20 year policy timeline

A whistle-stop tour of cultural education policies, reviews and national initiatives 1999-2022 in England


The National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education authored All our Futures, and comprised a range of key players from across academia, arts, industry and education. It’s also interesting to note the Observers to the Committee: a range of officials from across the Departments of Education and Culture, as well as colleagues from Ofsted and from Qualifications and Teaching Agencies. The report was commissioned jointly by the Secretaries of State from both departments: evidence of positive joined-up thinking that feeds directly into some of the immediate impacts: which included the launch of Youth Music, the investment of £150 million of Standards Fund into local authority music education, and commitments to augment a revised National Curriculum and invest in Teacher Training. Despite this, Sir Ken Robinson has since been clear that he was disappointed in the government’s response to the document. It did not provide the step-change in education that the Committee intended and he felt it was ‘quietly shelved’.


However, with 20 years of hindsight, All Our Futures does seem to have been part of a conversation that generated some major investment into cultural learning. The early 2000s was a time of significant funding and saw the birth of a number of key initiatives: the development of Arts Council’s Artsmark quality mark scheme for schools in 2000; the introduction of free museum admission for all in 2001; the museum Renaissance programme that established hubs in each of the English regions from 2002 with a strong focus on learning; and the Creative Partnerships Programme (CP) which was launched by Arts Council England in 2002. CP was initially designed to be run in 36 ‘areas of deprivation’ and subsequently ran for nearly ten years. In 2003 the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA) launched Inspiring Learning for All, an improvement framework which helped museums to assess quality cultural learning work.


All Our Futures was followed in 2006 by the Roberts Review: Nurturing Creativity in Young People, again, jointly commissioned by the Departments of Education and Culture and making policy recommendations ranging from investment into school buildings through the £6 billion Building Schools for the Future Programme; to Ofsted holding schools accountable for cultural learning; through to Early Years investment. It noted (and praised) the 2005 launch of Arts Council’s Arts Award qualification for children and young people. It also recommended a new Creative and Cultural Education Advisory Board to be set up. 2005 also saw the creation of Creative and Cultural Skills; one of the sector skills councils set up by government to foster a skilled workforce and to develop specialist careers advice (such as that provided by web-portal Creative Choices) and support apprenticeship opportunities for the sector (more than 7,000 at the time of writing this article).

In 2008 the then Labour Government committed to spending £25million on Find Your Talent, a universal cultural offer of five hours a week for every child and young person, tested through ten national pathfinder areas (chosen from 141 applications), and overseen by a new delivery body Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE). By now CCE was also delivering Creative Partnerships, with 25 regional agencies delivering a practitioner development programme and working in different ways with schools:

  • with ‘Schools of Creativity’ (leading hubs of good practice) – through long term partnerships
  • with ‘Change Schools’ – through year-long interventions
  • with ‘Enquiry Schools’ – through short projects

In 2008 the Building Schools for the Future programme required every local authority in receipt of its funds to set up a Local Cultural Stakeholder Group to map assets and create a local cultural vision that could be supported by capital investment. The Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA), using Department for Education funding, ran museums and schools programmes in each of the nine English regions, which included week-long CPD exchange programmes for teachers and museum professionals.

By 2010 there were also a large number of Arts and Music Specialist Schools (good practice hubs) across the country, using significant ring-fenced funding to support their specialism. There were also a couple of smaller, more fleeting initiatives such as the SHINE national schools talent week and A Night Less Ordinary – a free theatre ticket scheme for Young People run by Arts Council England.

In 2009 a number of funding bodies led by the Clore Duffield Foundation came together without government to publish Get It, the Power of Cultural Learning, a document that set out plans to address the ‘patchy’ landscape. It too used the language of entitlement; recommended that all cultural organisations appointed an education expert to their boards; called for leadership, long-term funding of initiatives and better evaluation and research. 2009 was also the first year of the National Art and Design Saturday Club, launched by the Sorrell Foundation.


