CLA response to the Henley Review of Cultural Education

01 May 2012

It has been a few weeks now since the Henley Review of Cultural Education and the government’s response to it were published. Since then we have been talking to colleagues and CLA members, sifting through documents and responses and thinking deeply about the long-term implications of the Review.

As we said in our initial response, there is a great deal to admire in Henley’s report and you can read the nitty-gritty on his recommendations on our website and the government’s subsequent investment and actions in their press release. However, the devil is truly in the detail, and it will be the next steps and follow-up to the Review that really make a difference to the sector.

Today the CLA is publishing its official response. In it we outline some of our suggestions for implementation, as well as our concerns and the critical areas we think have been omitted. The CLA response has been sent through to government ministers and officials and we await their reply with great interest.

Here are the headlines:

Now, more than ever, root and branch investment is needed

The Review and the government’s response to it took months to produce, and the cultural learning landscape has changed, even in that short time, with both resources and key professionals becoming increasingly scarce. We know that Children’s Services has been one of the most deeply affected services in authorities, hit particularly by job losses and a reduction in spending, but that Libraries, Cultural and Heritage services have taken the next largest proportional reduction, followed by Early Years Services and then Sport and Leisure.

Over the same period the last tranches of Creative Partnerships funding were disbursed and will not be replaced, and numbers of teacher training places for cultural and arts subjects have been significantly reduced. The number of young people applying for higher education places in cultural and creative industries has also fallen. There is no longer the same level of provision, participation, expertise or funding underpinning cultural learning in this country as there was prior to 2012.

As a result of the Review the DfE and DCMS have announced plans for significant investment in cultural learning: £15 million of new money for a range of new initiatives. This money will support worthy and interesting projects, but when this investment is viewed within the broader context it is clear that it cannot replace the resources that have already been stripped from the system: education funding is due to drop 13% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2014-15; £10 million was lost from the Museums, Library and Archives remit when it moved to Arts Council England from the MLA; and £7 million from the Booktrust budget between 2010 and 2012. The £15 million also falls into sharp contrast when viewed alongside the £1 billion investment that was recently made into school and community sport.

The government needs to help to grow demand and capacity for Henley’s vision and we believe that his recommendation for a Cultural Champion in each school would be one effective move towards making this happen. However, more than an encouraging statement in response, this recommendation needs on-going funding, training provision and support to enable widespread adoption. We strongly suggest that there is scope for further investment in this area.

Lottery funding and policy making

Cultural learning is strengthened through partnership, shared language and joint thinking and any move towards coherence and dialogue between lottery distributers is to be welcomed. We know that the Henley-proposed Cultural Education Partnership Group has already met a number of times and are looking at ways to communicate and collaborate. However, we do have a number of real concerns about Darren Henley’s vision for this group.

As the National Lottery Good Causes Website states: ‘National Lottery money is given out by 13 independent organisations, each with specialist knowledge of their sectors. All are arms-length from Government and follow strict guidelines when deciding which applications will be successful’.

This independence must be maintained and lottery funders must continue to operate at arms-length from government. Funds should not be used to plug gaps in government spending, nor should they be channelled towards government set priorities as this could set an alarming precedent.

We are also concerned that the group only includes suggested representation from cultural funders. We believe that any new ‘sponsored bodies’ group with the power to set priorities and policy for cultural learning (which is hinted at by the Review) should reach beyond funders and include representation from the full range of education, learning, cultural and informal sectors. It should also include and act on the views and opinions of children and young people themselves.

The National Plan is critical

As we said in our last post, the Henley Review sets out a vision, not a strategy, and it is up to the government now to put together a plan that helps the sector to join-up and support children, young people, cultural professionals and families.

The National Plan needs to achieve a great deal. It needs to give schools, youth and all other learning settings clear incentives and easy routes to embedding cultural learning into their offer. It must set out the core minimums that every child is entitled to, must make it clear how cultural organisations and professionals can support and deliver the core minimum, and must outline the resources and infrastructure that can be used to do it. The corresponding National Plan for Music Education did this very neatly and anything less than an equivalent document and serious consideration will create an unwelcome hierarchy and imbalance between cultural forms.

The government sent a very clear remit to Darren Henley and asked him to focus on schools. As a result, both the Henley report, and the government’s response to it, lack any explicit reference to the full range of professionals and settings which work with children and young people and their families, parents and carers. Particularly notable by their absence are Early Years settings and Youth Services. Since submitting our official document we have also been in touch with colleagues from the Library sector who feel strongly that though they are named in the Review, none of the £15million has been allocated to support their on-going delivery and involvement.

The professionals working in Bridge Organisations are already starting to do some great and very valuable work supporting the sector. However, unlike the proposed Music Hubs, which will serve every local authority, Bridge Organisations are regional, and it is unclear whether they will have the reach and resource to engage with or signpost every school, setting, parent, cultural practitioner or young person needing their support. There are over 25,000 schools in England and it is critical that all are engaged if a true ‘national ambition’ is to be achieved.

We look forward to learning more about who is on the task-group to develop the National Plan, and to seeing a timescale and publication date.

Policy making must join-up beyond this Review

Over the last year there have been numerous changes and revisions to education and cultural policy and we believe that it is important for the government to recognise that a number of recent decisions and changes will deeply affect the teaching and learning of arts and cultural subjects in schools. They include:

  • The introduction of the English Baccalaureate – which places emphasis and value on non-arts disciplines
  • A significant reduction of the numbers of PGCE places for teachers in cultural disciplines
  • The classification of larger vocational qualifications as equivalent to only one GCSE (these qualifications are valued by industry but take up more curriculum time than a single GCSE, there is therefore a distinct possibility that they will be squeezed out)
  • A marked reductions in arts and humanities courses in higher education, which are certain to reduce both progression and interest in careers in the arts and creative industries

We also learned from the Museums Journal that the DCMS has removed the requirement for National Museums to report on outreach and diversity – this is in direct contravention to the recommendations the CLA made to the Review.

For Henley’s vision for a national ambition to become a reality the National Plan must influence and drive broader cultural and educational change and the decisions outlined above should be revisited and evaluated in the light of the Review of Cultural Education. The on-going National Curriculum Review must also embrace Henley’s ambitions and include robust and rigorous provision for the teaching and learning of art, craft, dance, design, drama, film, literature, media and music.

What next?

The CLA is a time-limited Alliance. We have always felt that we should be operating as a collective in order to help and support the sector, to share information and to champion and raise the profile of cultural learning in this current climate, but we are very aware that we should not become a new or permanent bureaucratic organisation.

With this in mind we had originally planned to start winding up the CLA in March 2012. However, in light of the current climate, the on-going National Curriculum Review and the imminent implementation of the Henley Review, the Steering Group has suggested that we remain in operation for a further 12 months. We will be using this time to continue to champion cultural learning in all its forms. Let us know how we can champion you and your practice and if you still haven’t joined the 7,500 members of the CLA, sign up today.