Why believing in your greatness is a very special thing

Video and photo credit: David Choi


We’re super thrilled to share our new video, which we hope captures the purpose and spirit of our Achieve Your Greatness (AYG) arts education programme over the last year.  We’d love to know what you think?  Not only that but the writing juices have been flowing here at AWF HQ to produce our annual progress report for our arts education programme. It demonstrates the positive impact our generous funders and Trailblazers have made as well as giving us the opportunity to reflect, learn and improve with each and every new programme.

What is AYG?

AYG stands for ACHIEVE YOUR GREATNESS! It’s our multi-arts education programme for 11-16 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds (soon to be from 7 – 16 years), combining music with theatre, dance and spoken word. It’s a chance for critically acclaimed and rising artists to receive training in delivering workshops before passing on their expertise to the next generation. Through our workshop programme the young people with whom we work develop important transferable skills which we like to refer to as the 5Cs: Creativity, Confidence, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking.

Why do we need AYG?

Arts education is being eroded from our National Curriculum and soft skills teaching edged out by an obsessive focus on tests. Teachers report children striving for perfection yet lacking confidence to take risks, make mistakes and think independently. We, along with many others working in the creative industries, are deeply concerned that the least privileged students – who may not access the arts in their home life – will feel the impact of the squeeze on arts education most. Black and Asian Minority Ethic (BAME) students from lower socio-economic families face additional barriers as their voices are already woefully under-represented in creative professions.

Research suggests that students who participate in the arts do better academically and develop vital skills that are valued in our knowledge-based and fast growing creative economy. That’s why we focus on schools in areas of high deprivation with an above average proportion of disadvantaged and pupil premium students, because we believe that they are the ones who will benefit most from our programme. During 2017-18 we loved returning to two partner schools in Greenwich who’ve been with us since our infancy. We were also excited to expand into two new schools: one also in Greenwich and the other in Birmingham, plus work with our first youth organisation partner in Hackney thanks to support from Hackney Empire.

What did we achieve?

-We reached over 5,000 secondary school students through 64 hours of of creative workshops and performances combining music with acting, directing, writing and movement.

-We worked with schools and a youth organisation in London and Birmingham which are located in, or have the majority of students from, the 10-20% most deprived areas of England.

-We supported approximately 130 young people between 11-13 years who had been identified by their teachers as at risk of bullying, exclusion, absence and disengagement or struggling to find their place in a group.

-We reached young people needing the most support: 67% of participants were from BAME backgrounds, 60% were eligible for pupil premium funding and 30% had Special Educational Needs.

-We recruited and trained 8 professional artists as our workshop leaders specialising in jazz, acting, directing, creative writing and movement.

-We provided Continuous Development Opportunities to six teachers and youth workers at our partnering schools and youth organisation.

We were super proud to find that:

-Teachers said AYG was unique in its chance for young people to work with professional artists. “I think it’s just so valuable for them to get input from people who aren’t their teachers as well… it’s other supportive adults who are saying to them I believe in you and you’re great… that can be really powerful.” (teacher)

-We created a fun and engaging atmosphere with students, evidenced by serial school refusers attending and enjoying the interactive workshops. “Whatever is going on in your life you can always leave it at the door and you can do fun stuff when you get inside.” (new student)

-We made a positive impact on many young people’s lives.  100% of teachers and all the young people interviewed said they had developed in self confidence. “For me it was Maths… I don’t like to get things wrong…. I am really quiet there. But I just learned that making a mistake sometimes is fine so now I put my hand up.” (student)

– Plus, teachers attributed an improvement in other subjects to the AYG programme.  “We’ve been running AYG for low attaining pupil premium students when they were in years 7 and 8. Both years their improvement has been better than that of the non pupil premium students and I believe that AYG is largely responsible for this.” (teacher)

-Lastly, there were some inspiring firsts that warmed our hearts: from students performing together despite never having played a musical instrument before; to a group visiting Shoreditch Town Hall to watch a live rehearsal by our Associate Artists Kansas Smitty’s. “I just think it was a really great thing for them to do. It was an experience that they would have never got otherwise, I mean… some of these kids have never left [their area]… they’ve never been on a train… so to be introduced to something that is so far removed from what they know is just such a massive thing.” (teacher)

What’s next?

We’ll build on what we’ve learnt from running more jazz and blues-focused sessions that reached more young people in even more schools. And (breaking news!) by the end of 2018 we will establish a Youth Advisory Panel so young people can help inform how we develop future programmes.

We’d love to hear what you think? Keep up to date with our latest workshops on our Tumblr page achieveyourgreatness.tumblr.com or follow us on Twitter @AbramWilson or Facebook @AbramWilsonFoundation.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our generous funders Arts Council England, Ashley Family Foundation, Awards for All – Big Lottery Fund, Birkbeck University, BRIT Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, Santander Foundation, Vintners’ Foundation and the William Wates Memorial Trust.

Mega, huge thanks goes to all our awesome Trailblazers (aka regular donors) who you can read about HERE.

A monthly donation helps us inspire young people with fewer opportunities, and champion some of the best up and coming musicians in town. Plus you receive exclusive invites and offers for exciting gigs and events. What’s not to love? Join us here: abramwilson.com/abram-wilson-foundation-trailblazer