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Benefits and impacts


ASPIRE Dundee is an ambitious project working with around 2,500 children in eleven primary school communities in areas of deprivation. It uses the transformative power of performing arts - dance, music and drama, delivered through partnerships with professional artists and educators - in a creative and immersive manner across and beyond the school curriculum to increase and develop pupils’ health and wellbeing, self-confidence and self-esteem, and learning and skills development while challenging inequalities and the effects of poverty.

Theme: Children and Education

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Experiencing child poverty can undermine the health, wellbeing and educational attainment of children. By the age of five, children in poverty are between ten and thirteen months behind their peers from more affluent backgrounds in terms of educational attainment. Children in the most deprived areas of Dundee have significantly worse health compared to children in the least deprived areas, including dental health and obesity rates.

Aims of ASPIRE Dundee

  • to transform children’s lives using performing arts;
  • to empower and strengthen communities;
  • to focus this work on school communities in most need in areas of deprivation.


The design of the programme had to:

  • respond to the socio-economic context of the City;
  • demonstrate value for money;
  • address sustainability;
  • demonstrate integration between school, community and the cultural sector;
  • be neighbourhood focused;
  • be supported by a raft of cultural partners;
  • prioritise inclusion and engagement of those who stood to benefit most.


Extensive research has been undertaken into the ‘Transformative Power of the Arts’.  Arts learning experiences play a vital role in developing pupils’ capacities for critical thinking, creativity, imagination and innovation.  These capacities are increasingly recognised as core skills and competencies that all pupils need as part of a high quality and complete 21st century education. Arts programmes help to develop high levels of motivation, enthusiasm and self confidence. They instil self esteem, develop team working, encourage social integration, raise attainment and drive achievement.


ASPIRE Dundee is underpinned by a belief that issues of attainment, achievement and lack of aspiration facing local communities, children and families should be addressed at local level through a multi-partnership approach.  To help to address the issue of equality for some of our most deprived communities we are working in collaboration with targeted schools and key local arts partners to deliver both the right interventions and the factors which will facilitate their implementation.  This builds on and links existing partnerships, plans and resources related to children, their families and the communities in which they live in.  By working in targeted school communities with children, staff, parents and in association with local partners such as health, Social Work and community learning and development - and in bringing together existing community based programmes - ASPIRE Dundee aims to create the opportunity and develop capacity for long term social and transformational change.


By analysing attendance, exclusion, free school meals, clothing grants entitlements, PIPS and INCAS scores in numeracy and literacy we identified 11 primary school communities in Dundee in most need.


Phase One: - Launched in November 2013

To develop and deliver an immersive and intensive arts based programme led by professional artists/music educators working directly in schools during core curricular time, and then, in addition, develop strong extra curricular opportunities after school for out of hours learning.


Phase Two: - Spring – Autumn 2015

To develop and deliver the ASPIRE Dundee community engagement programme, creating more opportunities for families to access participation activities within their local area towards developing stronger school, family and community relationships


Phase Three: - Autumn 2016

To firmly embed and establish the ASPIRE Dundee model of practice with key partners and stakeholders to be a sustainable and locally led intervention demonstrating a ‘smarter spend’ and more effective allocation of existing resources.


Local Management and Governance - the ASPIRE Project has a full-time Project Manager, an operational delivery team and a Board including representatives from Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, Health, Communities and further associated partners. Our self-evaluation is underpinned by robust evidence of what is working and what needs further improvement.  The ASPIRE Dundee Project has a clear, planned and consultative approach to improvement.  All stakeholders including our local arts partners are involved and informed.  Accountability and Quality Improvement are critical aspects of the effectiveness of the programme.


