Last Updated: Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Aspire Programme Dundee

What is this?

This resource focuses on ASPIRE Dundee, a community engagement programme that used performing arts across the curriculum to increase pupils’ health and wellbeing, self-confidence, self-esteem, learning and skills development

Who is this for?

Practitioners, parents and associated local partners such as health, social work, community learning and development.

Explore the resource

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The Dundee context

The effects of child poverty cannot be overstated. Experiencing child poverty can undermine the health, wellbeing and educational attainment of children. By the age of five, children in poverty are between 10 and 13 months behind their peers from more affluent backgrounds in terms of educational attainment. Children in the most deprived areas of Dundee have significantly worse health compared to children in the least deprived areas, including dental health and obesity rates.

Information from Community Profiles gives the following facts about Dundee:

  • 23,704 children under 15 and 8,261 children under 4
  • 6,530 lone parent households in Dundee (5629 are lone mothers and 509 are lone fathers)
  • 459 young mothers aged under 19
  • 8,941 people in Dundee reported their health as bad or very bad – this includes physical and mental health, including ‘parenting stress’


ASPIRE Dundee aims:

  • to transform children’s lives using performing arts
  • to empower and strengthen communities
  • to focus this work on school communities in most need in areas of deprivation.

To design the programme to:

  • respond to the socio-economic context of the city
  • demonstrate value for money
  • address sustainability
  • demonstrate integration between school, community and the cultural sector
  • be neighbourhood focused
  • be supported by a raft of cultural partners
  • prioritise inclusion and engagement of those who stood to benefit most.

Extensive research has been undertaken into the 'Transformative Power of the Arts'. Arts learning experiences play a vital role in developing pupils’ capacities for critical thinking, creativity, imagination and innovation. These capacities are increasingly recognised as core skills and competencies that all pupils need as part of a high quality and complete 21st century education. Arts programmes help to develop high levels of motivation, enthusiasm and self-confidence. They instil self-esteem, develop team working, encourage social integration, raise attainment and drive achievement.

ASPIRE Dundee is underpinned by a belief that attainment, achievement and lack of aspirational issues facing local communities, children and families should be addressed at local level through a multi-partnership approach. To help to address the issue of equality for some of our most deprived communities ASPIRE Dundee is working in collaboration with targeted schools and key local arts partners to deliver both the right interventions and the factors which will facilitate their implementation. This builds on and links existing partnerships, plans and resources related to children, their families and the communities in which they live in.

ASPIRE Dundee aims to create the opportunity and develop capacity for long term social and transformational change by working in targeted school communities with children, staff, parents; also in association with local partners such as health, social work, community learning and development and in bringing together existing community based programmes.


A presentation about the project showing some of the schools and other partners involved:

PowerPoint file: ASPIRE Dundee – Presentation (10 MB)

The goals and ambitions for the programme:

PDF file: ASPIRE Dundee – Promotion (43 KB)

A targeted approach

In analysing further data including attendance, exclusion, FSM (Free School Meals entitlements), PIPS (Performance Indicators in Primary Schools) and InCAS (Interactive Computerised Assessment System) scores in numeracy and literacy ASPIRE Dundee identified 11 primary school communities in Dundee.

These schools were selected as the data held shows they are situated within the lowest SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) areas in Dundee. The model is based on having specialist hub schools focusing particularly on one specific aspect of the arts.

Phase One:

Launched in November 2013

To develop and deliver an immersive and intensive arts based programme be led by professional artists/music educators working directly in schools during core curricular time to then in addition develop strong extra curricular opportunities afterschool for out of hours learning. Crucial to phase one - the successful design of the programme and the confidence and support of external funders such as Creative Scotland, Legacy 2014, Youth Music Initiative along with a contribution from the Early Years Change Fund.

Phase Two:

Spring – Autumn 2015

Development and delivery of the ASPIRE Dundee community engagement programme creating more opportunities for families to access participation activities within their local area towards developing stronger school, family and community relationships.

Phase Three:

Autumn 2016

To firmly embed and establish the ASPIRE Dundee model of practice with key partners and stakeholders to be a sustainable and locally led intervention demonstrating a 'smarter spend' and more effective allocation of existing resources.

Self-evaluation is underpinned by robust evidence of what is working and what needs further improvement. The ASPIRE Dundee Project has a clear, planned and consultative approach to improvement. All stakeholders including our local arts partners are involved and informed. Accountability and Quality Improvement are critical aspects of the effectiveness of the programme.

Key to the success of the ongoing development of the ASPIRE Dundee programme is the value placed upon monitoring and evaluation. Led by Professor Teresa Moran of the School of Education, Social Work and Community Education at the University of Dundee, an evaluation team utilized a number of interventions and processes to monitor the effectiveness of the programme in delivering upon it's core aims and objectives. The evaluation team also continues to examine the design of the programme and at all stages encouraging the operational and delivery teams to become skilled in self evaluation critically reflecting upon their processes.

Different data collection techniques are designed to enable triangulation in the analysis of data from different sources, as follows:

Pupil Tracking
  • Using established data such as school attendance, exclusions
  • Monitoring attainment data via PIPS and INCAS scores in literacy and numeracy
  • Scottish Attainment Challenge monitoring
Focus Group interviews with all stakeholders
  • Termly interviews led by evaluation team with children, Head Teachers, teachers, delivery partners, parents/carers, community partners
Case Studies
  • Long term - following the experiences of individual children and families throughout the course of the project engagement and beyond school

Qualitative and Quantitative data


  • Number of: participant opportunities/ professional performance visits/artists working in schools and communities/family engagement activities
  • Attitudes and aptitudes surveys
  • Episodes of learning within school led by LEA Quality Improvement Officers
Thematic analysis
  • Ongoing monitoring of thematic areas of dance/drama/music with peer associate partners e.g. Creative Scotland, Heads of Service from other LA areas

ASPIRE Dundee has to date been successful in engaging with over 2,500 children.

There is strong evidence that pupils involved in ASPIRE Dundee experience benefits, primarily around personal and social development, for example improved confidence, self-esteem, social skills and the ability to concentrate better in school.

"In analysing the results of our case studies along with data collected and key interview material, there is undoubtedly already an improvement in confidence and self-esteem which has led to improved attendance and reduced exclusions. University of Dundee" University of Dundee – Interim Project Report.


PDF file: ASPIRE Dundee – Promotion (43 KB)

PPT file: Aspire Dundee Presentation (9797 KB)