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"To the artists and teachers who boldly collaborated on this project in the classroom, with no guarantee of what fruits would be born, what a wonderful job you did. This project examined the space between theatres, artists, arts organisations, schools, teaching, learning and curriculum. It is the connections that were made in that space by those artists and teachers which we celebrate in this report. This is why we do what we do, so thank you. And most importantly, thank you all for bearing witness to the brilliance of what this programme does by reading this report and exploring how you may use it in your theatres and schools. We hope it allows art to flow through the heart of how we teach and learn." 

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of The Young Vic 

From 2021 – 2023 Young Vic Taking Part undertook a radical arts-in-education project called INNOVATE, which asked the question: How can the arts enable students to engage, learn and thrive across all their subjects? 

To answer this question, INNOVATE embedded multidisciplinary artists within two local partner schools, South Bank University Academy and Dunraven School. These artists and teachers collaborated to use creativity and the arts to enhance, develop and transform learning experiences for young people across the full curriculum. 


Shereen Jasmin Phillips and Lorna McGinty established INNOVATE in direct response to the challenges schools faced following the pandemic. The project aimed to restore a creative environment in schools in which young people were confident, inspired and excited to learn.  

“INNOVATE was born out of a simple question – ‘how do we make children excited to learn?’. From maths classes to history lessons, it’s been amazing to see the impact of this project on teachers and students. Bringing artists and creative teaching into classrooms is a vital and effective tool for engaging students. We’re excited to share these learnings with educators, artists and wider communities.” 

Shereen Jasmin Phillips, Director of Taking Part 


INNOVATE artists skilled in improvisation, drama, comedy, art and dance collaborated with Year 7 and Year 8 teachers to plan and adapt lessons to incorporate a wide range of arts activities and demonstrate how creativity could help inspire learning. This included, for example, using basketball to teach film skills, teaching numeracy through cookery, and improving English-speaking skills by creating video game characters.    


The INNOVATE project research led by Professor Helen Nicholson and conducted by researcher Dr Yvonne Robinson at Royal Holloway, University of London found that using the arts to teach subjects such as maths, history and sciences transformed student confidence and participation in the classroom. 

  • Teachers observed a visible increase in confidence in students who had been reluctant to speak up in class. 

  • Subjects being taught creatively encouraged deeper reflection from students about the topics presented. 

  • The students themselves articulated the importance of enjoyment and playfulness to their learning process. 

  • Teachers reported that their own confidence increased, and their professional development and learning was enhanced through INNOVATE.

“INNOVATE was inspired by a vision of how the arts can make a difference to education. At its core has been an exploration of possibilities – of what happens when artists, teachers and students work together to explore the potential of creative learning pedagogy... It has expanded opportunities to learn, play and build individual agency through creative pedagogies...” 

An extract from the INNOVATE report 

“The arts are declining in schools at a time when they are more important than ever. Creative learning exposes young people to broader education opportunities that help them to fulfil their potential. Arts education programmes like INNOVATE are crucial, not only in helping schools fully recover from the pandemic, but also for moving learning forwards in creative ways that support young people’s wellbeing.” 
Dr Yvonne Robinson from the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance at Royal Holloway


We worked with twelve multidisciplinary artists to deliver the project. 

We were interested in the possibilities of different art forms to teach the curriculum and the ability of those disciplines to bring understanding to various concepts within the curriculum, as well as additional elements of school life. 

You can read more about our Project Associates here.


We assembled a team of experts from the worlds of education and culture to guide the project and hold our aims to account. Between them, they have nearly 75 years' experience in arts and education to bring to the project. 

You can read more about the Advisory Panel here.


We partnered with two wonderful schools, one from each of our home boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark: Dunraven School and South Bank University Academy. The schools are committed to exploring the potential for embedding creativity across all parts of school life. 

“After the dark, insular days of COVID-19, INNOVATE got teachers talking and working together again and provided them with the opportunity to step back and look at their practice through the eyes of an expert in a different field. This brought new perspectives, new ideas and the opportunity to create together. As a school leader, it was great to see teachers sit and talk about teaching and learning, share their difficulties and hear new perspectives on how to fix them. Teachers know that engagement and active participation are important parts of learning, and now they have developed their arsenal for making it happen in their lessons. Creativity allows students to apply their learning in new ways. The more ways they can apply and use their learning, the more chance they have that it will stay with them.”   

Nicholas Hargreaves, Assistant Head Dunraven School.

“I highly recommend collaborating with artists for future teaching and learning across the curriculum, as this adds another dimension to learning. It enriches the curriculum and provides unique engagement opportunities. Our students really enjoyed the collaborations and grew in confidence as a result of the work with the artists. Creative learning is fundamental to all learning; it is how we all began our learning journey. This can sometimes be diminished in schools or seen as less important. We need to challenge that view and remember that creative learning is engaging, fun and enriches student experiences. To ensure the success of the collaboration the curriculum must include regular meetings for the artist and teacher to review and amend the plan so that it is responsive to the needs of students.” 

Annette Moses, Principal at South Bank University Academy.

INNOVATE was supported by The Rix-Thompson-Rothenberg Foundation, Newcomen Collett Foundation and the John Thaw Foundation. 
The Young Vic’s annual activities are made possible with public funding from Arts Council England. The Young Vic thank Lambeth Council and Southwark Council for their support. 
Additional support was provided by The Black Heart Foundation and the Genesis Foundation. 
The Young Vic gratefully acknowledge Ian Burford and Alec Cannell for generously supporting the Young Vic’s mission.