Cultural Learning Alliance

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Dame Fiona Reynolds
Director-General, The National Trust

News

The impact of the budget cuts on cultural learning: what you've told us so far

Published 21 July 2010
 

Over the last couple of weeks the Cultural Learning Alliance has been gathering a picture of how the recent cuts to budgets are impacting on cultural learning across the country. We’ve started to gain an insight into initial impacts, but of course there is a long way to go until we know the full ramifications of recent decisions.

The cuts to BSF have been having a big impact on some secondary school plans for cultural learning. We’ve been told there is huge frustration that a great deal of time has been wasted on planning and funds wasted on consultants in preparation for the building work. There are also direct impacts on cultural learning spaces. Rainhill High School in St Helens has officially been told that their £14m BSF programme will not be going ahead. The new mixed community/school use build and remodelling was planned to focus on the arts with an emphasis on performance spaces, as well as the use of mobile technology to facilitate film and animation as part of learning.

We’ve also been told that time and budgets for training and professional development are being significantly reduced in Local Authorities and that this provides a very real threat to networks, membership organisations and providers of training opportunities. Earlyarts, who provide a network and training for creative early years practice, are concerned that their intensive training for professionals from the arts, early years and cultural sectors could be impacted upon, which would mean a reduction in the number of children who will receive benefits from the training and resulting creative and cultural experiences. The collaborative spirit within the network will help to turn these challenges into opportunities wherever possible.

The withdrawal of funding from Find Your Talent has caused concern across the sector. Not only will this cut mean that children will have less opportunity to participate over the next couple of years, but we’ve also been told that the cuts to Find Your Talent funding are affecting other programmes where Find Your Talent teams were local resources working as hubs across a range of programmes (often only part funded by Find Your Talent itself). The very fact that one of the first cultural programmes to go is one for children and young people is worrying.

Not surprisingly, we’ve also heard that in some cultural organisations learning budgets are decreasing as a result of large cuts to their overall budgets. Cultural leaders last week warned government to “cut us but don’t kill us” – or face job losses and closure of cultural organisations. The majority seem either unsure of exactly how the cuts will affect their learning programmes or reticent to discuss publicly, so we are some way from understanding the full impact.

And some our champions and advocates for cultural learning are being lost in Local Authorities, as officers responsible for cultural and creative practice are leaving their authorities due to pay freezes and their positions aren’t being filled. There is a fear that their advocacy role with housing, environment, education, planning and other colleagues, enabling them to understand how culture could be embedded in their programmes, will be lost. This would mean less opportunity for children to participate in culture via the wide breadth of community programmes they offered.

It has been expressed that the “haste and crudeness” of the current round of cuts, alongside the seeming lack of analysis about how public funding can best be used to support the cultural infrastructure, is a major concern. As is the apparent lack of learning from existing programmes such as Find Your Talent, which should still inform the future even if those same programmes are not funded going forward. A more strategic approach is called for “that starts from scratch to imagine new systems and structures, not one that blindly hacks at the old.”

Cultural learning is at less risk in those schools and cultural organisations that have cultural learning at their heart. But the biggest losers could be the children who are involved in those where cultural learning is at the fringe, still seen as an add-on and not fully valued. The risk here is less coherence and equality of access than we have had, which is the very opposite of what we are all trying to achieve.

Over the next few months, we’d like to understand more about how cuts to funding or changes in policy are directly affecting cultural learning in your organisation, school or Local Authority. Tell us by commenting below or more confidentially send an email to info@culturallearningalliance.org.uk Or join our LinkedIn network and add to the discussion.

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