Policy and Practice round-up October 2018

29 October 2018

This month we bring you news of the RSC/Tate Time to Listen report on the impact of arts-rich schools; a House of Lords debate on music education; a £5m fund for youth performance networks; the Pisa 2021 test on creative thinking; a Frieze magazine article on the ‘extinction’ of arts in schools; a STEAM report from US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and a DASER STEAM event.

Time to Listen report on the impact of arts rich schools

Tale (Tracking Arts Engagement and Learning) is a three-year research project investigating arts education in high schools in England from 2015 to 2018. Its findings were published in the Time to Listen report on 15 October. The report, funded by Arts Council England, has a refreshing focus on the voices of young people and what they want and receive from studying the arts.

The project partners – RSC, Tate and the University of Nottingham – worked across 30 schools with 63 teachers and 6,000 students. The report sets out the impact on students of arts-rich schools, what actions create these schools and the barriers to this happening. It contains recommendations for government and guidance for schools and arts organisations.  

Higher arts participation rates in arts rich schools

The level of participation in the arts of young people in the 30 schools was studied via surveys and was compared with those reported in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Taking Part survey.

Young people in these 30 arts-rich schools had much higher participation rates in the arts than those in the Taking Part survey. For example 72% of students in the survey said they painted or drew compared to 47% in the Taking Part survey; for playing a musical instrument it was 55% compared to 29%; and for performing in a play 43% to 19%. (See the full figures in the report.)

‘The implication of these comparative findings is that attending an arts and culture rich school brings the wider benefit of supporting all young people to be active cultural citizens, regardless of whether they choose to continue studying arts subjects.’

The survey also looked at levels of involvement and found:

  • Males make up 78% of the least involved group
  • White British (66%), Asian British Bangladeshi (77%) and Asian British Pakistani (64%) are the least involved ethnic groups
  • For a significant proportion of students (36%), school is where almost all their arts engagement takes place.

Why studying the arts is important to young people

When asking young people studying the arts why it was important to them, six themes emerged:

  • They have more sense of agency and independence in arts lessons than in other lessons. They feel more free
  • They like the fact that there is no right or wrong in the arts
  • Arts lessons help them build self-belief and confidence
  • The arts produce a sense of well-being; they are a valve for releasing pressure
  • They think that studying the arts is demanding and they have to work hard
  • They think arts teachers are a bit different

What defines an arts-rich school

The research looked at what defined arts-rich schools and found the following key factors in common across the schools studied:

  • The school sees arts and cultural education as a crucial component of the compulsory curriculum
  • The school offers a wide range of arts subjects at all key stages
  • The school sees the arts and cultural education as integral to its identity
  • Arts are integrated into the organisational and management structures
  • The school ensures that all students can participate in cultural activities and arts learning
  • The school engages in arts and cultural learning more widely.

The report breaks down what the above looks like in practice with example actions.

How cultural organisations can support arts rich schools

The report also asked how arts and cultural organisations can work effectively with teachers and distilled three principles of practice for arts and cultural organisations:

  1. The importance of investing in teachers a sustainable source of development and change in schools
  2. The importance of building strong mutual and inclusive partnerships that recognise each other’s priorities
  3. The importance of recognising the school’s community and working to enhance cultural citizenship through promoting local resources and interests

You can download the summary and background report from the Tale website.


House of Lords debate on music education

On 18 October a debate on music education was held in the House of Lords. Instigated by Lord Black of Brentwood, a Conservative peer.

Lord Black opened the debate saying: ‘Instead of music being a fundamental right of all children, it is rapidly becoming the preserve of the privileged few at independent schools as it dies out in the state sector. As I hope that this debate will show, music in this country is now facing an existential crisis, which only urgent, radical action from the Government will be able to reverse.’

The issue of arts education becoming the preserve of the wealthy was a recurring theme in the speeches, as was the importance of music – and arts education more widely – to the future economic prosperity of the UK. Many speakers spoke of the excellent provision in the independent sector and compared it very unfavourably with that in the state sector, lamenting the fact that access to provision was becoming dependent on parent’s, or grandparents’, ability to pay for lessons. 

The quality of teacher training and of music provision in schools was also raised as an issue by Lord Aberdare and Baroness Bloomfield, with the Baroness saying:

‘Sadly, it is not just the provision of music education that is in decline; it is also the quality of that provision. There have been poor levels of investment in teacher training for musicians for years—talented musicians do not automatically make inspirational teachers.’

It was pleasing to see our data and evidence quoted by a number of peers, including Lord Black and Baroness Bloomfield, and some of our key asks were mentioned in speeches, such as asking Ofsted not to judge schools as outstanding without offering a broad and balanced curriculum including arts and culture, and the Arts and Culture Primary Premium.

