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Latest News and Latest Thinking June 2024

We have a bumper news edition this month! We bring you our manifesto asks now that we are heading into a July general election; the winners of the Northern Cultural Education Awards; new reports on working class representation in the creative industries and the role of the sector as an economic powerhouse; why children’s social and emotional development – supported by Expressive Arts subjects – is important in countering violence; the loss of teaching assistant posts and why this matters for arts subjects; an update on what’s happening with music hubs and criticism of the changes; and a new report commissioned by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the National Citizenship Service on enrichment through youth provision.

Heading into the 4 July election

Now that the general election has finally been called for 4 July, we would urge you take a look at our manifesto asks, which we published on 14 May, and also at our more detailed version, to be clear about the changes we think will start to make a difference in our sector. The manifesto asks are also set out in our new 2024 Report Card. Do share our manifesto asks and Report Card widely, and tag CLA in your posts. You can access all the links to do so below.

We await publication of the party manifestos and look forward to commenting on these, as well as on what we already know of party plans for the arts and education. Look out for our special GE2024 newsletter edition soon.

In advance of the election being called, our manifesto asks had already been shared with the current government, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education (Bridget Phillipson) and the Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Thangam Debbonaire), as well as other politicians, and we are looking forward to pursuing a dialogue with the two government departments when the next administration is in office.

Northern Cultural Education Award-winners announced

On 24May, more than 300 people from across the North of England gathered in Wigan to celebrate the skill and dedication of the region’s cultural education workforce – the teachers, artists, creative practitioners, youth and social workers, health and wellbeing specialists and community volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure that children and young people get to experience the richness and power of arts and culture where they live. 

Hosted by creative education charity Curious Minds, the biennial event aims to shine a light on best practice, innovation and activism in the field of creative and cultural education, wherever it is happening across the North of England. 

More than 150 individuals and organisations were nominated and the quality was extremely high. The winners were selected by panels of sector experts across eight categories

  • The Innovation and Leadership in Education Awarda trailblazing school or education setting which has embedded the arts, creativity and culture to deliver transformational outcomes for pupils, staff and/or community. Winner: The Hollins High School
  • The Inspirational Local Partnership Award to recognise the best in cross-sector partnership working. This award celebrates a group of organisations that has worked collectively to improve access to arts, culture and creativity for children and young people in their area. Winner: darts (Doncaster Community Arts), Cast Theatre and City of Doncaster Council’s Early Years Inclusion Team. Highly Commended:  Ellesmere Port Cultural Learning Exchange
  • The One to Watch Awardfocusing on the next generation of leaders in cultural education. This award will recognise someone taking their first steps into a career that champions high-quality arts and culture for children and young people. Winner: Toni-Louise Carter (in memory of Eleanor Chapman)
  • The Hearts and Minds Awarda project that has used targeted creative or cultural activity to positively impact children and young people’s health and wellbeing. Winner: Blackpool Grand Theatre
  • The Young Arts Activism Award celebrating an individual or group of young people who have led creative action to drive a difference in the world around them. Winner: Stand Out Young Producers (via Blaze Arts)
  • The ‘Fearless Freelancer’ Grassroots Awardrecognising an individual committed to working creatively with children and young people despite the socio-economic challenges inherent in a freelance career. Winner: Polly Ives
  • The ‘Small But Mighty’ Grassroots Award recognising a small grassroots organisation whose work within the community it serves has contributed to the cultural and creative lives of children and families. Winner: OmniMusic. Highly Commended: Unity Arts
  • The Changemaker Awardto celebrate the lifetime achievements of an individual whose work, over many years, has made a significant positive change to the field of arts and culture by, with and for children and young people. Awarded to: Paul Collard (in memory of Pauline Tambling)

Meanwhile, Birmingham Arts School will be hosting their BAS Celebration Event awards ceremony on the evening of 27 June at Midlands Arts Centre. Nominations have been received across ten diverse categories to spotlight the remarkable arts engagement between schools and cultural learning providers across Birmingham. 

Working class representation in the creative industries is at the lowest level in a decade

New research conducted by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre has shown that working class representation in the creative industries is at the lowest level in a decade. It reveals that only 8% of creatives in TV and film are from working class backgrounds, whereas 60% are from middle- and upper-class backgrounds. Most of these jobs are based in London, which presents further barriers to working class participation.