In 2010 we saw a Coalition Government of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives coming into power. The first Spending Review made significant cuts to DCMS (25%), to Arts Council England (30%) and English Heritage (32%). Funding for Creative Partnerships, Find Your Talent and A Night Less Ordinary was immediately and completely withdrawn. The Film Council and the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment (CABE) were abolished, as was the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, with some functions merged with Arts Council England and some with the National Archives. Funding for local authorities and for schools was dramatically reduced and the ring-fenced funding for specialist schools and the Building Schools for the Future Programme were scrapped. Significant investment was made instead into the Free Schools and Academy programmes and the concept of the English Baccalaureate was first floated.

One of the first acts of the Cultural Learning Alliance was to publish Imagination: the Case for Cultural Learning in 2011, a document that set out definitions, principles and the meta-analysis of key evidence proving the value of cultural learning. It was signed and endorsed by a range of leaders from across the education and cultural sectors and aimed to champion culture in an acknowledged climate of ‘social and economic stress and retrenchment’ – one of the first documents of its kind to do so.

2011 was also the year that Darren Henley (then Managing Director at Classic FM) was jointly commissioned by the Departments of Education and Culture to review Music Education in England. The Review made a number of key recommendations designed to ensure an entitlement: a national offer for all children and young people. He stated clearly that a national plan was needed to tackle patchy provision. The National Plan for Music Education was published in November of the same year. The Plan re-allocated the Standards Fund money – whilst cutting it by 27% –  away from local authorities and to 123 Music Hubs (consortia of providers which bid in to deliver a universal service in their area).

In 2011 Arts Council England published new strategic aims for children and young people and re-imagined its delivery infrastructure in the wake of the cuts to Creative Partnerships and to its core grant. The National Skills Academy, Creative and Cultural became part of the ACE portfolio and the 25 Creative Partnerships delivery organisations became ten Bridge Organisations and were given £10.5m of funding pa, co-funded by the Department of Education. The Bridge organisations were tasked with joining up local and regional provision; providing advice and guidance; signposting, developing quality and evaluation frameworks; contributing to national policy development; championing Artsmark and Arts Award; and working with the Music Education Hubs.

2012 saw both the Olympics (with an associated bump in funding and provision for cultural learning) and the publication of Darren Henley’s second Review: Cultural Education in England, again commissioned by both the DfE and the DCMS. This Review aimed to do for the rest of the cultural sector what had been done for music in the previous year, with a clear checklist of experiences that all children should have at different stages of their development. It too called for Ofsted to develop and share best practice; for there to be a link governor for cultural learning in all schools, and a nominated teacher who could act as a champion and link schools to industry; leadership from household names who would become ‘Cultural Education Ambassadors’; Royal patronage; funding for professional training; resources for Newly Qualified Teachers; Downing Street Medals; an arts pillar in the English Baccalaureate; a ‘Cultural Education Passport’ which would record young people’s cultural activities; and, crucially, a National Plan for Cultural Education.

The government responded to this warmly and promised to set up a new cross-departmental ministerial board and a corresponding group for arms-length bodies (the Cultural Education Partnership Board) and to invest £15m into a number of initiatives, including a National Youth Dance Company, Heritage Schools, National Saturday Clubs, the Passport, the Music and Dance Scheme, and the National Plan. You can read our CLA response at the time here.


The Government waited until the hour of the Wimbledon Final in July 2013 to publish the promised National Plan for Cultural Education, and when it arrived it looked very different to the Music Plan and to that described in the Henley Review. Instead of a plan the document had been retitled: Cultural Education: a summary of programmes and opportunities, it aimed to ‘encourage and liberate’ colleagues to follow its example. The document included no framework for delivery, no further investment and no description of a national infrastructure.

However, the Cultural Education Partnership Group did meet to develop partnership working programmes, with arms-length bodies deciding to concentrate their investment into three pilot localities: Bristol, Great Yarmouth, and Barking & Dagenham. The Cultural Passport scheme of the Henley Review was developed through this work, as was a digital recording tool/platform to support it: ACE Artsbox. The pilots were evaluated in 2015, and were seen as ‘proof of concept’ for Local Cultural Education Partnerships, but the digital platform was passed to Trinity College London to operate as part of its Arts Award support, and was closed in 2018.

In the same week in 2013 that the Henley Review appeared, the new National Curriculum was published, omitting Film, digital, recognition of Drama and Dance as subjects in their own right, and including a new aim: to provide pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge that they need to be educated citizens. [The National Curriculum] introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said; and helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement. There were also significant reforms to the GCSE and secondary school accountability systems with the creation of Progress 8 and Attainment 8.

