Policy and practice round-up April 2012

19 April 2012

This bumper-edition of our policy and practice round-up brings you the new Early Years Foundation Stage, worryingly revised performance indicators from the DCMS, funding opportunities and cuts news, the evaluation of A Night Less Ordinary, a DfE update – including a new consultation on wellbeing – and Ofsted on Music.

Early Years Foundation Stage and Earlyarts

A much slimmer Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for children aged 0-5 has now been launched. The revised curriculum reduces the number of early learning goals from 69 to 17.

Expressive arts and design’ and ‘Understanding the world’ are two specific areas of learning and development which must be addressed, and the document describes them as follows:

Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.

Expressive arts and design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, role-play, and design and technology.

Alongside literacy and mathematics they underpin three prime areas of learning; communication and language, physical development, and personal social and emotional development.

Whilst is heartening to see these cultural learning areas represented and see that they apply to every child, Ruth Churchill Dower, Director of Earlyarts, feels that the framework runs the risk of emphasising assessment of product rather than process. Read her article on the subject in the Guardian here. You can also learn more about Earlyarts and their newly launched National Strategy for Effective Practice by visiting their re-vamped website.

As Nursery World reports, the EYFS has been broadly welcomed by the sector, amid some concerns.

DCMS Performance indicators for National Museums

The Museums Journal has flagged up that DCMS has reduced the number of performance measures it uses to monitor and track the museums it funds. Up until this month museums have been asked to collect data and information relating to their social inclusion and learning work, but six of these measures have now been dropped. Sandy Nairne of the National Portrait Gallery is quoted saying that the NPG will continue to collect this information as it is seen as an important tool for planning and understanding impact.

This move by the DCMS does not fit with the recommendation we made to government last Autumn, where we advocated for:

Cultural organisations to be set key performance indicators which assess depth of engagement, outcome and impact, and which encourage progression and long term engagement between children and cultural organisations. These KPIs should be indicators for young people’s achievement.

It is critical that this relaxation of monitoring does not lead to a de-emphasis on cultural learning and outreach. We will be making this case in our official response to the Henley Review of Cultural Education, which we will share with you soon.

Funding and cuts

We were interested to hear Michael Gove at the launch of the Henley Review say he would like to see more cultural organisations applying to the Education Endowment Foundation The next application deadline is the 1st of June. Grants must be for a minimum of £50,000 a year and reach at least 100 pupils. The Foundation aims to fund replicable projects that test ways to tackle educational disadvantage. We'd love to hear about any applications that our signatories submit to the foundation.

At the smaller end of the funding spectrum the Heritage Lottery Fund has launched All Our Stories - a new fund for small heritage projects with grants of £3,000-£10,000 focused on community level activity. Deadline 31st July for projects starting October 2012.

Congratulations to colleagues at Musical Futures – The Paul Hamlyn Foundation has agreed to extend funding for the programme until July 2013.

Last month Arts Council England announced 26 organisations that have been successful in their stage one applications for capital funding.

The Museum Association has launched their second annual survey into government and local authority cuts to museum services. Share what is happening in your service and respond by the 30 April here:

The Guardian has also published a recent article flagging up the impact of funding reductions on music lessons and services.

Evaluation of A Life Less Ordinary

Arts Council England and DCMS have published an evaluation of their A Night Less Ordinary scheme. A Night Less Ordinary was a pilot scheme to test whether theatre attendance by under 26s could be increased if price was removed as a barrier by offering free theatre tickets to children and young people at more than 200 participating venues throughout England. The scheme was cancelled in the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.

At a glance the programme appears to have made a positive impact, enabling the distribution of 278,000 free tickets to young people who said they would probably not have visited the theatre and paid for a ticket without the scheme.

Department for Education news

If you haven’t yet seen it, the DfE have launched a consultation on Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on Services and Activities to Improve Young People's Wellbeing

The Government has confirmed that it will retain the duty on local authorities to secure sufficient educational and recreational leisure-time activities for the improvement of the wellbeing of 13 to 19 year olds. This duty also requires local authorities to ascertain and take into account young people's views and to publicise information about the local offer of all available provision.

The purpose of this consultation is to gather views on draft guidance for local authorities. The closing date is 25th of May. Do let them know your thoughts, or, if you haven’t got time, send them to us so that we can include them in our response.

If you missed Michael Gove answering Select Committee questions in January this year, then you can read the additional written evidence he has now submitted. Lots of information in here about changes to floor standards, the rationale for the English Baccalaureate, school improvement and work experience.

The BBC reported that Gove also wrote to Ofqual this month asking for universities to be more involved in setting the content and structure of A-levels as he believes they are currently not rigorous enough.

Sarah Teather, Minister for Children and Families, has launched a new £500,000 funding scheme or teaching assistants and support staff working with children with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

Ofsted Music in schools: Wider still, and wider

A new Ofsted report examining music teaching has found wide differences in the quality and quantity of music education in schools across England. One in five of the schools visited were judged inadequate for music.

Ofsted found that in too many music lessons there was insufficient emphasis placed on actually making music, and too much focus on talking or written exercises. The scarcity of good vocal work in secondary schools, where nearly half of those inspected were judged inadequate for singing, and the underuse of music technology across all levels were found to be significant barriers to pupils’ musical progress. For example, insufficient use was made of audio recording to assess and improve pupils’ work.

And finally …

Many congratulations to the RSC for their record-breaking seven Olivier Awards for Matilda the Musical. It was fantastic to see a production which is essentially about the power of the creative imagination – and the power of literature – sweep the board this year. The Director Matthew Warchus’s acceptance speech reinforced the message that it is crucial that schools harness the power of the creative imagination.