In response, the Equity Class Network said: “This research reveals the scandalous lack of opportunities for working class creatives in film and TV. We cannot allow a situation where the creative arts are dominated by the privileged and wealthy. We are witnessing a lost generation of working class voices and talent. This situation stems from a crisis in arts education and years of underfunding of the arts … To begin to address this we need a significant increase in funding for arts education, more specialist teachers in the arts and promotion of arts education organisations which support schools.”

Our 2024 Report Card examines the ‘enrichment gap’ which means that children from wealthier families and independent school pupils have much greater access to arts experiences and opportunities, in and out of school. As we say in the Report Card, higher salaries allow independent schools to pull in teaching staff (but also theatre managers and technicians) with extensive industry credentials (CIPEC, 2021). The CIPEC study looked at the CVs of arts staff in independent schools and found the National Theatre and West End among previous employers, with a large volume of film and TV credits. This closer relationship to industry gives independent school pupils access to social networks and specialised teaching that give them a better chance of professional success in the creative industries. This two-tier system is why arts education is a social justice issue, and why our manifesto asks set out the ways in which we can start to build and inclusive, arts-rich education for every child.

A new report on the role of the creative industries as an economic powerhouse

A new report by Erskine Analysis, with University of the Arts London, highlights the critical role of the UK’s creative industries as an economic powerhouse. Between 2010 and 2019 (pre-pandemic) the creative sector grew 60% faster than the wider economy. However, the report also identifies challenges that threaten the UK’s global leadership in the sector. Despite leading in every sub-sector, the report warns that the UK’s global position is under threat. Emerging data and industry insights suggest a need for strategic action to ensure continued growth and solidify the creative industries’ role in supporting the UK’s soft power and foreign policy goals.

We would argue that one factor important for the growth of the creative industries is bolstering the role of Expressive Arts subjects in our education system. Our 2024 Report Card highlights the decline in take up of these subjects, including into the Higher Education sector. If the UK wants to solidify its soft power advantage, then government policy needs to shift from seeing arts subjects as strategically unimportant, to understanding their crucial role in the creative industries pipeline. Only then will we be able to create the opportunities needed to build a creative workforce across all sectors, and a trained and diverse workforce for a thriving cultural and creative industries sector. The creative talent pipeline starts in schools, including in primary. As we say in our manifesto asks, the country’s investment areas and industrial strategy should align with a new and ambitious national education and skills strategy, with the Expressive Arts embedded as a valued and equal curriculum area.

Youth Endowment Fund issues new guidance on education, children and violence

The Youth Endowment Fund has shared its new guidance on education, children, and violence. Developed collaboratively with school, college, and alternative provision (AP) leaders, this guidance combines insights from their Toolkit, existing studies and new research, offering a practical what-works guide for education leaders dedicated to reducing children’s involvement in violence. This guidance is based on primary research, including the evaluation of their violence-prevention programmes and largescale surveys with 7,500 teenage children and 9,500 teachers.

Among the five recommendations is an important recommendation to develop children’s social and emotional skills in order to protect children from violence. This recommendation is reinforced by our article from Saphena Aziz on the ways that the arts can counter hate. The arts are the subject area that best builds children’s empathy and compassion, as well as supporting oracy, critical thinking and resilience. It is a strong endorsement of the importance of bringing Expressive Arts subjects back into schooling as a main curriculum area.

Loss of teaching assistant posts and why this matters for Expressive Arts subjects

The TES reports that nearly three-quarters of leaders in primary schools have had to cut teaching assistant (TA) roles amid financial struggles, a poll conducted in March of this year suggests. The poll, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) on behalf of the Sutton Trust, reveals that 74% of primary school senior leaders reported having to cut TAs this year. In addition, 41% of secondary leaders said their school has had to cut teaching assistant roles.

More than one-third of secondary senior leaders surveyed said they had to cut teaching staff (38 %) as did 31% of primary school leaders. Many respondents reported having used their pupil premium funding to plug the gaps in their budgets. Half of primary school leaders said their school had done this – an increase from 42% last year. Sir Peter Lampl, founder of social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, bemoaned a situation of rapid deterioration, particularly in primary schools, “with half of them having to use funding to plug gaps that should be used for poorer pupils.”

More than a quarter of secondary leaders surveyed also said that funding struggles meant their school had to cut back on GCSE and A-level subject choices. It is hardly surprising that CLA’s new annual Report Card makes clear the number of schools now no longer offering GCSEs in some arts subjects. As the head of ASCL observes, schools are confronted with having to make impossible decisions to reduce their expenditure. We know that TAs are invaluable in supporting Expressive Arts activities in schools.

