Area of learning and experience Expressive Arts

Get to know Expressive Arts


This overview should be read together with A guide to Curriculum for Wales 2022

The dynamic nature of the Expressive Arts can engage and motivate learners and so encourage them to develop their creative, artistic and performance skills to the full.

The Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience centres on the five disciplines of art, dance, drama, film and digital media, and music. While these disciplines have a common creative process and share transferable skills, each has its own discrete body of knowledge and set of discernible skills. This area of learning and experience will ensure that learners are entitled to access all five disciplines.

The Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience will afford learners meaningful experiences through which they can gain an understanding and an appreciation of the diverse communities of Wales as well as the wider world. Whether as attendees or creators of exhibitions and performances in art, dance, drama, film and digital media, or music, learners will come to know about their own culture and society as well as those of other people. This will enable them to explore cultural differences between themselves and others, through time and place. In addition, the knowledge, skills and values they develop through these activities will enable them to engage with issues that arise in their lives.

During Expressive Arts experiences, learners will be physically, socially and emotionally engaged, and as a result their well-being, self-esteem and resilience will be nurtured. This in turn will enhance their self-confidence.

The Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience will also foster creativity and critical thinking skills which will aid learners’ capacity to question, make connections, innovate, solve problems, communicate, collaborate and reflect critically. These are higher-order skills in demand by employers and essential for learners to become active twenty-first century citizens.

Importantly, the area of learning and experience will make the Expressive Arts accessible to all and through this inclusive approach expand the horizons of every learner.

A transformational curriculum

The White Paper Our National Mission: A Transformational Curriculum set out the detailed legislative proposals for Curriculum for Wales 2022.

The proposal is that funded non-maintained settings and schools will be required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum that meets the four purposes of the curriculum, and comprises the six areas of learning and experience. There will be statutory duties to teach Welsh, English, religious education, relationships and sexuality education, and the three cross-curricular responsibilities of literacy, numeracy and digital competence. Further information on how the Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience can support this is provided in the ‘Developing a broad and balanced curriculum’ section of this document.

Funded non-maintained settings and schools will have discretion as to how they design their school-level curriculum to meet their curriculum duties. However, in considering the exercise of that discretion, they must have regard to statutory guidance issued by Welsh Ministers. In practice, that means they should follow the statutory guidance unless they have good reason not to.

This statutory guidance for the Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience, which forms part of the wider Curriculum for Wales 2022 statutory guidance, is intended to provide a national framework that funded non‑maintained settings and schools can build on to develop their own curriculum. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive syllabus, nor a guide for organising timetables. It sets out:

  • what funded non-maintained settings and schools should take into account in designing their curriculum and how it could be structured
  • the broad expectations for learners for the Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience at each progression step.

Through the Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience, teachers/practitioners will encourage learners to develop not only their ability to appreciate creative works but also their creative talents, their artistic and performance skills. It provides opportunities to explore, refine and communicate ideas while thinking creatively and engaging the imagination and the senses. It also promotes exploration of issues of personal and cultural identity. Engagement with this area of learning and experience requires application, perseverance and close attention to detail; capacities that have benefits across learning more widely.

The Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience provides inspiration and motivation as it brings learners into contact with creative processes and enables them to access the creative works of other people. It also sparks their own experimentation and creativity. It provides many opportunities for experiences such as visits to theatres and galleries, and for bringing the specialist expertise of external practitioners into the classroom. Engagement in the Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience also provides a basis for lifelong learning, entry into careers and work-related experiences, and can ultimately contribute to a thriving economy. Learners will develop talents and skills that are fundamental to Wales’ future and prosperity.

The Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience supports ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives by encouraging them to explore new challenges and aim for success. The provision of rich, authentic contexts within which learners can work collaboratively develops their ability to lead and play different roles in teams effectively and responsibly. This strengthens their employability skills, as does the need to manage themselves and their resources in enterprising ways.

The knowledge and skills gained through the Expressive Arts develop not only learners’ creativity as artists but also develop learners more generally by enhancing their creative thinking. Critical appraisal, key to the creative process, also supports them to become enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work and this too develops their resilience, which in turn supports them to become healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society. In addition, the evaluation involved in the creative process enables learners to explore complex issues. It enables them to challenge perceptions and identify solutions which lead to a better understanding of their own cultural identity and those of other people, places and times. From this experience they are supported to become ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world. Finally, through the enjoyment and personal satisfaction they gain from creative expression learners become more confident all of which contributes directly to enriching the quality of their lives.

What matters in the Expressive Arts is the creative process, i.e. exploration, response, reflection, and creation. This is expressed as three separate what matters statements in the Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience; however, these statements are interlinked and this should be borne in mind when planning for learning and teaching.

Exploration through and of the Expressive Arts deepens our artistic knowledge and contributes to our understanding of identities, cultures and societies – this statement is primarily about inquiry.

