Creative YOU

Creativity is everywhere. Opportunity is not.     

We are part of the solution. The secret is in our name. Every year Creative Youth Network gives thousands of young people a taste and thirst for the arts and culture and the joy, life-skills and opportunity they bring.   

But we want more.   

Creative YOU is our campaign showcasing how we, you and the engaged, emerging and amazing young creatives we support, come together. 

We want to reveal how, together, we are ambition, quality, cultural democracy and social mobility in action. 

Every young person deserves the right to access creativity and development opportunities in the creative and cultural industries.

It all starts with education.

If all young people have access to creative subjects in school, then talented young people from all backgrounds can pursue their passion, develop crucial skills needed in so many industries and improve their wellbeing.

1. Pledge

Add your name and join the many people passionate about bringing creativity back into our schools.   

With all the pledges we’ll be reaching out to headteachers in Bristol and the South West. We hope this will encourage local academies to give more space to creativity in their curriculum.  

Bristol, being the creative city we know and love, can pave the way for other regions to do the same, showcasing the true value of creativity.  



2. Sign up

Join us by signing up to our newsletter where we share best practice of how to support young people. 

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3. Find out more

Join us by reading and sharing our CreativeYOU report which shows how our work brings opportunities for creative expression and enables young people to explore their talent, regardless of background or circumstance.  

Download our Creative YOU report


There’s a tsunami of bad news for young people as the impact of Covid-19 becomes clearerReport after report highlights the current and future toll in terms of young people’s mental health, well-being and prospects, including educational attainment and job prospects. 

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has urged that the Government prioritise the needs of children and young people as we seek to ‘build back better’.  She’s identified a series of recommendations across a range of areas, and I can heartily agree with all of them. My particular  focus, though, is on the intersectionality of challenges that specifically impact on marginalised and disadvantaged young people and increase their risk of not participating in education, employment and training (NEET). 

Before Covid-19 Bristol already had a stubbornly high number of long-term NEET young people. Disproportionately represented in this number are those young people:

  • living in poverty,
  • with special educational needs, 
  • who are carers,
  • living in care,
  • experiencing discrimination,
  • or with ill-mental health.  

This number is expected to rise significantly. Why? 

Because disadvantaged children were already 18 months behind wealthier peers in learning by the time they finished GCSE’s before this crisis – that gap is widening. There are real challenges reintegrating vulnerable young people back into education after the disruption to, and extended absence from, schools and colleges.  Before schools partially re-opened in June, for example, on average only 8 in every 100 children with an Education, Health and Care Plan or social worker attended school. 

And then there are the young people who more easily fell through the gaps in education and social care during the first lockdown.  Those who were already persistently absent from school, excluded or in alternative learning provision, or going missing from home or care.  

The Children’s Commissioner reports about a quarter of children at school becoming more worried about their future and finding a job.  No wonder. Recent Labour Market Statistics from the Office for National Statistics shows the unemployment rate for young people has hit 14.6%, with a drop in the number of 16-24 year olds in employment of 174,000 marking a record low of 3.52 million. 

So how can we bring vulnerable young people in Bristol and the wider region back from the brink to participate in education, employment and training? 

They each have huge potential to offer, and we should never lose sight of the importance to our society of their lived-experience and diversity. Here are some of the things I’d like to see: 

  • Earlytargeted, bespoke, sustained support for those identified as being at risk of NEET, at least from year 9 but earlier if possible, available one-to-one and in small groups, in school during term-time, and the community during holidays.  
  • This support provided by youth workers trained in working with young people from a trauma-informed perspective, able to build the trusted relationships with vulnerable and marginalised young people that are at the heart of unlocking their potential. 
  • Access and referrals into specialised support, including wellbeing, drugs and alcohol, respite (e.g. carers), or advice on things like housing 
  • Bespoke Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance offered by a trusted youth worker familiar with young peopleindividual strengths and ambitions, as well as their barriers, and able to respond as they change. Better careers advice leads to better choices, and if things do go wrong, a secure relationship with a youth worker will make this less traumatic.   
  • Provision of positive creative activities, specifically chosen and evidenced to build practical and social skills and resilience essential to engaging in and sustaining participation in education, employment and training. 
  • Access to small groups (eg carer groups, boys groups) hosted by youth workers attuned to the needs, abilities and ambitions of the group, and engaging them in activities evidenced to build peer relationships, self-esteem and working with others. 

Done well, and in combination, these elements tackle the challenges young people at risk of NEET face from the inside out, starting from their own strengths, ambitions and barriersIt’s a holistic process, with youth workers walking beside young people, helping them to move forwardand with the knowledge and experience to see through what’s said to the person underneath, and with the flexibility to try different approaches.   

I have often heard parents and carers comment on how youth workers can get the connection and spark going even with the most disengaged young people, saying things that parents have said, but getting a completely different result.  Youth work is all about connection over correction, relying on empathy, flexibility, communication skills, non-judgement and a real passion for valuing and improving young people’s lives. 

Without this support we’re expecting some of the most vulnerable young people to navigate their way through decisions that will affect the rest of their lives whilst experiencing some of the most challenging conditions and big barriers.  It is not possible for any young person to be the best version of themselves without the right support. 

I’m reading a lot about the need for innovative and different ways of working with young people as we come out of this pandemic. When it comes to enabling vulnerable and marginalised young people to participate in education, employment or training, I’m afraid there are no silver bullets or quick wins.  What I’m proposing is neither innovative or ground-breaking, but it is crucial. 

How can we help?