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Latest News and Latest Thinking April 2024

This month we bring you details of a call for evidence from the new Commission on the Future of Oracy Education; school accountability news regarding Progress 8; news of yet more erosion of creative arts courses at England’s universities; interesting information about the longitudinal value of early years investment in relation to Sure Start; a new opportunity from One Dance UK for primary-age children; a change in the Department for Education team; and hints of changes to come at CLA!

Evidence submission to the new Oracy Commission

We addressed a push for oracy as part of the Labour Party’s educational agenda for government in our newsletters back in June and July 2023. Now an independent commission has been set up chaired by Geoff Barton and hosted by Voice 21.

The Commission on the Future of Oracy Education in England has been created in response to the growing recognition of the importance of spoken language to children’s learning and life chances, and increasing about the accessibility of oracy education in schools across England. The Commission recognises that all children and young people benefit from an education that builds their language, understanding and confidence to find and use their voice to thrive in their learning and life beyond school, and will shape recommendations to lead to a systemic shift in access to oracy education in England. A final report and recommendations will be published in September 2024.

The Commission launched a public Call for Evidence on 15 March and is seeking a wide and diverse range of perspectives. They have an interest in links between oracy and specific subject outcomes and on links between oracy and mental health. CLA will be submitting evidence about the value of the Expressive Arts for oracy by 15 May. If you have evidence you wish to share with us for our submission, do get in touch with us by 8 May at, or you can submit your own evidence here:

We are particularly interested in oracy as one of many evidenced benefits of studying arts subjects, and will be continuing to consider this and other capacities developed through the arts in the context of our new Evidence and Value Narrative Working Group, which is chaired by Jacqui O’Hanlon MBE. More on this soon.

No replacement for Progress 8 measure for Covid cohorts

In school accountability news, on 18 April the Department for Education confirmed that there will be no replacement for the Progress 8 measure for the two key stage 4 cohorts impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Having explored alternative options, the DfE said there will be no progress measure published for schools in 2024-25 and 2025-26. You can read more about this in TES.

Progress 8 shows the progress a school’s pupils make between primary school and the end of GCSEs. Because primary tests were cancelled due to the pandemic for pupils in Year 6 in the academic years 2019-20 and 2020-21, there is there is no prior KS2 attainment data available to use as a baseline for Progress 8 calculations for students sitting their GCSEs over the next two years.

DfE has said that headline attainment measures will still be published for these cohorts, alongside the most recently available Progress 8 scores, which will be for 2022-23 and 2023-24. For now, the DfE said it intends to return to producing Progress 8 scores in 2026-27.

One of CLA’s four foundational manifesto asks for this year’s general election is a call for complete reform of the school accountability system to ensure it no longer adversely impacts Expressive Arts subjects – abandoning the EBacc and reforming Progress 8 – and changes to student assessment in line with the recommendations of Rethinking Assessment. We will be publishing these shortly, having shared draft versions in previous posts.

Further erosion of creative arts courses in the Higher Education sector

The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, has again eroded funding for performing and creative arts courses at England’s universities from 2025 in guidance she has sent to the universities regulator, the Office for Students. Keegan makes clear her aim of supporting ‘strategically important subjects’ which she identifies as those which ‘support the NHS and wider healthcare policy, science, engineering and technology subjects, as well as those for specific labour market needs.’

CLA has long held that the arts are deemed strategically unimportant by the current government and this is made clear in Keegan’s guidance letter which puts yet another squeeze on grant funding for arts courses in HE. Funding for Uni-Connect, which runs programmes to widen access to HE for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is also set to be reduced to a third of its 2020/21 budget. GuildHE and others have criticised the proposals. As the Guardian reports, ‘Keegan’s decision means the top-up funding for creative and performing arts courses will be frozen at £16.7m in 2024-25, the same as this
year, resulting in a real-terms cut due to inflation. In 2020-21 the grant was worth £36m, before it was cut nearly in half by Gavin Williamson as education secretary.’

Keegan’s decision is another step in the erosion of England’s creative talent pipeline. CLA’s manifesto asks assert the need for a new political emphasis on the value of Expressive Arts subjects, because of their evidenced outcomes for children and young people in relation to their lives and future work. We want to see the country’s future economic and industrial strategy aligning with a new and ambitious national education and skills strategy. As part of this we want to see the Expressive Arts subject area being embedded into the foundations of our schooling system in order to meet the needs of all children and young people, as well as to grow the future workforce.

New research reveals the long-term impact of investment in early years support

new report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) reveals that access to a Sure Start centre between birth and five significantly improved the educational achievement of children, with benefits lasting at least until GCSEs (age 16). Children who lived within a short distance of a Sure Start Centre for their first five years performed 0.8 grades better in their GCSEs.