In 2013 ACE and CCSkills also launched a new qualification for music educators designed to ensure quality of practitioner (this is now delivered by Trinity College). It also worked with the (then) Teaching Agency (now The Teaching Regulation Agency, via a brief life as the National College for Teaching and Leadership) to develop some add-on modules to Initial Teacher Training courses for arts specialists, but it’s not clear where this work ended up after the third agency restructure.

This was also the year that the Paul Hamlyn Foundation funded Circuit; a national youth network for the visual arts, with a £5 million investment. The network ran for four years.

In the run-up to the 2015 general election many organisations and bodies lobbied government and their MPs for cultural education and the CLA produced a Manifesto in 2014 asking for a range of measures, including local cultural learning strategies; a real National Plan; learning trustees for cultural organisations; cultural learning co-ordinators in every school; a stronger line from Ofsted, with no school judged ‘outstanding’ without outstanding arts; the extension of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in schools to STEAM (including Arts); improved teacher training and development; and high-quality industry-endorsed careers advice. We also urged the government to introduce an Arts Premium – ringfenced funding for every primary school to match its pledge for Sport.

Ed Miliband, then the leader of the Labour Party, gave a speech in early 2015 which wholeheartedly embraced the CLA’s recommendations – calling for STEM to STEAM, Oftsed changes and a universal offer for children and young people.

Just before the election in May 2015, the Warwick Commission: Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth was published. This Commission comprised many of the great and good from across the cultural sector, but did not have any formal links to government or to the education sector. It did, however, have a number of key recommendations for cultural learning, including recommendations for Ofsted; a national vision for cultural education; education board members for cultural organisations; Arts in the EBacc; the removal of facilitating subjects; funding for careers and brokerage; and an Arts Premium. It also directly acknowledged financial cuts and declining provision.

Arts Council England’s Cultural Education Challenge was launched at the end of 2015. With this call-out to the sector ACE aimed to inspire colleagues to pool existing resources and make more happen for children and young people. It published a number of tools to help this to happen: a teaching resources database (that appears to have been taken on by the National Foundation of Educational Research); three case studies; a Cultural Education Data Portal that gives a local authority level breakdown of statistics, funding and key players; a set of quality principles to be used as benchmarks; and a set of advice and guidance on cultural education for School Governors (which was felt by the education sector to be more manageable than a mandatory arts governor). The Challenge also launched new Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEPS) – there are now over 100 operating through the country. LCEPs were launched without any core funding, but were envisaged as groups of key cultural education stakeholders who would come together to pool resources, create local strategies and deliver cohesive provision. Regional Bridge Organisations were required to support and enable these local groups.


In 2016 we saw the publication of the first Culture White Paper in 50 years. It introduced a Cultural Citizenship project, aimed at engaging disadvantaged young people in out-of-school activities in three pilot areas (Barking & Dagenham, Liverpool & Blackpool and Birmingham) through a partnership model. This ran for one year 2016-17 and was funded via a £479,700 grant from ACE. The White Paper also pledged government to work with the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) to support schools to use their Pupil Premium for arts and cultural interventions that would raise attainment and other outcomes (this the £1.2million Learning about Culture programme, which is working through five randomised control trials and which is due to report in 2020). It also called for better diversity in the talent pipeline and for a stronger focus on apprenticeships. Critically, this White Paper had no read across the Education White Paper that was published at the same time.

2016 was also the year the National College for Creative and Cultural was set up (now the National College for Creative Industries), offering courses and apprenticeships directly to young people, and the year that the Paul Hamlyn Foundation set up the (ongoing) Teacher Development Fund to support delivery of effective arts-based teaching and learning opportunities in the primary classroom, and to embed learning through the arts in the curriculum. It aims to do this through supporting teachers and school leaders to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, confidence and experience.

In early 2017 the Cultural Learning Alliance revised its key publication ImagineNation to make a stronger statement about the value of the arts and cultural learning against a backdrop of decreasing provision and financial retrenchment. It recruited a number of leaders as signatories and expanded its key evidence findings from five to ten. Since then it has also worked with partners, including Nesta, the Association of School & College Leaders, the Edge Foundation, and Place2Be, to publish a series of Briefing Papers on topics such as STEAM, Arts in Schools and Health and Wellbeing.