Responding and reflecting, both as artist and audience, is a fundamental part of learning about and through the Expressive Arts – this statement is mainly about response, reflection and evaluation.

Creative work combines knowledge and skills using the senses, inspiration and imagination – this statement is primarily about creation.

What matters statements are not linear. They are interlinked. Together they enable learners to engage fully with the creative process which each of the Expressive Arts’ disciplines has in common.

As part of the creative process learners are able to explore, respond to and create their own work while engaging in rich, authentic experiences. For instance, through exploring a genre, style, artist, etc., learners begin to form an opinion and appreciation of the creative works of others, as well as through experimenting with different materials and processes, etc. The knowledge and skills gained as part of this exploring can then be used to inspire their own creative work, to which they will continue to respond as part of the creative process.

Progression in the Expressive Arts is not a linear process and there is not one common pathway. Learners may easily move backwards and forwards as they experience Expressive Arts activities and different learners are likely to progress in markedly different ways.

It is clear that the environment in which they are learning, including the quality of teaching, is an important factor in facilitating learner progression so increasing challenge and sophistication of Expressive Arts contexts are important factors.

Funded non-maintained settings and schools will develop their own Expressive Arts curricula in line with the guidance, responding to their learners and locality. It is understood that while individual learners develop at a different pace, they should all have access to all aspects of the Expressive Arts Area of Learning and Experience.

The four principles of progression in Expressive Arts are helpful in describing learner progression in broad terms, while also capturing something of the ‘spiral’ nature of learning in Expressive Arts. The principles of progression below should be considered alongside the experience, knowledge and skills related to each progression step in each what matters statement.

Complexity: Issues dealt with by younger learners can be revisited by older learners in more complex and sophisticated ways.

Control: Learners should acquire increasing control of the means of expression in the Expressive Arts.

Depth: Learners move from a broad range of experiences in the Expressive Arts to exploring their learning in more depth.

Independence: Learners become increasingly autonomous.

Literacy, numeracy and digital competence

The cross-curricular responsibilities of literacy, numeracy and digital competence support almost all learning and are essential for learners to be able to participate successfully and confidently in the modern world.


Expressive Arts provides a range of rich contexts where learners’ literacy skills can be reinforced, developed, applied and extended.

Exploration and exposure to a variety of texts will enable the development of reading strategies and, in turn, deepen artistic knowledge by comparing works or performances in a written format, reading and writing scripts, and reading about the works of others. Script writing can be used to support the full range of punctuation in order to vary pace, clarify meaning, avoid ambiguity and create deliberate effects.

Oracy in all its forms will also be developed through acting, discussing, responding and reflecting on works, role play, song, performance and presentation, planning processes and questioning.


Expressive Arts provides learners with opportunities to innovate, as well as creative opportunities to develop numeracy skills in a range of engaging contexts.

Within dance, learners can be supported as they become more comfortable in demonstrating concepts such as shape, space and measure, pattern and sequencing, pathway, position, relationships, viewpoint dimension, patterns, repetition, variation and counting rhythm, thus gaining a stronger understanding of these concepts. Digital media and drama can provide rewarding and real-world learning experiences, such as timings and budgets.

A love of music and songs may be learners’ first encounter with numbers and, as they begin to understand the relationships with numbers through songs with greater maturity, music will also see the development of structure and form, patterns and rhythm, repetition, phrasing, section, round and canon.

Visual arts will also provide the context for concepts such as shape, pattern appreciation, spatial awareness and measurements.

Digital competence

In an ever-changing world, digital competence plays an increasingly powerful role in the lives of our learners. The Expressive Arts afford many opportunities for learners to bring the arts to life using digital skills.

Digital media has its own wealth of opportunities to develop digital competence and provide the contexts for ideas to evolve. Learners can develop and change an algorithm for film production sequencing to show filming in location order rather than chronological order.

Opportunities such as collaboration, digital rights, drama, constructive feedback, licensing, music technology, ownership, production, saving and sharing digital works will naturally arise across the area of learning and experience.

Welsh dimension and international perspective

Wales has a rich and diverse Expressive Arts tradition. As an integral part of the Expressive Arts curriculum, learners will experience all aspects of our diverse Welsh culture at a local and national level. Learning about the Expressive Arts in Wales is the entitlement of all learners. Value will be placed on historical and contemporary Welsh creative practitioners from across disciplines in the area of learning and experience. From this, learners will appreciate the significance of Wales and Welsh culture and strengthen the understanding of Welsh identity in the world. Learners will experience the Expressive Arts on a global level from an early age, developing a richness and diversity in their understanding and in their creative works. In an increasingly interconnected world, learners will draw upon a wide range of global creative works to influence their own work and appreciate and respond to cultural diversity.

Consideration should be given to the following.

