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CLA History

Here is a brief summary of the history of the origins and work of CLA. For a full timeline of arts education developments since 1982 see The Arts in Schools Timeline.

Girl Dancing


Clore Duffield Foundation (CDF) – a grant-making foundation supporting arts education – has concerns about support for learning teams in the arts sector and commissions a think piece on the role of arts education across the cultural sector and in the education system more widely.


CDF establishes a Culture & Learning Consortium, chaired by its director, to investigate the arts education landscape, consider the benefits of cultural learning and all aspects of its delivery in the education sector and across the cultural sector.


CDF organises a roadshow of consultation seminars across the UK between February and September, involving teachers, school leaders and arts educators to assess the cultural learning landscape. The Culture & Learning Consortium commissions a Demos consultation paper, inviting responses.


The Culture & Learning Consortium launches a report (Get it: The Power of Cultural Learning) at the Royal Society of Arts with the Children’s Commissioner, setting out the groundwork for a new approach to cultural learning in England, based on the findings of the consultation launch. One of the report’s 10 recommendations is that an independent Cultural Learning Alliance be formed to develop and advocate for a better cultural and educational infrastructure for the effective delivery of cultural learning: an ‘active confederation of cultural and educational stakeholders’. In addition to CDF the report’s supporters and Consortium members are Arts Council England, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Foyle Foundation, Heritage Lottery Fund, MLA, Northern Rock Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation.


CLA is established as an informal alliance to champion a right to arts and culture for every child, chaired by Lord Puttnam, and run from Clore Duffield’s office, led by a small Steering Group. Two part-time co-ordinators were appointed, reporting to the CDF director. CLA publishes its first newsletter in March 2010. CLA is established with a national remit (which it retains) but is gradually compelled to focus on cultural learning in England as other subjects become prioritised through accountability measures introduced by the new government. Other nations do not experience the same challenges. 


CLA publishes ImagineNation: The Case for Cultural Learning, making the case for the value of arts subjects and experiences in children’s lives, together with five Key Research Findings. CLA launches a consultation roadshow reaching 140+ organisations and resulting in 28 recommendations for the Henley Review of Cultural Education. More than 2,000 new members sign up.


CLA compiles data to reveal the impact of the EBacc, and publishes a report on why independent schools value arts and culture, following interviews with the heads of five leading independent schools, including Eton and Wellington. During 2012 CLA critiques the Henley Review of Education and supports the new National Curriculum Review, working on a position paper with the relevant subject associations, teachers and cultural organisations, and hosting roundtables to ensure wide representation. We are concerned at the removal of Drama, Speaking and Listening from the Programme of Study and take this up with DfE officials who ask for evidence, which CLA provides by launching a research survey, presenting the findings to DfE and DCMS colleagues. CLA is also concerned about the likely removal of Dance. CLA is pleased to see a network of Bridge organisations established to support cultural learning work. We reach 9,000 members.


CLA responds to a series of education consultations and – working with the relevant subject associations – continues to fight for drama to remain in the National Curriculum after early drafts remove it. We are successful in this but not in our attempts to have film included. We continue to publish evidence of the impact of the EBacc on arts education, and produce and distribute a second edition of ImagineNation: The Case for Cultural Learning.


We publish our major paper on the proposed content and structure of Arts GCSEs, commissioned by ACE and shared with DfE, Ofqual and Ofsted. CLA is at the forefront of a national drive to influence the move from STEM to STEAM in education. We report on the Welsh government’s decision to implement Professor Dai Smith’s Arts in Education report and create a National Plan for cultural learning. The hours of art teaching and the number of arts teachers falls. CLA prepares for GE2015 and sees the widespread adoption of its recommendation that Ofsted should not judge any school outstanding without evidence of their arts and cultural offer. A member consultation concludes that that the most valuable aspects of CLA’s work are its newsletters, research and evidence reports, and representing the sector to policy makers.


CLA provides support to the DCMS Culture White Paper (due in 2016) by running a children and young people roundtable consultation; makes submissions to the Warwick Commission, many of which were included in its final report, including changes to the EBacc and the recommendation for Ofsted not judging any education setting outstanding without evidence of their arts offer. We continue to brief policy makers and ministers, as well as members of the House of Lords who speak in a debate on the importance of arts education. We continue to report on the impact of the EBacc on the take-up of arts subjects.


CLA submits its response to the EBacc consultation and publishes its in-depth briefings for members. It submits responses to the Education Select Committee’s Purpose of Education call for evidence and publishes new analysis of the state of Arts GCSE entries and arts teaching hours, and the number of arts teachers in schools. It continues to brief members of the House of Lords and compiles a report responding to questions about teaching of the arts in primary schools for the Teaching School Council’s review of Effective Primary Teaching Practice. We provide in-depth analysis and briefings on the Education White Paper, Culture White Paper, and the HE White Paper, whilst working on new Key Research Findings and a new version of ImagineNation.