Key to the success of the ongoing development of ASPIRE Dundee is the value we place upon monitoring and evaluation. Led by Professor Teresa Moran of the School of Education, Social Work and Community Education at the University of Dundee, an evaluation team utilizes a number of interventions and processes to monitor the effectiveness of the programme in delivering on its core aims and objectives.  The evaluation team also continues to examine the design of the programme and at all stages encourages the operational and delivery teams to become skilled in self evaluation, critically reflecting upon their processes.  Different data collection techniques are designed to enable triangulation in the analysis of data from different sources, as follows:


Pupil tracking

  • Using established data such as school attendance, exclusions.
  • Monitoring attainment data via PIPS and INCAS scores in literacy and numeracy
  • Scottish Attainment Challenge monitoring


Focus group interviews with all stakeholders

  • Termly interviews led by evaluation team with children, Head Teachers, teachers, delivery partners, parents/carers, community partners


Case studies

  • Long term - following the experiences of individual children and families throughout the course of the project engagement and beyond school


Qualitative and quantitative data and Recording/filming/surveys

  • Number of: participant opportunities/ professional performance visits/artists working in schools and communities/family engagement activities
  • Attitudes and aptitudes surveys



  • Episodes of learning within school led by LEA Quality Improvement Officers


Thematic analysis

  • Ongoing monitoring of thematic areas of dance/drama/music with peer associate partners eg. Creative Scotland, Heads of Service from other LA areas


ASPIRE Dundee has to date been successful in engaging with over 2,500 children.  There is strong evidence that pupils involved experience benefits, primarily around personal and social development, for example improved confidence, self-esteem, social skills and the ability to concentrate better in school.


“In analyzing the  results of our case studies along with data collected and key interview material  there is undoubtedly already  an improvement in confidence and self esteem which has led to improved attendance and reduced exclusions."

University of Dundee - Interim Project Report


Outcomes to date


DCC Children and Families:

  • Increased quality partnership working;
  • Effective management of existing resources;
  • Sharing good practice across local authorities and beyond;
  • Co-ordinated approach of local services.


Children and Young People:

  • Increase in confidence and self esteem;
  • Improved co-ordination and fine motor skills;
  • Better motivation for learning;
  • Higher levels of skills development;
  • Pride and sense of achievement;
  • Improved schools and home relationships.



  • Increased attendance reduced exclusion;
  • Evidence of better behaviour – less disruptions – better concentration skills;
  • High quality CLPL for staff;
  • Positive ethos;
  • Strong partnerships addressing local priorities;
  • Greater parental involvement.



  • Focus of positive ethos from primary school at centre of community;
  • Strengthened relationships;
  • Increased local opportunities;
  • Sense of pride;
  • Better connectivity between services.


ASPIRE Dundee is innovative, aspirational and bold. It is a true example of effective partnership working. Crucially, ASPIRE Dundee is building a sustainable model of practice aiming towards long term transformational change.  ASPIRE Dundee is a direct intervention and also a catalyst for bringing together existing resources and services creating a ‘smarter spend’ approach to targeting areas of most need.


The programme is ambitious in its aims but has already evidenced key successes in its 18 month lifespan. Key to strengthening the programme is the value placed upon high quality and robust evaluation and monitoring systems across all of its processes. The continuously reflective ethos of ASPIRE Dundee allows all involved to constantly consider different approaches to the design and delivery of services whilst improving access to community assets and resources. In designing the original programme, and in its roll out, we acknowledged that schools and communities do not always benefit from a ‘one size fits all’, inflexible and prescriptive programme.  ASPIRE Dundee is a flexible model, adaptable to local needs and priorities.  As a model of practice, ASPIRE Dundee has been recognised nationally by many bodies including within the Instrumental Music Teaching review led by David Green and the Scottish Government. To date, and at their request, meetings have taken place with other local authorities including Edinburgh, North Ayrshire and Perth and Kinross with a view to rolling out the immersive and intensive model to targeted schools in their areas utilising local skills and capacities.


Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Lina Waghorn

Head of Education

Dundee City Council

01382 433718

Case study added to site: June 2016

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