Author: Katy Stocker

April 2022 newsletter

April 2022 newsletter

April 2022 news

More Than A Score Campaign

More Than A Score are an organisation campaigning against the government's high-pressure tests in primary schools. They support school leaders and teachers who want to stimulate young minds and expand their knowledge and creative problem-solving skills, rather than having to “teach to the test”.

Unfortunately, Ministers have seen fit to reintroduce SATs, and other new tests this year, and it's had a devastating effect on children's wellbeing. Year 6 pupils were recently ask how they are feeling about the upcoming SATs tests, which start from 9 May, and it was discovered that:
  • 60% are worried about the tests
  • One in ten aren't sleeping well because of the worry
In some schools, they have been sitting practice papers since September and this has had an inevitable impact on the curriculum:
  • 72% of pupils aren't spending enough time on the subjects they enjoy and the subjects they're missing the most are: art, music, sport and drama.
Teachers are working incredibly hard to prepare for the tests without any unnecessary pressure but that's proving to be very difficult.
There are a number of ways to get involved as teachers, parents, carers, and organisations that work with young children. Please visit More Than A Score's website to join the campaign and find out what you can do to support.

Branching Out survey

Exploring nature through arts-based activities with children

The Branching Out project aims to establish how the practice and impact of arts-based nature activities can be scaled up to reach more children through volunteers as ‘Community Artscapers’. This will involve the development and pilot of a ‘Branching Out Model’ and toolkits to support the delivery of arts-based nature programmes by arts organisations and volunteer Community Artscapers in primary schools.

The research is led by Professor Nicola Walshe from University College London, along with researchers from Anglia Ruskin University. The pilot will be led by arts charity Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination, alongside Cambridge Acorn Project, who undertake therapeutic work with children, in partnership with Fullscope, a consortium supporting children’s mental health. Branching Out is funded by a partnership led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the UK Research and Innovation ‘Scale up health inequality prevention and intervention strategies’ fund.

The project is looking for arts organisations and practitioners exploring nature through arts-based activities with children and young people to take part in the Branching Out Survey. The survey aims to map existing activity across the UK and to register interest in joining a national network and potential future involvement in the Branching Out programme.
Click here to complete the survey. It will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete and will be open until 31 May. For more information, please contact:

BAFTA Kids Young Presenters competition 2022

Earlier in the month entries closed for the BAFTA Kids Young Presenters competition 2022. This year, the age categories were changed to 10-14 and 15-18 which means there will be two winners, and entrants were asked to create a short video on this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week theme – Growing Together.

Winners will have the opportunity to host BAFTA’s content for children and young people as well as attending special events at BAFTA’s London HQ.  Previous winners have gone on to interview A-list stars at various BAFTA events, including Tom Hiddleston and BAFTA President HRH The Duke of Cambridge, as well as presenting on popular children’s television shows and at events around the world.

In 2021 ACA presented the Outstanding Contribution Award jointly to BAFTA Kids and Place2Be, as part of our annual JM Barrie Awards. We look forward to seeing who will become this year’s BAFTA Young Presenters!

ACA news to celebrate

We send our congratulations to ACA members Little Actors Theatre Company who won four awards at the 2022 Leverhulme Drama Festival!

Having entered four plays, directed by Artistic Director Samatha Giblin and directed by Mike Lockley, they won three youth awards and one adult reward.

David Almond OBE, ACA Patron, has been awarded the Nonino International Prize, the prestigious literary awards which celebrates its 47th year in 2022. Almond heads to Italy to collect it in early May, and we wish him a wonderful time.

Find out more about the prize and its history on their website.

ACA Campaign news

Earlier this month ACA Chair, Vicky Ireland MBE, spoke at a Westminster Forum policy conference on "next steps for funding in the creative industries”. We will share more about this in our next newsletter.

Click here to become a member of ACA


February 2022 newsletter

February 2022 newsletter

February 2022 news

Opening paragraph

We hope all are keeping well and positive during news of the tragedy that has hit our headlines and our hearts. We have sent a letter of support to ASSITEJ Ukraine to say we stand with all our Ukrainian colleagues who work in theatre for children and young people. We send them our love and courage in these difficult times.

Children's Mental Health

Launched by Children’s mental health charity Place2Be, 2022’s Children’s Mental Health Week took place from 7-13 February.

This year's theme was Growing Together, as children (and adults) were encouraged to consider how they have grown and how they can help others to grow. You can look back at how the week went.

Their free resources for schools, families and youth groups are still available. All of the ideas can be adapted for use in school, for home-schooling, online lessons or independent learning.  These can be accessed via their website.

As part of the week, we wrote a blog on why our project the Arts Backpack UK – which we launched to ensure that every primary school child in the UK has at least five quality cultural experiences in the school year – supports children’s mental health.

