Start is a UK-wide programme that aims to reach children who are missing out on a creative and cultural education. Start gives children, who are in danger of missing out, access to high quality arts experiences. This increases their confidence, boost their self-esteem and raise their aspirations.

If you are an arts or cultural organisation please click here for more information, and to see if your organisation is eligible to apply.

Tailored Projects, founded on best practice

Through Start, arts venues gain access to funding, expertise and resources to develop a three-year arts education project for local schools.

It is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Using Children & the Arts' 10 years of experience in best practice, each venue is supported to design a project that capitalises on their particular expertise and will benefit the specific needs of schools in their local community. We work across every art form including theatre, music, visual arts, dance, opera, poetry, story-telling, carnival and circus arts.

By evaluating our Start programme annually, we are able to improve the programme year on year to ensure its continued effectiveness.

The young people who need it most

I didn’t know I was good at anything until I did this.

Pupil, Start

Each Start project produces creative opportunities for 300 to 700 children per year, aged 4 to 16. We work with primary, secondary and special schools with high disadvantage indicators, including free school meals, English as an additional language, special educational needs and rural isolation.

When asked ‘Who are art galleries for?’ one pupil put his hand up and said ‘I don’t know if I’m allowed in.’ It was clear that we had a lot of work to do.

Arts Partner, Start

High Quality Creative Experiences

Through Start, children have at least five experiences over the course of the year including:

  • at least two visits to the local arts venue to see high quality performances or exhibitions
  • behind the scenes access to meet artists, directors, actors, choreographers, technicians and dancers and ask questions about their artistic experiences
  • creative workshops with professional practitioners, where pupils develop their own responses to the work that they’ve seen
  • a finale event that presents the young people’s creative work and celebrates their achievements.

Releasing potential

Each Start programme offers arts education training for teachers to empower them to bring the arts into the classroom with confidence, unlocking the potential of their pupils across all subjects in the curriculum and inspiring future generations.

[The arts education training was] great for building confidence, especially for a non-artist such as myself.

Primary School Teacher


By supporting projects over three years, Start enables strong, lasting partnerships to be developed between arts venues and schools where high levels of trust and understanding are reported on both sides.

In a survey conducted in 2015, 100% of responding arts venues reported that they were still working with their partner schools in some way, after the three-year project had finished.

Applications to join Start are currently closed.