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Ministers Martin and Foley announce new and enhanced supports for creativity in schools

  • 188 new schools join Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools
  • 81 additional schools will join the Schools Excellence Fund – Creative Clusters initiative


Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Norma Foley TD, Minister for Education today (6 October, 2021) announced the 269 new schools that will participate in the Creative Ireland Programme initiatives - Creative Schools and Creative Clusters.


Announcing the schools selected to participate in Creative Schools, Minister Martin said: “I am delighted to welcome a further 188 schools as our latest Creative Schools – the largest intake of schools in a single year since the establishment of the programme in 2018. This increased intake of schools, in line with the commitment made in the Programme for Government to expand the initiative, will enable even greater numbers of our youngest citizens to discover and develop new skills and talents that enhance their development and growth, and add to the richness of their overall learning experience through increased engagement with cultural creativity.”


Announcing the creation of 21 new Creative Clusters, Minister Foley said: “Now more than ever, it is important that our students are supported to develop their creativity and given flexibility to express themselves in a variety of exciting new ways. Today I am delighted to announce the 81 schools that are coming together to form 21 new Creative Clusters. I would like to welcome these new schools into this Schools Excellence Fund initiative, and I look forward to seeing how these exciting projects develop over the coming two yearsThis year has seen a very significant level of interest from schools applying to participate in the 2021 Creative Clusters initiative across the country. I am hoping to increase the number of Creative Clusters in the 2022 intake.


“In addition, the new BLAST initiative I announced earlier this year will also provide opportunities for schools to collaborate with established artists, supporting our children and young people to collaborate and engage in creative and critical thinking – all crucial skills for their futures.  Applications for BLAST closed recently and I look forward to finalising the details of this exciting programme in the coming weeks.”


Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council said:“The Arts Council is thrilled to welcome the wide range of schools and Youthreach centres across the country that are joining the Creative Schools programme for the period 2021-2023.  These schools will participate in a guided journey to establish a Creative Schools Plan bespoke to each and every one of them. This creative and democratic process gives primacy to children and young people’s voices in creativity planning in their schools. It supports teachers in their work to embed creativity in the curriculum, and facilitates schools and centres to develop vibrant relationships with the arts and cultural sectors.  This will help sustain artistic and creative practice for schools beyond their participation in the programme, and will help ensure that artistic expression is in abundance for years to come throughout the country.”


In addition to Creative Schools and Creative Clusters, the Creative Ireland Programme continues to support a wide range of both school- and community-based initiatives to enable greater participation by children and young people in all forms of creative activities.


Minister Martin added: “Our ongoing commitment to Creative Schools and Creative Clusters has meant that in just three years almost 1,000 schools have been given the opportunity to engage with arts, culture and creativity in new ways, helping to enrich the learning experience of thousands of children and young people.  Together with our continued investment in an array of community-based initiatives and projects, made possible by the Creative Ireland Programme, young people are being provided with evermore opportunities to engage in creative activities – not only as a support to their learning and development, but also for the sheer enjoyment and hopefully to develop a lifelong love of arts, culture and creativity.”




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The Creative Ireland Programme is a culture-based, all of Government initiative which places creativity at the centre of public policy, and is designed to promote individual, community and national wellbeing. Creative Schools and Creative Clusters are two of the key “in-school” initiatives developed and rolled out under Pillar 1 – Creative Youth. You can find out more here.


Creative Schools is led by the Arts Council in partnership with the Department of Education, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht Sport and Media and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

  • Creative Schools was launched in 2018, with 150 schools selected to participate in the first round (commencing at the start of the 2018/19 academic year), a further 150 in the second round (2019/20 academic year) and 164 in round three (2020/21).
  • The intake for the fourth round (commencing September 2021) has been increased to 188.
  • Schools that are selected to participate are provided with access to a “Creative Associate” to assist in developing a creative plan for each school – Creative Associates may be either teachers or from a range of creative professions who draw on their practical experience of ‘creativity’ to respond to each school’s individual needs.
  • Each school is allocated a grant of €4,000 over two academic years to implement their individual plans.
  • Total funding of almost €3 million is being provided in 2021 to Creative Schools.


Details of new schools participating in Creative Schools from September 2021 are available here:


Creative Clusters is a pilot initiative of the Department of Education, led by and in partnership with the 21 full-time education centres and funded through the Schools Excellence Fund. A Creative Cluster consists of between three and five schools collaborating on the design, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of an innovative arts and creative learning project which supports them to address a common issue or challenge, identified by that cluster. Clusters can consist of primary schools only, post-primary schools only or a combination of primary and post-primary schools.

  • The Creative Clusters initiative commenced in the 2018-19 academic year with 23 clusters established, comprising 71 schools countrywide.
  • In the academic year 2019-20, 21 Creative Clusters, comprising 77 schools were established.
  • In September 2020, a further 72 schools across 21 Clusters joined the initiative.
  • For the academic year 2021/2022 a total of 81 schools across 21 Clusters will join the initiative– one from each of the 21 full-time education centres in Ireland.


The Schools Excellence Fund is an initiative in the Department of Education to encourage and recognise excellence and innovation in our schools. The Schools Excellence Fund operates in a range of areas. These are:

  • SEF – Creative
  • SEF – Gaeltacht
  • SEF – DEIS
  • SEF – STEM
  • SEF – Digital
  • SEF – Step Up


Details of new schools participating in Creative Clusters from September 2021 are available here:


The BLAST programme (Bringing Live Arts to Students and Teachers) will enable up to 400 new Arts-in-Education Residencies in schools each year. The closing date for applications was 30 September 2021.