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Animated Edition - Autumn 2008
Making a Move takes a stride forward
A major strategic focus of the Foundation for Community Dance (FCD) is on the development of a professional framework for community dance, through the project known as Making a Move. Here, Ken Bartlett and Chris Stenton describe the Foundation's latest thinking and plans, and set out the benefits and challenges for the community dance sector
Since FCD first presented its proposals for how a professional framework for community dance might look and work, way back in 2006, we have done extensive consultation with artists, organisations and employers involved in community and participatory dance and have had dialogue with a huge number and range of people in the process. We have listened to what people say they want and need, and this has helped to move us forwards to this point.

The journey has been complex but fascinating, perhaps slower than we might have liked but necessarily cautious. What follows is our proposed structure for the Professional Framework. A version of this proposal was considered by our development partners, a group of some 120 artists and organisations who have enlisted their support and act as our critical friends in moving this work forward.

Feedback raised a number of challenges that will have to be addressed, and are about ensuring that the values of community dance remain at the heart of the framework - inclusion, access, quality, equality - and that some of the practical issues and impacts of what happens when the Framework becomes 'real' are properly thought through. Challenges include:

  • Ensuring that the development of the framework is, and remains, genuinely inclusive and supportive of diversity of artist and practice, including dancers 'trained' and/or skilled through traditional and non-traditional routes
  • Communicating 'equivalence' with established qualifications in other sectors and across dance
  • Continuing to ensure that the elements of the Framework remain current, flexible and relevant for people at different stages of their career
  • Providing, though case studies, how the implementation of the Framework will impact on individual community dance artists and organisations
  • Taking into account cost implications of implementing the Framework for both individuals and organisations, making sure that these are appropriate to the 'economy' of the sector
  • Clarifying language and meaning, perhaps through a glossary of terms.

So what next?
Much is already in progress: We have drafted our proposed definitions, values and Code of Conduct and obtained feedback from Development Partners. We aim to make these available to FCD members with the Winter issue of Animated in January 2009.

We are working with other national dance organisations, and particularly closely with Youth Dance England, on leading the Dance Training and Accreditation Project (DTAP) into its next phase of development - a significant element of which will be the research and development of 'professional standards' across a range of community dance practices and contexts. This work is dependent on additional funding, and the DTAP partners are working together to secure this.

In terms of our work to support continuing professional development in community dance, we have been successful in securing a significant grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to support to the development and testing of a 'pilot phase' of something we are calling the National College for Community Dance. We envisage this as a centre of excellence for continuing professional development in community dance, with options for accreditation of this learning, and will be working with De Montfort University in Leicester and a small number of regional partners to deliver this initiative. We have plans in place to deliver 'induction' training, 'orientation courses' for artists working in particular areas of practice and an opportunity to develop and hone higher-level creative skills for experienced community dance artists, linked to a number of on-line and published learning resources.

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A professional framework for community dance

1. Purpose
The Framework will provide support for people working in the provision and delivery of community and participatory dance that responds to the diversity of the profession and the different needs of individuals as they change and develop throughout their professional

It will enable dance artists and companies, dance, arts and non-arts employers and support organisations at local, regional and national level to undertake their work more effectively, with greater quality, satisfaction and recognition, and with greater benefit to the communities they work for, and with.

2. Function
The Framework will serve three key functions for the profession:

  • Endorsement of continuing professional development (CPD) provision - to assure the quality of training and support for community dance professionals
  • Regulation of professional standards - to achieve accountability to the outside world and a robust and credible status for community dance professionals - supporting, sustaining, promoting and protecting high quality practice and provision in community and participatory dance
  • Governance - assurance that the management and implementation of the professional framework itself is responsible, fair, accountable and transparent.

3. Content
The Framework is organised around two key areas of support:

  • Professional Standards
  • Professional Development.

The two strands are distinct, but have equal importance, and feed into one another: promoting the idea that high quality community dance experiences
are best delivered by highly skilled and professionally developed dance artists. (see          )

4. Professional Standards (see fig 1.)
The Framework will set out the core values of community dance and embed them in a Code of Professional Conduct. Artists and organisations will be able to formally sign up to the values and adopt the Code of Professional Conduct as a commitment to safe, responsible and ethical working practices, including compliance with legal frameworks.

The Core Competencies will detail the knowledge and understanding, skills and abilities, attitudes and personal qualities required by dance artists working in community dance. Recognising that some areas of practice demand specialised expertise, there will also be profiles of Specialist Competencies for working in early years, health etc. The profiles can be used as the basis for self-assessment, peer and employer appraisal, guidelines for employers, training curricula and so on.

