Fresh options drive up attendance at after-school arts academies


After opening up more options to younger children, arts courses in Flanders are seeing record numbers

Belgium’s got talent

The number of children taking part in after-school arts activities has leapt up following reforms to the way arts academies in Flanders operate. These changes gave recognised academies more flexibility in the subjects they could offer, encouraged closer co-operation with schools and increased options for the youngest children.

When it comes to attendance, the most important change has been giving children aged six to seven years a wider choice of classes. Up until last year, they could only study art or take dance classes, but since September they have been offered classes across the whole range of academy activities.

This covers music, drama and spoken word, visual and audio-visual arts and dance. They can also opt for introductory classes, which sample all of these activities.

The result has been a 60% increase in the age group attending the region’s 168 academies, hitting a total of 28,116. Nearly half opt for classes in visual and audio-visual art.

Beat masters in training

“The innovations we introduced this school year have been more successful than we expected,” said education minister Hilde Crevits, announcing the figures. “The broader offer for our youngest children is clearly appreciated.”

Across all age groups, more than 199,000 children enrolled in academy classes this year, an 8% increase on the previous school year. This is the highest figure ever recorded. “The goal of reaching 200,000 pupils in our academies is within reach,” Crevits added.

Classic evening class options, such as learning the piano, acting, painting or ballet, remain very popular with children (or perhaps with their parents). But the reforms also allowed academies to launch new classes, often responding to local demand.

Some of these new options have drawn significant interest, such as life drawing, early music, theatre direction, musical theatre and DJ-ing.

Photo courtesy HoGent