Introduced in 1999, Sure Start was the first large government initiative to provide holistic support to families with children under the age of five in England. The policy introduced a network of local ‘one-stop shops’ which brought together a range of services to support local families in order to enhance the development and life chances of children under the age of five. These services included health services, parenting support, early learning and childcare, and parental employment support.

Over the decade during which it was rolled out, Sure Start became an increasingly important element of the early years policy landscape in England and shifted from an initiative initially targeted at the most disadvantaged areas, to becoming a universal programme. At its peak in 2010–11, the programme received a third of the total early years budget and had a network of close to 3,500 centres throughout the country.

The new study reveals that there were much greater impacts for children from the poorest backgrounds and from Black and minoritized ethnic backgrounds. Effects were six times higher for those eligible for free school meals.

The research reveals the value of early years investment and the ways in which this can play out over a sustained period of time. This longitudinal approach is important for CLA as we continue to consider how early years exposure to arts opportunities can bring value into children’s lives before they start school, and what that may mean for them much later in their education. As our CLA Early Years Briefing Paper reveals, large cohort studies from the UK and Australia demonstrate time and again the positive impact of an arts-rich home learning environment in the early years, and the need to harness the power of the arts to close the disadvantage gap before children reach school. This can be done by committing resources to an arts-filled early years education, and by supporting parents to provide an arts-rich
home learning environment – rather than attempting interventions downstream when the impact and cost to children, families and communities is so much greater.

A new opportunity from One Dance UK: U.Dance First

U.Dance First platforms are performances presenting dance work featuring children and young people from more than one school or group of primary school children aged 5-11, in communities up and down the UK. They place emphasis on providing non-competitive performance opportunities for primary-aged children, helping to address the current lack of specific dance provision and high-quality non-competitive platforms for younger children. During the 2023/24 academic year One Dance UK will be establishing U.Dance First platforms in some regions, before opening applications for platforms more widely in 2024/25.

The events serve as an inspiring introduction to performing in front of a live audience and provide an opportunity for them to share their work with peers in other schools and/or settings, whilst developing knowledge of what dance is. U.Dance First specifically aims to celebrate and champion dance created in school settings; however, the platforms is also open to out of school and community groups.

The exact content and delivery of a U.Dance First platform may vary from event to event. However, each platform must commit to including:
• An allocated technical rehearsal for each performance group
• A full dress rehearsal of the performance for all groups
• At least one ticketed performance (there may be multiple performances across one day or a weekend).

Ideally each U.Dance First event will also include timetabled workshops/classes for young people to participate in. This could be one stand-alone workshop or an entire day of activities, depending on the length of the event. Workshops are likely to be practical but may also focus on advocacy and career-based discussions. One Dance UK want to support both existing and new platforms hosted by partner schools and/or by organisations and are therefore offering a free support package to assist all U.Dance First hosts, consisting of: 

  • Delivery of a CPD session to group leaders, taking place before (online) OR during the event day (live). The CPD session can be selected to meet the needs of group leaders, with a choice of: ‘Bringing out the best in young dancers’; ‘Introduction to primary dance’; and ‘Dance advocacy – creating a strong dance culture in your school’. 
  • In-person support from one of their One Dance UK Dance Ambassadors (Aged 18-25). Their Dance Ambassadors will work in a voluntary capacity for the duration of the event day and could help to prepare the space and set up, register groups, act as runners between pieces and take on other supportive, operational roles. 
  • A tote bag of goodies for the platform host to show their gratitude for their amazing work and entry into a prize draw to win a free One Dance UK membership and a gift bag of One Dance UK merchandise – to be drawn on the day of the event.
  • The chance to feature in the One Dance UK Education bulletin – spotlighting your event and the work of your young people. 
  • Social media promotion of your event from their dedicated comms team. 
  • Certificates for each group performing to celebrate the young people’s participation in the platform.

If you would like to find out more about U.Dance First or register your interest for the 2024/25 academic year please email:

News from DfE – and arts gender pay gap

Theo Clarke, MP for Stafford, has been announced as the new Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Secretary of State for Education. In the announcement, Clarke expressed her excitement to be supporting the Government on the roll out of its expansion of childcare for working parents. She has spoken in parliament on a number of education related issues, including school funding, further education and SEND.

Of particular note for CLA is that Clarke has been actively engaged in promoting female participation in arts and culture, having co-founded the Association of Women in the Arts. It will surely be bad news for the Association, which operates in the visual arts sector – and for the cultural sector more widely – that the gender pay gap in the cultural sector has widened for the second consecutive year, as latest figures have revealed. Statistics published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport show that as of April 2023, there was a gender pay gap of 15.2% in the cultural sector, meaning that for every £1 earned by men, women were paid £0.85. It is the second successive year in which the gender pay gap in the cultural
sector has increased, making it now greater than the overall UK gender pay gap of 14.2% for 2023.

All change at CLA!

We are about to announce major new changes at CLA, including a brand new annual publication and a whole new website – look out for a special one-off edition of our newsletter very soon!