The Passport and Visa structure offers artists affirmation and formal recognition of their professional skills, knowledge and abilities. Artists will be able to apply for a passport that reflects their level of competence, experience and expertise in community dance settings. Similarly, individuals will be eligible for a Visa in specialised areas of practice according to their expertise in that area. Employers guidelines will explain the Passport/Visa, what they mean and what can be expected of, for example, a dance artist who posses a Visa in working in early years. This system does not dictate the means by which artists should achieve a given level of competence or prescribe the routes through which they must learn their craft or hone their professional skills; therefore engagement with the scheme is not fixed to any particular stage of a career or point of entry into the profession.

The Professional Register provides a means of regulating professional standards in community dance. It would be administered and monitored by the Foundation for Community Dance, in partnership with other organisations and specialist providers and supported by regional forums. Inclusion on the Register would require an artist to sign up to the Core Values, adopt the Code of Professional Conduct and meet the requirements for the Passport/Visa. Ongoing registration would require evidence of: continued compliance with safe and ethical practice; engagement in CPD to support professional competence and development; and self/peer appraisal. In this way, the Professional Register endorses quality practice in terms of values, ethics, professional conduct, competencies and a commitment to engagement in CPD, as opposed to achieving professional recognition only through the attainment of a named qualification. The register should be scaleable and able to develop and integrate with other structures as they emerge.

To support the adoption and embedding of Professional Standards as the basis of employment and working practices and artist training and support, the Framework will provide information, advice and guidance for individuals and organisations e.g. guidelines on legal frameworks affecting community dance; examples of 'model' policies - risk assessment, child protection etc; guidelines on what to expect from a professional community dance artist, and so on.

5. Professional Development (see fig 2.)
The Professional Development strand of The Framework centres around the provision of information, advice and guidance to support dance artists in planning and undertaking continuing professional development (CPD) that will support their progression, and improving the availability and accessibility of appropriate CPD opportunities to met the needs of the profession.

At the centre is the The Community Dance CPD Map: a comprehensive, web-based, searchable map of CPD activities and opportunities in community dance across the UK, locating and categorising: accredited and non-accredited training; CPD initiatives and courses; CPD services, resources and toolkits and CPD providers. The CPD Map will be held within the Foundation for Community Dance. CPD providers will be able post their provision onto the Map, and potential participants and users will be able to search the map according to the type of activity or the area of practice they are looking for. All items on the CPD Map will be accompanied by detailed descriptions about level, content, format etc. to enable potential users to identify whether or not a particular CPD opportunity matches what they are looking for.

The CPD Map will be accompanied with Signposts and Routemaps, designed to highlight possible pathways for progression in particular areas of practice. In the longer term, we anticipate that the Framework will be able to offer CPD Kite-marks: formal endorsement of CPD provision that is recognised to be meeting quality benchmarks agreed by the profession.

FCD will establish and coordinate a CPD Providers Forum to:

  • Enable the sharing of information and good practice amongst CPD providers
  • Facilitate partnership and 'rolling out' of CPD opportunities to achieve more widespread access to high quality, targeted CPD provision
  • Explore the development of accredited CPD provision to support the attainment of Core and Specialist Competencies
  • Establish the CPD Kite-mark scheme.

To support a range of personal and professional development needs for individuals and organisations, the Framework will offer information and guidance in the form of CPD Toolkits e.g. types of CPD and ways of learning; tools for self-appraisal; how to finance your CPD and so on.

6. Benefits
We believe that the structure and content of the professional Framework as outlined here will provide the community and participatory dance profession with the professional support in needs: inclusive and flexible yet robust, and with built-in mechanisms to support quality assurance and accountability.

In this way, we believe that the Framework will:

  • Sustain the distinctiveness and values of a diverse and vibrant profession and support dance artists to do what they do best, whilst protecting their interests and the interests of those who employ and work with them
  • Help to nurture a skilled and confident community dance workforce, that is able to declare and demonstrate its commitment to quality - and quality assured - experiences for participants through this imaginative and flexible accountability model more suited to the needs of the sector
  • Establish appropriate professional status for artists and achieve this on the profession's own terms - placing its values at the centre of practice and basing recognition not just on qualifications and legal compliance but on professional competence and a commitment to personal and professional development
  • Celebrate the individual worth and attributes of each practitioner, recognizing demonstrable ability and achievement and the unique contribution each can make to developing and supporting dance
  • Recognise those who strive for and achieve excellence, and support others to do so, by establishing benchmarks of professional achievement.
  • Encourage individuals to set their own professional goals and make informed choices about their learning, professional development and career progression
  • Create equivalence across the range of formal and informal training, qualifications and experience that artists offer as their professional credentials - without excluding or devaluing either traditional or non-traditional backgrounds and career entry
  • Endorse and promote high quality training and CPD provision, whilst offering variety in the range of professional development opportunities that will introduce and induct the next generation of community dance artists, and nurture, sustain and retain community dance artists of the present.

We are grateful to all of those who have taken the time and given their energy to helping us achieve as much as we have so far.  Special thanks to Sue Akroyd, former Head of Professional Development at the Foundation for Community Dance.

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Animated: Autumn 2008