Arts Council England launches nationwide Cultural Education Challenge to urge arts and education leaders to place greater focus on cultural education provisionChew Valley School is one of 100 schools nationally to have taken part in a nationwide pilot of the Arts Council’s refreshed Artsmark Award scheme – illustrating the school’s commitment to providing a strong cultural education for its students.Now in its fifteenth year, the Artsmark award has helped the Arts Council and schools – such as Chew Valley – to ensure more children and young people have access to high quality arts and culture. The Arts Council’s refreshed Artsmark Award scheme, which opened this autumn, has been designed by schools, for schools and will offer schools greater opportunity to build arts and culture into the school curriculum and their own strategic ambitions. The most important change with the refreshed Artsmark is that it creates an opportunity for schools to set ambitious objectives for their arts and cultural activities, both in school and in the wider local community.Over the summer term 2015, the new Artsmark Award was tested across 100 schools nationally – including Chew Valley.  All the pilot schools were supported by Bridge organisations – a network of 10 organisations located across the country that help connect schools, children and young people with arts and cultural activity.As part of its commitment, Chew Valley developed a new street dance club with sessions from professional companies. This increased the number of boys who actively engaged in performing arts as well as inspiring and involving pupils across the school. Isaac, a Year 7 student who attends the club commented, ‘It’s a great way to spend a lunchtime. We have to work hard but it’s fun and we can be really creative.’The school also delivered a week of dance, music, drama, art, literature, media and sporting workshops and events linked to the theme of diversity. The aim of the week was to broaden cultural horizons and develop attitudes of mutual respect and tolerance. Making Indonesian shadow puppets, taking part in African dance and learning poems from other cultures were just a few of the activities on offer. Teachers remarked that the atmosphere around the school was wonderful; students were calmer, they took creative risks during sessions - moving outside their comfort zones - and created some really impressive work.Sol Kuseri, a Year 9 student commented on the new skills that he was able to learn and use: ‘I never thought that I would make shadow puppets or use them to tell a story. I really had to think about how to communicate through every small movement the puppets made. ‘Once we had filmed our performance, we then used the Macs in The Music Technology Suite to add a sound track to it. Once again, this gave us so much freedom but forced us to think about what we wanted the audience to hear. We also had to negotiate with other group members. Sometimes what I wanted to do was not what the rest of the group wanted. This really made me think about how important it was to get my point across in a calm and clear way. I didn’t win every argument though!’In a continuing focus on cultural education, Arts Council England has today issued a rallying call to action, urging all those working in the arts and education sectors to work together to offer a consistent cultural education for all children and young people.The Cultural Education Challenge, which was launched 14th Oct 2015 at the Barbican Centre, London, brings a renewed focus on the importance of cultural education at a time when public funding remains under pressure and arts and cultural engagement amongst children and young people varies across the country.Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: ‘A great arts and cultural education gives children and young people the confidence and creative skills to thrive, as individuals, as members of our society, and as the next generation of creative talent. All children and young people, wherever and whatever their start in life, should have the opportunity to have an arts and cultural education that nurtures innovation and unlocks the vital skills that are helping to drive our world leading creative industries.’