We’d like to share a thoughtful piece by award-winning writer Ross MacKay about his new book ‘Daddy’s Bad Day’.

This picture book has been created to help parents explain their mental health struggles to young children. The story draws on the writer’s lived experience and research conducted with some of Scotland’s leading parent charities. You can read his blog on our website.

Illustrations by Catherine Lindow . Due for release in August 2022, ‘Daddy’s Bad Day’ can be pre-ordered through Curly Tale Books.

Campaign news

We responded with thanks to Lyn Gardner for her piece in ‘The Stage’ in support of theatre for children, and how it appears to have been forgotten during lockdown. She spoke with artists to hear how they are coping, adapting and what their hopes are for the future.

We also responded with thanks to RSC director of learning Jackie O’Hanlon’s letter to ‘The Stage’, in which she urged the theatre sector to unite in combating the message that arts subjects at school are “less valued”. She says "We need to oppose devaluing of arts in schools”.

On behalf of ACA, Chair Vicky Ireland has signed The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF) petition about the Young Audiences Content Fund Campaign.

The Open Letter, which you can read here, will be sent to the Rt. Hon. Nadine Dorries MPSecretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Commonwealth Connections

The 'Commonwealth Connections'  project has been established to develop cultural relationships between school communities in the West Midlands and in Commonwealth countries as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which will take place in Birmingham from 28 July to 8 August.

ACA Critical Friend Julie Ward is Arts Lead for the 'Commonwealth Connections' initiative, and has written a piece about being involved in this very special project.

Imagine if... festival

This month hosts ‘Imagine if… festival’, an online celebration inspired by the life and work of former ACA patron Sir Ken Robinson, and curated by his daughter, ACA Patron Kate Robinson and her husband, Anthony.

In their own words: ‘Imagine if... is committed to creating an experience that is truly a celebration of the diversity of skills and passions that make human existence so unique and special, and that are essential for our cultural ecosystems to thrive. We also deeply believe that there has never been a more important time to create a future for us all. These are big topics and big themes that deserve proper attention and care to address.’

The festival is running the entire month of March, and you can get involved via their website.

28 February saw the release of ACA Trustee David Wood’s new book ‘The See-Saw Tree’, which is based on his successful play of the same name. With evocative linocut illustrations by Joanna Padfield, readers are reminded of the importance of the natural world. 'The See-Saw Tree' is available for purchase through The Book Guild publishing.

We are so very sorry to hear the news that children’s author and illustrator Shirley Hughes passed away on 25 February, aged 94.

Shirley was a beloved patron and stalwart supporter of ACA for many years, winner of our J.M. Barrie Award for a Lifetime Contribution to children's arts in 2010.

Shirley was perhaps best known for creating the Alfie book series, as well as the wonderful children's picture book, Dogger.

Click here to become a member of ACA


The inspiration behind ‘Daddy’s Bad Day’ – by Ross Mackay

The inspiration behind ‘Daddy’s Bad Day’ – by Ross Mackay

The inspiration behind 'Daddy’s Bad Day' - by Ross Mackay

Award-winning writer Ross MacKay reflects on his new picture book 'Daddy's Bad Day', which was created to help parents explain their mental health struggles to young children. The story draws on the writer’s lived experience and research conducted with some of Scotland’s leading parent charities.


'My son Noah was born in June 2020. He is now almost 20 months old and is bursting full of fun, curiosity and mischievousness. Every week I am bowled over by how much he has learnt about the world around him. He has new words and new skills developing all the time. So, I am sure it won’t be long before he asks the question Why is daddy in bed today?

And I want to have an honest answer that reassures Noah.

I have lived with a mental health disability for several years and when I knew I was going to become a dad, I began to search to see what support was out there. I had a little folder of resources saved on my laptop. Screengrabs of websites I found useful, a little list of charities that might be able to support us if I was in crisis, all sorts of things. But the one thing I couldn’t find was a way to talk about my mental health to my child.

I began to wonder whether this was something I could create myself. As an artist, I knew this would be a challenge. I would need to do some proper research. I reached out to charities, mental health experts and other parents, gathering any advice they might have.

The culmination of that research was a short little text – less than 700 words – about a small boy trying to get his daddy out of bed.

This was the beginning of Daddy’s Bad Bed Day

Now as me, an illustrator and publisher work towards publication, there is only one part still missing to bring this book to life, and that is the readers. Young and old. Parent and child. Or a grandparent or a fairy godmother perhaps. We are so excited to share some of the images and the story with an audience and we plan to do this with some events leading up to the publication. I hope the story speaks to children across the UK. I hope it helps make a difficult conversation just that little bit easier. I know I am going to reach for the book when my son begins to ask those tricky questions.'


Illustrations by Catherine Lindow . Due for release in August 2022, ‘Daddy’s Bad Day’ can be pre-ordered through Curly Tale Books.