In January CLA launches its new edition of ImagineNation: the Value of Cultural Learning in the House of Commons, together with its ten new Key Research Findings summarising and highlighting the impact of cultural learning on health, employability and civic engagement. 30 MPs and peers attend the launch, together with 70 young people and around 150 arts and education sector stakeholders. Speakers include ministers, Darcey Bussell, Fiona Shaw, and Caleb Femi. The first CLA Briefing Paper is published – STEAM: why STEM can only take us so far, in partnership with Nesta. Arts GCSE entries continue to fall with numbers down by -28% since 2010 and -9% between 2016 and 2017.


Three further CLA Briefing Papers are published: Employability & Enterprise: Why the arts make us more employable and why the creative industries are our international life-raft (in partnership with The Edge Foundation); The Arts Health & Wellbeing: Why the arts make us happier and healthier (in partnership with Place2Be); The Arts in Schools: Why the arts matter in our education system (in partnership with the Association of School & College Leaders). CLA reviews its governance and recruits members for a new Strategy Group, to oversee its work, and a larger Advisory Panel, comprising established and new members from across the education and cultural sectors. We create two downloadable posters featuring our 10 Key Research Findings in response to demand from our members. We work to provide briefings for senior figures on why the Russell Group’s facilitating subjects list (which excludes arts subjects) is problematic for arts subjects, and welcome the launch of the Time to Listen report from the RSC, Tate and Nottingham University, presenting the views of young people on the role of the arts in their lives and education.


Cultural Capital is introduced to the Ofsted inspection framework for schools. CLA’s What is Cultural Capital? blog has more than 20,000 views. Having worked with colleagues to provide briefings on why the Russell Group’s facilitating subjects were problematic for arts subjects, CLA is delighted to see the Group finally scrap them in 2019. DfE quietly changes its linked EBacc advice (DfE had used facilitating subjects as its original rationale for selecting the subjects included in the EBacc). The Durham Commission publishes recommendations on promoting creativity in education in England for children and young people. A fifth Briefing Paper is published, The Arts for Every Child: Why arts education is a social justice issue, in partnership with Paul Hamlyn Foundation. We published our manifesto asks for the December election and are pleased to see both Labour and Conservative manifestos including our ask for an Arts Premium, giving children universal access to quality arts provision. Jacqui O’Hanlon, Director of Education at the RSC (involved since the outset), becomes Chair of the CLA Strategy Group for a two-year term, succeeding Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music.


CLA Advisory Panel meetings move online during the pandemic and increase to every term to hear from expert speakers to inform and debate the most pressing issues. We work to ensure the arts education workforce is championed and supported fairly during the pandemic, running lightning consultation sessions with freelance arts educators, and working behind the scenes on the emergency support from government. We report on the changes to 2020 GCSE and A Level exams; on guidance from the DfE, and guidance on providing Covid-secure arts education. As usual we report on arts take up decline in Arts GCSE and A Level entries and the number of arts teachers and teaching hours in England, as well as on the negative impact of Covid on arts teaching.


Led by mezze eade, CLA’s Special Advisor on representation in the curriculum, CLA convenes a group looking at representation across arts subjects and continues to support the work of Dance, Drama and Film groups. As a direct result of this work by colleagues, Pearson, a major exam board, makes significant changes to its set texts for Drama. We provide policy analysis of Arts Council England’s Let’s Create Delivery Plan and the White Paper on post-16 technical education. As in previous years we report on arts subject entries and the number of arts teachers and teaching hours in England. We highlight new funding streams from DfE: the Recovery Premium and Summer School and Holiday Activities and Food funding available in England. We run an open recruitment process designed to increase the diversity and range of our community and the group grows to 70+ members. Advisory Panel speakers include shadow ministers, the Chair of Arts Council England, and Andreas Schleicher, head of the OECD Directorate of Education and Skills.


Jacqui O’Hanlon steps down as Chair and hands over to Derri Burdon (Curious Minds CEO) and Sally Bacon (CLA founder and former Director of the Clore Duffield Foundation) as Co-Chairs. A sixth Briefing Paper is published online, Early Years & the Arts (in partnership with the Centre for Research in Early Childhood). A third Co-Director is briefly brought on board on a short-term contract to support communications. The part-time co-directors stand down and are thanked for a decade of work. Baz Ramaiah is appointed CLA Head of Policy, alongside a Communications Lead (both on an interim basis) with Hanna Lambert providing administration support. A new strategy is developed by the Strategy Group and backbone funding support is renewed by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.


CLA becomes a charity, having operated as an informal alliance for 13 years, and starts work on developing a new website, new visual identity, new annual Report Card, and new Evidence & Value Narrative Working Group. Following the launch of The Arts in Schools report project (funded by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and supported by A New Direction), it is agreed that CLA will take on all the project assets, including a 40-year Arts in Schools timeline and 24 arts learning case studies. We run our first consensus workshop to consider CLA’s Manifesto Asks and plan a new series of webinars from 2024 to enable to more members to hear from expert speakers and share their work and challenges. CLA continues to report on all aspects of arts and cultural learning and on arts education as a social justice issue, and consults widely through consultation workshops on its Manifesto Asks for the 2024 General Election.


CLA formally relaunches as a charity with its new website, new Strategy Map, new Evidence and Value Narrative Working Group, and a series of new Trustee appointments. It publishes its first annual Report Card and its Manifesto Asks for GE2024 and starts to consider its staffing structure for the future.