  • A focus on Welsh culture and the traditions of Wales to ignite further learning through experiencing artists, creative works, musicians, performers, performances and venues, from both a contemporary and traditional perspective.
  • Exploration of creative works, knowing why they were created and developing learners’ understanding of local, national and global matters.
  • The understanding that Wales has a strong musical heritage, a reputation as the land of song and has a constantly evolving Welsh music scene.
  • Participation in skills-based workshops or demonstrations with creative practitioners from the local community and nationally.
  • Development of learners’ own identity as artists born in Wales, and the development of talents and skills that are fundamental to Wales’ future prosperity.
  • Seeking advice and feedback from creative practitioners when planning and undertaking new projects.
  • Taking part in arts-based community projects.
  • View, listen to and respond to live performances or presentations in learners’ own local area and/or on digital platforms.
  • Enable learners to experience all of the above in Welsh, English and community languages.
  • Utilise traditional and contemporary Welsh language resources.

Wider skills

Learners will gain important transferable skills in critical thinking and problem‑solving, planning and organising, creativity and innovation, and personal effectiveness.

Critical thinking and problem-solving

Refining work is highlighted in the what matters statement ‘Responding and reflecting, both as artist and audience, is a fundamental part of learning about and through the Expressive Arts’ and is also present as part of creating. It is encouraged throughout what matters statements in the Expressive Arts, thus building skills in self-evaluation and reflection. The evaluation involved in the creative process enables learners to develop reflective, questioning and problem-solving skills, as well as to challenge perceptions and identify solutions. Learners will demonstrate resilience in applying critical appraisal of their work and be expected to respond positively to critical feedback. Learners will develop problem-solving skills by experimenting with a variety of arts and artistic techniques. They will actively reflect on their own learning and experiences, draw on personal knowledge, ask questions and challenge assumptions.

Planning and organisation

Learners will plan creative works. They will apply reflective, critical and creative processes to make sense of ideas and experiences. Through the Expressive Arts, learners are encouraged to plan, set their own goals and manage resources. The ability to generate ideas, develop curiosity, explore and bring ideas into action is fundamental to the Expressive Arts

Creativity and innovation

Creativity and innovation is the essence of what matters statement ‘Creative work combines knowledge and skills using the senses, inspiration and imagination’. Learners are expected to influence and shape their own creativity, develop their creative knowledge and combine resources to enhance their own creative process.

Personal effectiveness

Learners will become enterprising, resourceful and resilient by managing themselves and their resources, thus enhancing their employability skills. They will tolerate failure, developing resilience and celebrating the failures from which they learn. Through what matters statements in the Expressive Arts, learners will develop self-confidence, self-esteem, independence, communication skills, social and cultural awareness.

Careers and work-related experiences

Learning from careers and labour market information

It is vital for learners to access high-quality careers and labour market information and have an understanding of what this means to them in order to make well-informed, sustainable career decisions.

According to figures released at the end of 2017, the UK creative sector is growing at twice the rate of the national economy. One in eleven jobs in the UK is within the creative industries. The sector has seen a 20 per cent growth since 2011 and is currently generating £84.1bn for the UK economy. In Wales 84,000 people work in the creative sector and as such the sector represents an identified priority for the Welsh Government. The creative industries in Wales comprise advertising and marketing; architecture; crafts; product, graphic and fashion design; film, television, video and radio; photography; IT, software and computer services; publishing; museums, galleries and libraries; music, performing and visual arts.

Linking the area of learning and experience to careers and work-related experiences

Learners should be encouraged to undertake research and to explore the links between the Expressive Arts and the career paths that are open to them. The Expressive Arts equip learners with the necessary skills to pursue careers within the creative industries. There is a plethora of careers available in these creative environments, from architectural and design careers, technical support careers, traditional and emerging craft careers, performance and production careers, and management careers. There are also careers in marketing creative products, sales, archive and curation, research and development, writing and composing music. More importantly, the transferable skills which sit at the heart of Expressive Arts will contribute to preparing the future workforce for professions and jobs which do not yet exist, to meet the needs of new and emerging creative industries.

It is important to emphasise that the skills developed through Expressive Arts are entirely transferable and are much sought after in the wider employment market. There is clear evidence that skills in Expressive Arts contribute to the wider economy’s need for leadership, creativity and innovation, design thinking, and an ability for collaboration and teamwork. Other aspects include an approach to conceptual practice centred on values and ethical creation, while meeting deadlines to achieve meaningful work and, perhaps most importantly, an ingrained capacity for appreciative inquiry to lead and develop change. In this regard, Expressive Arts can and do contribute greatly and directly to the skills of a dynamic and agile workforce which will be essential for the twenty-first century economy.

Learner progression relating to careers and work-related experiences is part of a continuum of learning for learners aged 3 to 16. Success for a primary school learner could include:

  • acting a variety of different jobs through role play
  • belief that they can do any job – tackling gender stereotyping
  • communicating with people in their community about the different jobs they do and the rewards that a job can bring.

