Mapping Creative Arts Education: access, inclusion, and progression in Leeds – a research project with the University of Leeds

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Mapping Creative Arts Education: access, inclusion, and progression in Leeds is a collaborative research project funded by Research England and is led by the University of Leeds working in partnership with Leeds33, Leeds City Council, and Open Innovations.

This Research England funded project began last year, headed by Dr Briony Thomas, Associate Professor in Design Science at the University of Leeds. Over the first phase of the project, sector feedback was gathered from creative organisations and schools to inform the project’s approach. A survey tool was developed to map the current picture of cultural engagement in schools in the city. The data gathered looks to understand how schools in Leeds are engaging with the arts both within and outside the curriculum, including partnerships with practitioners and local arts organisations, facilities available, and career support available to students at each school. Using this data, alongside other open data sources, Open Innovations built a first version of an open data resource on creative education in Leeds.

Following this pilot, a second iteration of the project is underway. The survey data has been gathered and is currently being analysed. Initial results are available on the project’s website, as findings are being shared live with updates happening regularly.

This second phase will see a new element of qualitative data collected through case studies. Based on the survey responses, researchers are shortlisting schools to spotlight and share their approach and methodology to being an arts-rich school. These case studies will have elements featured on the project’s website, alongside forming part of an academic paper on cultural education in schools.

Alongside this, further development is being made to the Cultural Organisations Map to make this a useable feature for schools to see what is available in their area to support their arts offer. The aim is to turn this page into a comprehensive directory of creative practitioners, for schools and organisations to search, filter and find the information they need to reach out to each other and build partnerships.

The long-term goal of this research project is to gather data over a number of years, with schools contributing to an annual survey to chart patterns and changes in the cultural education offer in Leeds’ schools.

By analysing and mapping cultural engagement data across schools in Leeds, this project aims to highlight the priorities for improving children’s access to culture. This research will help to identify where support is needed, while highlighting best practices and areas of excellence in the city. It will provide the evidence to inform the city’s vision, which is to be recognised as a national exemplar in the provision of creative and cultural opportunities for children and young people.

By understanding how schools in Leeds are engaging with arts and culture, we will be able to provide a baseline of current cultural engagement that will help us understand the impact that LEEDS 2023: Year of Culture has had on schools. This will be essential for informing Leeds City Council’s priorities for Culture, particularly those focused on access, inclusion and progression in cultural and creative arts education for children and young people across the city.

Visit the website to keep up to date with the project: 

We are also looking for feedback on the project. If you have any comments about the website, or if you’d like to get involved with the study, or simply find out more, get in touch with us at


End of Year Message

And suddenly it’s December! As we wind down towards the end of the year, it feels the right time to reflect on what has been achieved this year as a partnership! We have continued to strengthen work in our priority areas: Youth Voice, Skills and Progression, Advocacy and Comms, and Health and Wellbeing.

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