Cultural Learning Workforce Survey – first phase results

25 January 2021

At a time of unprecedented stress for the arts and cultural sector, particularly cultural learning freelancers, we want to record the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the workforce and use the information to advocate for better support. To do this we are running a Cultural Learning Workforce Survey three times: Winter 2020-21, April and July 2021. This blog details the results from the December 2020 surveys for freelancers and organisations.

We have had 101 freelancers and 73 organisations fill in the surveys.

While every person’s experience is important, these numbers are currently too low to draw robust conclusions about the Cultural Learning Workforce, and should be taken as indicative of the current situation rather than fully representative.

Please ensure that your experiences are included in the survey – we are still accepting submissions until 15 February for the first round.

As we add more results over the coming months this should allow us to say with more authority how representative of the current situation these results are.


Who responded?

The top four types of organisation that respondents freelance for were:

  • 45% schools
  • 42% theatres
  • 32% museums
  • 32% dance

(Respondents could pick as many types of organisations that applied.)

In response to ‘Which subject or artform do you teach/deliver? (tick all that apply), the top five subjects were:

  • 36% Art & Design
  • 29% Drama/theatre
  • 26% Dance
  • 15% Music
  • 10% History

We asked where the majority of respondents’ work is located:


  • 81% of freelancers said their income substantially decreased March to October 2020 because of Covid-19, compared to 2019
  • 93% reported a fall in income
  • 75% had one or more contracts cancelled because of Covid-19
  • Nearly half (49%) of freelancers had pivoted their offer

Thinking about March to October 2020, compared with the same period last year, which of the following best describes the impact of Covid-19 on your freelancing income (your income from freelancing work delivering cultural learning activities?). Please tick one only.

Impact on colleagues with a disability and those from the global majority

Respondents who identified as disabled were slightly more likely to report that their income has substantially decreased: 83% of those identified as disabled , versus 81% of those who did not identify as disabled.

The survey also bears out our concern that colleagues from the global majority are more likely to be affected by contract or job losses. Only those who identified as White reported their income not being affected, or that it had increased. 

Freelancers leaving cultural learning

Worryingly one in four of the freelancers who responded plan to leave cultural learning freelancing, with only 74% of responders saying they plan to continue freelancing in cultural learning roles over the next six months.


We asked organisations for information about their learning teams in January 2020 and January 2021, and about planned or potential redundancies as well as any cancelled freelance contracts.

Who responded?

We had 76 responses and (when duplicates were removed) we had 73 organisations representing all types of arts organisations from England, Scotland and Wales.


One in five of the arts organisations that responded are considering or have made learning team members redundant.

  • 13% of organisations said learning team redundancies had been confirmed or implemented
  • 7% are currently in consultation on possible learning team redundancies

Freelancer contracts cancelled

Almost three out of five organisations had cancelled freelancer contracts:

  • 86% use freelancers to deliver their service
  • 58% of these organisations had cancelled freelancer contracts as a result of Covid-19.

Fill in the survey

Please fill in the survey and share with your networks. We are keeping the survey open until the first week of February.