In March 2018 the government published the Creative Industries Sector Deal, which included funding for the Creative Industries Federation, CCSkills, and Screen Skills to work together on a two-year creative industry careers programme. In October 2018 the DCMS announced that it would invest £5 million over three years in five Youth Performance Partnerships, to be delivered by Arts Council England. They aim to enable 10,000 young people in areas of disadvantage and low cultural engagement to design their own programme of workshops, events and productions as well as developing backstage and technical skills. They are running currently in Croydon, Salford, Derby, Medway and Plymouth.

2018 also saw the publication of Time to Listen; a joint publication from the University of Nottingham, the Tate and the Royal Shakespeare Company which formulated policy recommendations after direct consultation with young people and teachers. It called for funded, champion teachers; breadth of study at Key Stage 3 and 4; recommendations for Ofsted; an Arts Premium; for the Russell Group to drop its ‘Facilitating Subjects’ measure (subsequently dropped in May 2019); and a national campaign for parents and students on the value of cultural learning.

2019 – 2020

2019 saw the Russell Group of 24 universities scrap its advice to students to choose facilitating subjects for A-levels, and the Department for Education (DfE) quietly change its linked EBacc advice. This was significant as the DfE had been using the existence of the facilitating subjects list as a rationale for picking the subjects included in the EBacc, and for leaving out the arts. The Augar Review into post-18 education was also published, and included significant concerns about the value of studying creative arts degrees, using student’s future earnings as a justification. This methodology was roundly challenged by colleagues in the cultural sector.

We also saw the RSA publish a toolkit for evidence champions to help develop better national practice in evaluating cultural learning outcomes.

In September 2019, Cultural Capital was introduced to the Ofsted inspection framework for schools, meaning Ofsted began to assess schools against this criteria. Colleagues across the arts sector reported increased interest from schools in working with them to deliver the new requirement for all schools to equip ‘pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life’.

In October, The Durham Commission on Creativity and Education set out a new definition of creativity, and made a clear delineation between that and cultural learning. It was set up by Arts Council England and Durham University, was steered by a range of expert Commissioners (including the Chair of the CLA), but did not have any formal links to government. The Commission included a number of recommendations for promoting creativity in education in England for children and young people, including; calls for a National Plan for Cultural Education, the inclusion of arts subjects as standard at Key Stage 3, and the development of the cultural education workforce. It also called for the set-up of a number of school-led Creativity Collaboratives to incubate innovation.

As part of its response Arts Council England developed a digital sharing space ( Creativity Exchange) for information, case-studies, inspiration and research. It also launched Talent 25, a 25-year action research programme in Leicester focussing on early years’ children and their families – beginning to understand the interventions needed to increase opportunities and engagement with creativity at the earliest possible point.

The research of Professor Bill Lucas was a strong driver of the Durham Commission’s thinking, with Bill making a recommendation to the DfE to opt-in to international PISA tests for creative thinking in children and young people. Unfortunately, this was not taken forward.

In December 2019 another General Election was called, with all major parties making manifesto pledges for cultural learning, and both the Conservatives and Labour promising to take forward the CLA recommendation for ring-fenced Arts Premium funding for schools. When the Conservatives were successful in their re-election to government, this became a manifesto commitment.


In January 2020, Arts Council England (ACE) published Let’s Create, its new ten-year strategy: a headline vision, and a set of outcomes and investment principles which will govern its work as the ‘national development agency for creativity and culture’. Children and young people became an integrated priority, stranded across the whole strategy rather than represented as a stand-alone goal. The document includes a number of key development areas including ambitions for; joined-up local cultural education programmes, clearer pathways for jobs, investment into early years and a ‘broad and vital’ curriculum. The language of this strategy is different to that of its predecessor, with ‘the arts’ rolled into ‘culture’ and ‘creativity’ – to express the emphasis on individuals’ personal engagement. However, it does separate itself from the Durham Commission by going on to state: ‘While creativity is present in all areas of life, in this Strategy, we use it specifically to refer to the process of making, producing or participating in ‘culture.’.

