Quality in practice

When Paul Hamlyn Foundation developed the original ArtWorks: developing practice in participatory settings special initiative, one of the things it wanted to achieve was ‘a better understanding of what constitutes quality in the work, thus ensuring better experiences for participants’.

Connected to the ArtWorks Scotland pathfinder, Creative Scotland commissioned Developing a Foundation for Quality Guidance by Rachel Blanche, looking at research and learning across ArtWorks, the UK, internationally and beyond the arts sector, to act as a stepping stone to the development of quality tools for the sector.

Both ArtWorks Scotland and ArtWorks Cymru have used this to inform their toolkits.


In Scotland, Is this the best it can be? encourages artists, partners and participants to discuss what is important to their project through a series of prompt questions. Partnerships can build these into their projects creating a bespoke compass for their work, taking them on a reflective journey and ultimately asking the question ‘is this the best it can be?’

Pilots showed that it can help them to:

  • explore and agree the nature of a collaboration
  • support curiosity, questioning and being positively critical
  • encourage reflection and give breadth and depth to discussions
  • recognise where good practice exists and celebrate it
  • promote a true sense of partnership between artists, partners and participants
  • gather qualitative information about the project

Creative Scotland ran an event about the toolkit in December 2017 and eight case studies relating to the use of the toolkit are now available on our Knowledge Bank.

Rachel Blanche has now had a paper published in the online journal of the international Arts Management Network, profiling the quality insights and how they’ve been applied in Scotland and also adopted in Portugal. Read the article here.

She has also facilitated, with Chrissie Ruckley of Creative Scotland, a session at a Fourth International Teaching Artist Conference.

Now Creative Scotland and Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh are finding out more about the difference the participatory arts toolkit ‘Is this the best it can be?’ is making.

Have you used it, looked at it or heard about it?

Whether you’re based in Scotland, the UK or internationally, Creative Scotland and QMU want to gather your views on the toolkit through a survey, to map where it is being used, how and with what kind of effects. Your feedback will help them understand how well the tools inspire you in defining the qualities of your participatory arts work, along with different ways the toolkit is supporting practice and partnerships across the field. New resources are being planned to enhance the online toolkit, including case studies to illustrate a range of ways it can be useful in practice. For further information, contact Rachel Blanche at RBlanche@qmu.ac.uk

In Wales, the ArtWorks Cymru Quality Principles set out nine best practice principles across three key areas: Intention, Activity and People. The online toolkit provides a range of different tools that support reflection on practice using the principles.

ArtWorks Cymru have created a Quality Principles checklist for teachers with A2 Connect (Arts in Education Network), worked with Voluntary Arts Wales on a Quality Principles checklist for voluntary groups and rolled out training sessions with various ArtWorks Cymru partners.

They have also worked with Arts Council Wales to re-develop their Quality Assessment Form to make it more suitable for participatory arts, using the ArtWorks Cymru Quality Principles as the key tool, and have trained up all their regularly funded community arts clients in the Quality Principles.

An article by Beth Pickard from University of South Wales on the Sound Sense website shows what a positive difference the Quality Principles can make in supporting students’ professional development.


ArtWorks Cymru, ArtWorks Scotland and Engage met with colleagues from Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and Arts Council Wales at the end of November 2018 to share practice about understanding and measuring quality. Watch this space to read about the outcomes!


You can search our Knowledge Bank for all the ArtWorks Alliance resources about quality.

Also recommended reading:

Seidel et al, (2009) The Qualities of Quality: Understanding Excellence in Arts Education

What does ‘quality’ look like in arts education? Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero explored the challenges of achieving and sustaining quality arts learning.

Featured Resources

All Resources

Case Studies

Evaluations & Reports




Toolkits & Guidance


ArtWorks Cymru Quality Principles

Quality principles for intention, activity and people.

Author: ArtWorks Cymru

ArtWorks Scotland: Is this the best it can be?

Guidance and toolkit for delivering participatory arts.

Author: ArtWorks Scotland