DfE confirms ongoing investment into cultural education

22 November 2016

It was great to hear on the 18 November that the Department for Education has confirmed £300m investment into arts education initiatives over the next four years.

You can read the annoucement on the DfE website.

From the press release on the DfE website it seems clear that the funds are going to support the suite of programmes that were announced at the launch of the Cultural Education Plan back in 2013. These were last confirmed in January 2015 when Nicky Morgan announced £109m to support them (we blogged about it), and they include the Music and Dance Scheme, In Harmony, and Heritage Schools.

The majority of the funding will continue to go to the Music Education Hubs, and it is worth remembering that this was historically the Standards Fund – money that went directly to local authorities to support music teaching in schools. When the National Plan for Music Education was published the money was transferred to Arts Council England and was broadened to include some smaller initiatives from other artforms.

The DfE is claiming that this £300m is an uplift in funding for arts education (up from £271m over the last four years). We will need to comb through the fine detail of the announcement to trace exactly where this investment is going. However, it is certainly a great achievement in the current climate for this investment to be maintained and secured and we offer our congratulations to everyone who has been lobbying for this – particularly Arts Council England.

What’s new and noteworthy?

It is important to note that the government’s announcement on these funds includes an explicit reference to its new Social Mobility Package, as announced by the Education Secretary in October.

Justine Greening said that six areas (West Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough, Derby and Oldham), will receive £60m to address the biggest social mobility challenges they face. These new ‘opportunity areas’ will see local partnerships formed with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities to ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. They will also be given prioritised access to a wider support package helping young people from nursery right through to starting work, which includes a teaching and leadership innovation fund worth £75m over three years, focused on supporting teachers and school leaders in areas that are challenging to develop.

It’s not yet clear how the cultural education fund will be linked to this initiative, but the two have been clearly linked in press release.

Local authority funds continue to drop & arts continue to decline in schools

This funding and the resulting provision are critical elements of the cultural learning ecology, but we have to look the wider picture when assessing the health of the sector. As has been widely reported, school arts provision is on a sharp decline, as is funding for the sector from local authorities. Earlier this month Arts Development UK reported that:

‘The total estimated spend in England and Wales on arts services for 2016/17 is projected to fall to £174,687,777: a reduction of £26 million (13%) on 2015/16.’ 


You can read about the 18 November announcement on the BBC website, this short statement by Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, in the Telegraph and in The Stage