In early 2020 the Department of Education re-confirmed its commitment to funding a range of cultural programmes in 2020-21 including Music Hubs and the ACE Bridge network. We also saw the RSA publish its Arts-Rich Schools report, providing case studies from heads and examples of strong strategies and evaluation methods used to support and nurture the arts.


By March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the UK and education settings, schools, cultural organisations, practitioners and families all began to experience seismic change, with lock-down and social-distancing closing organisations, and many colleagues pivoting to online provision, or support for a beleaguered freelance workforce; much of which received little or no financial support. Evidence of a widening wellbeing and attainment gap between children, a burgeoning mental health crisis for young people, and big changes to the awarding of qualifications all came into play. Ofsted reported significant restrictions on arts teaching and the Education and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committees both ran inquiries into the impact of the pandemic. The government published detailed re-opening guidance on what could be delivered at different stages, and on July 5th, it unveiled a £1.57 billion emergency support package of funding for cultural organisations in the pandemic: the Cultural Recovery Fund.

Many organisations offered support in this space, for example, the Clore Duffield Foundation developed the Space for Learning resource to help museums and heritage professionals think through their delivery in COVID-19, and offered a £2.5 million fund to support cultural learning in organisations. Arts Council England funded 1,000s of Let’s Create activity packs, to be sent to children’s homes.

In May 2020, the death of George Floyd in the US catalysed international conversation and action, with many in the cultural learning sector working to respond and dismantle the systemic racism and inequity in our systems and processes.

In July 2020 the DfE announced £1 billion of catch-up funding and support for schools; this despite a call from many in education to focus on the development of a recovery curriculum, rather than framing the pandemic in terms of the learning that had been lost.


At the beginning of 2021, the government published a Skills for Jobs White Paper which set out to reform further education, and which included updates on funding for creative apprenticeships, and the development of the National Careers Service. The DfE also announced further details of the recovery fund for children and young people, and appointed Sir Kevan Collins as Education Recovery Commissioner for England. However, this appointment was short-lived, with Collins resigning in June when his ambitions for significant further investment were rejected by government. A Recovery Premium of £145 per child was announced in October.

A new model music curriculum, developed by industry specialists, was launched by the Department for Education in March, and in April, Arts Council England published its delivery plan for the Let’s Create Strategy. Priorities included; a place-based approach, children’s mental health and wellbeing, and access to high quality careers.

The Durham Commission also published a 2nd Report in April, setting out some of the impacts of COVID-19 on education, and revising some of its recommendations. This was followed later in the year by announcement of funding for 8 successful Creativity Collaboratives.

The Autumn Budget and Spending Review definitively did not include the promised manifesto funding for the Arts Premium, with government citing competing priorities due to the pandemic as its justification for scrapping the scheme. The Review did include some significant funding for Youth Services, with plans for this investment currently under development.

The final report of the RSA Learning About Culture project was published on 1st  November 2021. The research did not find any statistically significant impacts on literacy from the five cultural learning interventions that were tested, and the report noted that: ‘participating in arts-based learning didn’t get in the way of attainment, it just didn’t raise attainment higher than the approaches schools might otherwise have taken.

In the second half of the year the Times Education Commission was set up to develop some innovative ideas for the future of education, with key cultural figures appointed to it. We also saw Artsmark turn 20 years old, with 5,000 schools and 1.9 million children participating in the programme.


The publication of the Levelling Up White Paper at the start of 2022 set out a new set of principles and ambitions for all government departments, a very strong commitment to place-based working .and investment into areas with a historic lack of funding or commitment. The DCMS immediately tasked Arts Council England with prioritising the Levelling Up 109 priority places in the country and redistributing its funding accordingly. This will have a significant effect on the on-going Arts Council Investment Process (which will allocate money to organisations for the next three years). This is also the first investment process for over a decade with no specific allocation for Bridge organisations, or for Local Cultural Education Partnerships, making the future delivery infrastructure for cultural learning currently unclear.

Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child, a new Education White Paper, was launched in March 2022, with a focus on literacy and numeracy, behaviour and attendance, teacher retention and academisation of schools. The White Paper also included the CLA’s recommendation for a Cultural Education Plan, due to be drafted over the next year and launched in 2023.

Still to report


Lizzie Crump, Co-Director, Cultural Learning Alliance. May 2022