By progressing learning, success for 16-year-old learners could include:

  • demonstrating and applying the skills learnt in relation to the world of work
  • identifying interests, strengths and skills to make informed post-16 choices
  • understanding and demonstrating the behaviours an employer looks for in a good employee
  • evaluating risks when developing a business idea and exploring different methods of setting up and sustaining an enterprise.

Work-related experiences

Learners develop interests, strengths, knowledge, skills and aspirations through their experiences within and beyond school. A range of partners support these exciting journeys through co-design and co-delivery, and together they shape learners’ decisions about their future and the pathways they follow. Opportunities such as visits, guest speakers and practical activities can help to enhance and contextualise learning.

Collaboration and access to individuals and employers, e.g. arts practitioners, industry professionals, film and drama production companies, digital and broadcast media professionals, musicians and dancers, can provide learners with opportunities to learn about work, employment and the skills valued in the workplace.

Learners can use the knowledge and skills gained in taking part in work‑related experiences to develop successful enterprise activities. In Expressive Arts these can provide an authentic learning experience which leads to sustainability for Expressive Arts and develops learners as creative, enterprising contributors, forming links to the world of work.

Understanding post-16 and higher education opportunities

It is essential for learners to be aware of all opportunities available to them post-16. Therefore, as well as understanding about employment, training and apprenticeships, learners should be provided with information and the opportunity to engage with a range of learning providers. Opportunities for engagement should include attending careers and skills fairs, talks from and visits to further and higher education providers, as well as presentations from students in further or higher education. Learners should be directed to online research tools that provide course and progression information to support their understanding of the range of learning opportunities available, to help raise their aspirations and form a basis on which informed decisions can be made.

Relationships and sexuality education

Relationships and sexuality education is collective, holistic and continuous throughout the learner’s education journey and beyond. The Expressive Arts promote an understanding of rights, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and universal human rights. Through exploration, creation and response to various creative works, challenging issues will be tackled and learners will be empowered to make informed decisions and communicate effectively.


Learners will develop an understanding of relationships through drama, music, role play, dance and film, and explore relationships portrayed in visual arts as well as the relationships between creator and audience.

Values, rights, culture and sexuality

Expressive Arts offer rich and diverse learning experiences which enable learners to explore their own and others’ cultures. Knowledge and understanding are further developed by creating and responding to creative works from different cultures.

Understanding gender

Learners will review and reflect upon the way creators portray gender in creative works and the way in which it has changed over time.

Violence and staying safe

By exploring creative works born out of conflict and changes in society, learners gain knowledge and understanding about the world. Through film and digital media, learners will be expected to learn about the positive and harmful effects of digital images and how they portray themselves online.

Skills for health and well-being

Learners will experience differences in gender roles and relationships through film and drama. They will be expected to face more complex issues of sexuality and boundaries through drama in styles such as forum theatre. They will explore the effect of digital media and how the media portray relationships.

The human body and development

Throughout Expressive Arts learners will explore feelings about the body and self-image and how the Expressive Arts industry influence these. By identifying key issues, learners can use film, music, visual arts, dance and drama to explore issues in a safe supportive environment.

Enrichment and experiences

The Expressive Arts curriculum and enrichment and experiences are intrinsically linked. Learner voice is considered and learners are empowered to take ownership of their learning by helping to plan the nature of their experiences.

Learning inside and outside the classroom provides a wealth of material and experiences that stimulate creative works. Learners will engage in learning experiences that take them out of their classrooms into arts venues, such as museums, theatres, film studios and galleries.

Community arts programmes and local arts companies can provide experiences that provide learners with valuable and vibrant creative experiences which connect all the areas of learning and experience.

The curriculum framework outlined for the Expressive Arts supports and encourages a combination of the following modes of delivery.

Interdisciplinary approach

In an interdisciplinary arts approach, the learning is focused on one discipline at a time with all areas connected by the creative process, theme or context. Through linking the creative process across the disciplines, learners connect their skills while developing a deeper level of discipline-specific knowledge and understanding.

Integrated approach

An integrated Expressive Arts curriculum is one which is distinguished by the teaching of a combination of art, dance, drama, film and digital media, and music in one lesson and not in isolation. The blending of a combination of the disciplines encourages learners to make connections and unify concepts, which enables them to engage in relevant, meaningful activities that can be connected to rich, authentic contexts. All the disciplines can be taught within one lesson by one person with a linking theme enabling learners to transfer skills and collaborate in authentic contexts. This mirrors the world of work in the creative and cultural industries.

In all delivery models there should be opportunities for independent learning, enabling learners to become self-directed and to have more autonomy and control over their learning.

  • First published 30 April 2019
  • Last updated 30 April 2019