Culture and arts in schools: Campaign Update

29 November 2012

Last month we posted on the growing crisis facing arts in schools, and since then there has been a great deal of activity, with educational and cultural leaders speaking up in many different places and forums about the importance of the arts and culture to teaching and learning.

Support for arts and culture in schools

Passionate advocates have included Alistair Spalding of Sadler’s Wells in the Sunday Express, Danny Boyle at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, a group of major design agencies, Judith Mackrell from the Guardian, the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments, Bernice McCabe at the The Prince’s Teaching Institute, Billy Bragg at the John Peel lecture, Tate’s Anna Cutler in the Museum’s Journal, Louise Robinson, president of the Girls' School Association in the Independent, the Rambert and the Whitechapel in the Evening Standard and Estelle Morris in the Guardian.

Political debates and questions

There have also been a number of questions and debates in both the Commons and the House of Lords, with Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller answering this question from Fiona McTaggart:

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab):

We have talked in this Question Time about the contribution of schools to developing sporting activities among children. Schools are also key to developing creativity among children, and Britain leads the world in the creative industries. Will the Secretary of State meet the Secretary of State for Education to discuss the effect of the EBacc plans on creative subjects in the curriculum, and to ensure that creativity is part of our children’s education?

Maria Miller:

The hon. Lady needs to understand that the English baccalaureate has creativity at its heart. It includes English, maths, science, history, geography and languages, and will give students the opportunity to explore the heritage of this country’s literature. Sitting alongside that, the 123 new music hubs that have been established will ensure that creativity is at the heart of our children’s education.

This Lords debate on EBacc, curriculum and the much anticipated Henley National Plan for Cultural Education took place last week. It reveals that the National Plan is currently being drafted and is now scheduled for publication early in the new year.

What the Alliance can do to support this work

In the run up to Christmas and beyond it is absolutely critical that we continue to talk about and champion the place of the arts and culture in schools – and that we continue to gather the most comprehensive evidence of the impact that the EBacc is having on teaching and learning.

If you haven’t already done the 6 things we advocated in our post last month – now is the time to do them. If you have already ticked them off then we have a few more requests:

  • Please do circulate our teacher survey to all the secondary teachers you know. Colleagues throughout government rightly ask us to back up our arguments with robust evidence and this will help us pull it together.
  • Get your children and young people involved in this debate – we would love to hear more about the kinds of education that learners want. Please ask them to get in touch with us.

We have heard some heartening reports of CEOs, Chairs and Governers stepping into this arena as a result of our briefing paper and we know that the Bacc for the Future petition is gathering thousands of signatures. We also know that the letters that we are sending to MPs are making their way through to the Secretary of State for Education, so if you haven’t written yet, do so today.

We are keeping a watching brief on the inclusion of history within the EBacc and the impact this is having on heritage and museum learning - we will keep you updated when the numbers have been crunched.

Responding to the DfE Consultation

The DfE consultation on the future of Key Stage 4 Qualifications is rapidly approaching its deadline of the 10th of December. We know that it's a complex and dense document. In these cases it is important that as many responses as possible are individual (carbon copied submissions are viewed as a campaign) and it is great for the DfE to get as many diverse views as possible - however, we have prepared the following statements which you might be able to incorporate into your response if you find them helpful:

  • The government's current consultation on the reform of Key Stage 4 Qualifications does not include questions about the overall suitability of the English Baccalaureate or the subjects chosen for English Baccalaureate Certificate development. For the English Baccalaureate to provide an effective and rounded education for this age group and give them the best possible chance of success it must be expanded to include a suite of arts and cultural subjects. This suite should include Art and Design, Dance, Design and Technology, Drama, Film, Media and Music with students having to achieve at least one of these as integral part of the EBacc. ICT should be included within the Science suite of subjects to ensure that all children have the right skills and competencies to contribute to the creative and wider economy.
  • Business leaders (including the CBI), Creative Industry leaders (including the Creative Industries Council), cultural leaders (including Darren Henley) and many education leaders have all called for the EBacc to be expanded in this way.
  • Other high-performing education systems include a strong emphasis on the arts. Last year the government's own Expert Panel made a robust case for the statutory inclusion of arts in the National Curriculum, pointing out that of 14 high performing jurisdictions they compared, only four, including England, cease compulsory provision of art and music by the age of 14. Massachusetts (US) and Ontario (Canada) continue compulsory art and music until age 18. The panel recommended the arts as a compulsory part of the curriculum at Key Stage 4. We recommend that this recommendation is adopted and expanded to cover Drama, Dance, Film and Media.
  • It is essential that the National Curriculum is structured to ensure sufficient time for broad and balanced study for every child and young person. We therefore would not support any proposals for the study of the current English Baccalaureate subjects to take up more curriculum time to the detriment of the arts and creative subjects.
  • The consultation does not ask participants to comment the impact that the proposed English Baccalaureate Certificates will have on the qualifications that are developed for other subjects. All arts and cultural subjects are rigorous and have their own associated theoretical and practical knowledge, frameworks, skills, understanding and evaluation. We are calling for fit-for-purpose, gold-standard English Baccalaureate Certificates to be developed for the arts. Provision needs to include appropriate arts qualifications at Key Stage 4. Aspects of the arts and creative subjects cannot be effectively assessed by a single external examination and will need the right kind qualification and assessment to capture young people's progression and learning. These need to be promoted alongside the current EBacc subjects as an equally essential element of the education of young people and they should not be seen in any way to be part of a 'second-tier' of qualifications, or seen as less important than the 'core' subjects. They must have absolute parity.

The Bacc for the Future campaign has also published this template letter response which you might find useful.

As ever, please do get in touch to let us know about any developments or views you have on arts in schools.