As TES reports, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the purchasing power of school budgets will be 5% below 2010 levels in 2024 due to cost increases. The IFS says that schools need £700 million more for next year to balance budgets, and would need £3.2 billion to address the loss of purchasing power in their budgets since 2010.

The reports of TA cuts will severely affect SEND provision, for which additional staff support is essential, and at a time when the number of children with special educational needs and disabilities has significantly increased, with a 19 per cent rise between 2018-19 and 2022-23. It is clear that the crisis is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable children.

This staff and budget-cutting context is also disastrous for school trips. Our CLA 2024 Report Card highlights the Sutton Trust statistic that cuts to school trips – including arts trips – more than doubled between 2022 and 2023, and that the figure rises to 68% in schools with the most disadvantaged intakes. The new report highlights that these cuts are particularly severe in primary schools. The situation is particularly bad in some areas of the country: 45% of school leader respondents in the North East were most likely to report having cut teaching staff. More than one in four senior leaders also said they have had to cut sports and extracurricular activities.

What is happening with Music Hubs?

As Schools Week has reported, the government has named 41 organisations that will run a ‘new generation’ of larger music hubs across England, splitting more than £100 million in funding next year. But two hubs still don’t have lead organisations after a re-tendering process that will see the number of hubs reduced from 116 down to 43.

As we have reported in the past, music hubs are groups of schools, councils, community groups, music organisations and others that support education settings to develop ‘high quality’ music education. They were first established in 2012, and the new network will receive £79m in annual funding, and a one-off capital grant of £25m for instruments and technology, shared between lead organisations via a per-pupil formula. The annual funding amount has not changed for several years, and funding is only confirmed until 2025. Ministers announced in 2022 that they would re-tender for lead organisations to run a smaller number of hubs covering larger geographical areas.

On 7 May, Arts Council England, which administers the scheme on the Department for Education’s behalf, announced 41 of the 43 successful bidders, with two in south west London and south Yorkshire still to be confirmed ‘pending outcome of the investment programme.’

Schools minister Damian Hinds said the hubs would ‘ensure every child across the country has the chance to develop a love for music, whether it’s through singing, learning to play an instrument or creating their own music.’ ISM (the Independent Society of Musicians) has raised concerns about the rational for the restructure, and has long been critical of the process. ISM gave evidence to the Education Select Committee, as did Music Mark, which has raised concerns about the rationale for the reduced number of hubs and has been championing the need for more funding, including through joint letters with the ISM

Launch of a new report on education and enrichment

Commissioned by the National Citizenship Service (NCS) and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and published by the Centre for Education and Youth, the report is entitled ‘How partnerships between education and youth sectors can improve the accessibility, quality and impact of enrichment activities.’ Written by our own Baz Ramaiah, the report explores the issues around disparities in young people’s ability to access enrichment activities. It focuses on addressing how the formal education sector and youth sector can collaborate to address the issue of improving young people’s access to high quality enrichment experiences. It identifies five key themes through a literature review:

  1. The local context and the role of intermediary brokerage organisations
  2. Human resources – how education settings can find ways of creating more staff capacity to support this activity
  3. Ways of working and the importance of trust, clarity of process, face-to-face communication and the importance of the length of the partnership
  4. Financial and material resources and the importance of budgets in education settings
  5. Power and equity to involve all stakeholders in co-production of activities

The report features 11 case studies, and references enrichment activities involving the expressive arts and collaborations between the arts sector and education settings.

From a CLA perspective we worry about the arts being too often grouped within the term ‘enrichment’ activities, without the important acknowledgement that they are also core subjects in their own right which should be fully integrated within the school day, but welcome the report’s focus on youth provision including the arts. We would stress the need to assure the quality of arts and cultural activities as part of a wider youth offer, and to ensure that funding is at the right level to enable the close involvement of professional creative educators, artists, and cultural organisations in planning and delivery. The report follows an extremely challenging period for youth services. Cuts in Local Authority funding have eroded youth servicesprovision in the years since 2010, with many youth centres closed and jobs lost; Unison research published in 2019 highlighted the sweeping losses. This is in in comparison to the 2023/4 budget of the government-devised National Citizenship service, which includes almost £50m of grant-in-aid from DCMS.