum projects or creative activities. Through this strategy we seek to build on the good practice already in existence whilst taking an ambitious approach to developing the impact of our work
The Museums Associations’ Museums Change Lives1 report makes a compelling case for the purpose, social impact and role of museums in people’s lives. In Cornwall 19% of children under 16 live in poverty, a total of 16,650 children. Inequalities continue to exist for children and young people living in areas of highest poverty in Cornwall, impacting upon their future life chances and ability to escape it. Outcomes are proven to be worse across health, education, employment and children living in these areas are more likely to experience social problems.2 We believe that museums have a unique offer for children and young people, and have an important and distinctive part to play in supporting their learning, cultural and social experiences and understanding of the world around them.
The strategy has three key areas of focus, these are; engaging more people, bringing new voices and broadening activities. It will be delivered collectively by museums across Cornwall.The benefit of collaboration is clear; shared skills and combined resources resulting in increased opportunities for more children and young people to experience the wonder of museums.
Cornwall Museums Partnership believes that access to and engagement with museums should be a key part of all children and young people’s learning, cultural and social experience. Museums have a unique offer, where children and young people can experience “the real thing” and learn through objects which bring to life and help us to make sense of the past as well as provide a world of inspiration in the present. Museums offer learning outside of a classroom providing an authentic experience in a digital age, an experience which can shape a child’s knowledge and understanding of the world around them and their sense of place. Taking part in a great visit or museum activity can ignite a young persons’ interest and spark wonder that can last a lifetime.
Equally for museums children and young people are their visitors, volunteers and workforce of the future and so the sustainability of museums in Cornwall depends upon museums seeking out new and ambitious approaches to exciting and engaging children and young people with everything they have to offer. Museums should be a key part of children and young people’s learning, cultural and social experience and education, but for many children and young people barriers remain.
Our challenge is clear – we must engage more, and a wider range of, children and young people with museums in Cornwall by developing our offer and seeking new approaches towards our work with this audience.
This strategy seeks to identify ‘where we are now’ along with ‘where we want to go’ in order to realise our collective ambitions for our work with children and young people and to ensure a number of entry points and a pathway of museum opportunity and engagement for all children and young people.
Terms of Reference
Children and young people is a phrase that is often inter-changeable and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. We will refer to children as those aged 0 – 11, and young people as aged 12 -25.
The term ‘disadvantaged’ can refer to a wide range of individuals and groups and identifying disadvantage is often linked to both need and locality. In this instance we use disadvantaged children and young people which refers to those who face disadvantage or difficulties which negatively impact their opportunity to engage with culture. This term may describe individuals or groups with physical, mental or sensory difficulties or disabilities, those who are economically or socio-economically disadvantaged, individuals or groups with chaotic or troubled lives or those politically deemed to be without power or means of influence.
Where we are now
Museums across Cornwall engage with children and young people in a number of ways.
For larger museums in the county, typically identified as those with a staff structure, their offer for and relationships with schools (and Primary Schools in particular) is particularly strong and collectively they provide museum experiences through workshops, activities and visits for thousands of children each year.
Increasingly museums are also programming special events into their calendar, connecting with national initiatives such as The Big Draw or Takeover Day and using these as hooks to engage with children and young people through family-wide events.
Museums have also been developing their activities for Early Years with regular activities for young children and their carers to visit the museum or gallery with Baby Paint, Museum Minnows, Jack Spratt’s Wonder Club and Claylets sessions all available at Falmouth Art Gallery, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Telegraph Museum Porthcurno and Wheal Martyn.
Alongside their own evaluation measures, wider recognition of museum learning activity in Cornwall is good and several museums have won awards for learning with external acknowledgements such as Kids in Museum, Learning outside the Classroom badges and Sandford Awards.
We intend that our future programme of work with children and young people builds upon existing good practice across the sector whilst taking a strategic look at ways in which we can develop and diversify our work with children and young people to ensure more children and young people have opportunities to engage with museums in Cornwall.
What we want to achieve
We want to continue to support and develop work with children and young people which is accessible, unique, different, fun, inspiring, enriching, empowering and relevant. We want to:
*Ensure an inclusive pathway of provision for all children and young people to engage with museums throughout their childhood, youth and beyond.
*Balance the importance of school programmes which work with large numbers of children and young people with sustained intensive work with smaller disadvantaged groups.
*Improve museums profile with ‘gate-keepers’ such as schools, HE, FE and community groups and champion the importance of museums spaces as unique, different and quality places to learn and be inspired. We also want to challenge perceptions and expectations that others may hold about what a museum is for and what it does.
*Increase our accessibility and inclusivity, addressing the number of barriers to engagement including those which are physical, sensory, intellectual, cultural, attitudinal, financial and technological.
*Improve our collective evaluation of our work with children and young people to provide a more robust evidence base and to reflect evaluation of our work with children and young people into our ongoing wider work.
*Enable a pathway for provision for work with young people in order to foster and better channel emerging interest and talent into the workforce, through volunteering or signposted opportunities within the sector.
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