The debate was notable for the number of Conservative peers taking the government to task for allowing the decline in music provision, and in the range of recommendations and specific asks made by peers. As well as some of our key asks, Lord Clement-Jones called for a number of actions and interestingly said:

‘… we need a proper assessment of the skills that we need for the future. The Department for Education should conduct a proper audit of the skills and education needed as part of the industrial strategy.’

A number of peers pushed for information and a commitment from government that the National Plan for Music Education would continue beyond 2020, when it currently ends.

You can read the full debate on Hansard.


£5m for youth performance networks

Expressions of interest due by 22 November.

At the Conservative Party Conference Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced £5m to fund five youth performance networks.

Wright wants the scheme to ‘bring arts organisations and schools together to teach practical performance skills both on and off stage, including drama, dance, art, creative writing, lighting, sound and set design.’ The networks will also focus on giving ‘children the opportunity to perform new works by up and coming writers.’

Administered by Arts Council England (ACE), Local Cultural Education Partnerships will be able to bid for one million pounds to run one of the five networks over three years. There will be one partnership in the North, Midlands, South West, South East and London. Priority will be given to places where young people do not have opportunities to take part in performance. Each programme needs to reach 2,000 children over three years.

Opening the fund ACE said:

‘Local Cultural Education Partnerships are invited to apply for £1 million to design and deliver a programme of engagement reaching over 2,000 children across three academic years, providing extra-curricular activity both in school and community settings.’

Expressions of interest need to be submitted by noon on 22 November. Read more about the fund and the application guidance on ACE’s website.


2021 Pisa Innovative Domain Creative Thinking test

Writing in Arts Professional Bill Lucas from Winchester University reports on the detailed thinking behind the Pisa 2021 Innovative Domain test on creative thinking, including the evidence base on how creativity can be taught:

‘Working with schools across the world we are now able to show how certain kinds of teaching and learning are likely to foster creativity. These include the use of case studies, problem-based learning, an approach known as philosophy for children, role play, games, deep questions to which there are no easy answers, authentic tasks, peer teaching, self-managed projects and enquiry-led teaching.’

In the article Lucas references CLA evidence on the decline of access to arts in schools and the role of the arts in developing creative thinking, concluding with a call to arms:

‘Whatever your role in schools, whether an arts professional or a parent or both, I strongly urge you to bang the drum for creative learning and for the arts in any school to which you are connected.’

Read the full article in Arts Professional.


Frieze magazine: Art in Schools Faces Extinction: How Can We Fix the Crisis?

On 8 October Frieze magazine published an article entitled Art in Schools Faces Extinction: How Can We Fix the Crisis? as a result of an interview with Andria Zafirakou, winner of the 2018 Global Teacher Prize and an Art & Design teacher, and with our own Sam Cairns, one of our Co-Directors. The article gives an in-depth exploration of the  current crisis for arts subjects in schools and the landscape schools are operating in.  


STEAM report from US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine

In June the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine published The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same Tree, about the value of integrating STEM subjects with the arts and humanities, known as STEAM. The book title comes from an Einstein quote:

‘... all religions, arts, and sciences are branches from the same tree.’

The book looks at the evidence base on the value of STEAM in higher education and concludes: ‘An emerging body of evidence suggests that integration of the arts, humanities, and STEMM [science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine] fields in higher education is associated with positive learning outcomes that may help students enter the workforce, live enriched lives, and become active and informed members of a modern democracy.’

The committee who wrote the book found the evidence on the value of a STEAM approach to students’ future employability so compelling that they recommend higher education institutions should start work on integrating programmes of study without waiting for further evidence.

‘… this committee has concluded that the available evidence is sufficient to urge support for courses and programs that integrate the arts and humanities with STEMM in higher education.’

The book includes a series of recommendations on how to achieve this integration and the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine will be working with HE institutions in the US to implement the actions.


More from the US: DASER STEAM evening

Following on from the publication of Branches of the Same Tree on 18 October DASER, the D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous, held an event, Integration: Art and STEM, that looked at STEAM generally, and included a skit about the new book.

Speakers including Marcia K. McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences, who talked about the importance for 21st century jobs of the integration of STEM and arts and the need to understand the importance of integrated thinking, saying:

‘Unless you connect the humanities and the arts as well as science, engineering and medicine you will not get a workforce that meets the needs of employers.’

If you have an interest in STEAM we heartily recommend watching via livestream (The presentations start 17 minutes in to the livestream), not least for the use of drama to present the book findings – STEAM in action.