News

News from Westminster; General Election, new Ministers and the Queen’s Speech

22 June 2017

Over the last month we’ve had a general election, a newly configured Ministerial team has been announced, and yesterday a Queen’s speech set out the government’s proposed legislative agenda for the next few years. This post sets out the headlines of what this all might mean for cultural learning.

General election

As the Financial Times reports, young people turned out to vote in this election in greater numbers than they have in the last 25 years, increasing their vote share to about 10% according to analysis from Ipsos Mori. It’s great to have a stronger youth voice in our democratic system and hopefully arts and cultural learning colleagues can help to support our young people to continue to make their voices heard about the issues that matter to them.

All the Manifestos from the main parties included serious mention of the arts and culture and children and young people and that is something to celebrated. We must ensure that we continue to keep cultural learning on the agenda for whoever is in government.

A New Ministerial team

As has been widely reported, most of the main players in the Cabinet were re-appointed to their posts including;

RT Hon Karen Bradley MP as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport  
RT Hon Justine Greening MP as Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities
RT Hon Sajid Javid as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
RT Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Department for Education Ministerial team does have a few changes, and the full list of responsibilities for each has not yet been published. It is worth noting that Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP (and long-standing champion of the English Baccalaureate) remains in post as Minister for State for School Standards, and Jo Johnson keeps his brief as Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation. Caroline Dinenage (formerly Early Years Minister and speaker at the launch of our ImagineNation publication), has been moved across to the Department of Work and Pensions as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance. It’s not clear yet who will take over the Early Years brief.

The DCMS team has also seen a shake-up. The RT Hon Matt Hancock MP (who formerly held a brief for arts and culture), will now focus on his new role as Minister of State for Digital, though he will keep responsibility for the Creative Industries. Tracey Crouch MP keeps her remit for Sport, but swaps her remit for Heritage for Civil Society – she’ll also cover the National Lottery.

John Glen MP has been newly appointed to DCMS as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism. This is his first Ministerial post, though he did previously work as a personal private secretary to Phillip Hammond in the Treasury, which might bode well for future funding conversations.

What does this actually mean?

As with every shake-up there are pros and cons to the new configuration. It’s great to have the arts and heritage brought together in the same brief, and, with the addition of tourism, it may help us to make the case for the needs of the arts sector in the Brexit negotiations. However, it is really important that arts sector does not fall out of the Creative Industries conversation. For example, it is critical that both culture and education are included within the creative industries strand of the Industrial Strategy. Arts Professional and the Creative Industries Federation both responded to the reshuffle by expressing concern, with Arts Professional calling it a downgrade for the arts. It’s important that we ensure that this does not prove to be true, particularly by ensuring that we continue to lobby and engage the whole DCMS and DfE teams when making the case for cultural learning.

The Queen’s Speech

Yesterday the Queen attended Parliament to make a speech setting out the legislative agenda for the new government. The speech generally reflects the manifesto promises of the incoming party, but in this case, many of the flagship policies were not mentioned - which probably means that they won’t be implemented in this Parliament.

As expected, the speech focussed mainly on Brexit and the Bills that will be needed to reshape British law as we leave the European Union.

Anything to note for cultural learning?

There is a vision statement for education included in the speech:

‘We want to make sure all children, regardless of where they live or their background, can get a world-class education that unlocks talent and creates opportunity. We want to make Britain the world’s Great Meritocracy: a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talent and their hard work will allow, where advantage is based on merit not privilege.’

 

Both the Grammar Schools policy and the plans to scrap free school meals for primary pupils were absent from the speech this morning. May would need primary legislation to create new Grammars, so it looks very much like this is on the back burner. Controversial plans for progressing the National Funding Formula for schools (a recalculation of the funds that each school receives per-pupil) are to go ahead, as will the plans for the skills agenda, including the plans that are in place for the creation of T-levels. The continuation of the Pupil Premium was confirmed, and the Free school programme is alluded to, as is a veiled mention to further austerity measures:

‘We know that how schools use their money is also important in delivering the best outcomes for pupils. The Government has produced tools, information and guidance to support improved financial health and efficiency in schools.’

 

The speech announces that there will be a new green paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health.

‘This will be focused on helping our youngest and most vulnerable members of society receive the best start in life. This will make sure best practice is being used consistently and will help to accelerate improvements across all services so that children and young people get the right mix of prevention and specialist support’

 

The Industrial strategy was mentioned by name by the Queen, so it looks very much like that will go ahead – and it’s important that the sector deal for the Creative Industries is included as a part of that. The only time the word ‘creative’ is mentioned within the substance of the speech is within the description of the Digital Charter Bill where the government sets out ‘proposals for a new digital charter to be brought forward to ensure that the United Kingdom is the safest place to be online’.

It’s important to note that no agreement has yet been made with the DUP to pass these Bills. It’s also good to remember that quite a lot of the changes or interventions that the government might choose to make in terms of education or culture might not require a Bill, and so could still be taken forward.

Looking at the priorities that are set out; the Industrial Strategy, mental health, and the skills agenda, it feels like all of the asks in our CLA Manifesto are still relevant. It will be up to all of us make the case for truly outstanding schools with outstanding arts provision, STEAM, an arts and wellbeing premium, a strong talent pipeline and continued funding for cultural learning. Obviously this will be difficult. This Queen’s speech proves beyond all doubt that we are entering a period where almost all of the available political capacity and engagement will be focussed on Brexit, and we will need to find ways to make our case in this unprecedentedly challenging environment. We believe that we will need cultural learning more than ever.

Invite your new MP to tea!

With the dust settling on the general election, now is a good time to invite your MP to visit to see a performance or exhibition at your school or organisation. MPs tell us it is great to hear from arts organisations in their constituencies and often it is the first time anyone has spoken to them about the importance of cultural learning. You can use the topics in ImagineNation: the value of cultural learning or our Key Research Findings if you are not sure what to talk about.

Look up your MP