Policy and practice round-up August 2018

23 August 2018

This month we bring you news of Damian Hinds Education Secretary’s social mobility speech; a report looking at practices that cause the ‘London effect’; a Curriculum Fund update; ASCL’s survey showing a lack of funding forcing cuts to arts subjects at A Level; a new collaborative Centre for Cultural Value; and the Group for Education in Museums 70th anniversary conference.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds: Social mobility speech

On 31 July Damian Hinds made a speech to the Resolution Foundation about Social Mobility. He shared ‘Seven Key Truths’ about social mobility that the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility developed and which he said are guiding his work as Education Secretary.

Hinds touched on the need to develop character and resilience and highlighted the role played by extra-curricular activities, including music, in developing them. He also announced that:

Dame Martina and the Social Mobility Commission will be undertaking a major piece of research work on how extracurricular activities, networks and the development of so-called soft skills can influence social mobility.’

Adding ‘I look forward to using the results of this research to take further steps on behalf of those children who aren’t getting the rich range of cultural experiences they need.’

We welcome the recognition of the need for children to have a rich range of cultural experiences. Our evidence base suggests that soft skills developed by participation in the arts help improve outcomes for children and improves social mobility, also increasing employability and making children from disadvantaged backgrounds more likely to go to university.

We believe that the lack of access for some children to arts and culture is a social justice issue, holding children back from reaching their full potential.

Hinds also talked about the role of children’s home learning environments in helping them to achieve, and the need to focus on early years and supporting ‘busy parents to help their children’s language and literacy.’ He announced a summit this autumn involving the National Literacy Trust, the BBC and Public Health England to find solutions, and a competition to identify high quality apps to improve language and literacy, as well as £30 million new capital funding for schools to create new nursery places, and £20 million for new early years training.

Report looking at practices that cause the ‘London effect’

A new report from the Department for Education: School cultures and practices: supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils published on 8 August has looked at features of schools where they are narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, and focuses on what has become known as the ‘London effect’: the improved performance of disadvantaged pupils in London schools since the mid-1990s.

The report found practices such as a focus on aspirations and expectations, a shared vision from staff, and parental engagement are common across higher performing schools. These schools also provided subsidised trips and extra-curricular activities for disadvantaged pupils, and frequently offered a wider range of activities compared to lower performing schools.

The report picks up on the impact of funding cuts on extra-curricular activities for disadvantaged pupils, which often include arts subjects.

'London schools in particular highlighted concerns that changes to funding were impacting on their ability to provide support (usually trips and activities) for disadvantaged pupils. Meanwhile high-performing secondary schools, both in London and outside the capital, reported that budget cuts impacted on staff and extra-curricular activities.'

A range of reports from the Sutton Trust and others have highlighted the impact of trips and extra-curricular activities on improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

Curriculum fund update

In January 2018 the government announced a £7.7m Curriculum Fund to create high quality resources and reduce the workload burden associated with curriculum planning.

On 26 July the Department for Education announced pilots that will test how to support the development of high-quality, knowledge-rich curriculum programmes – ‘whole package’ resources that cover a subject for a key stage, and include everything that a teacher will need to teach, from the long term plan, to assessment questions, to teacher guides (and CPD), to individual lesson resources. The findings of this pilot will inform future policy and the funding of new programmes.

Schools can apply for grants to pilot curriculum programmes in Science, History and Geography. The CLA has been told the DfE will be looking to support the development of curriculum programmes in arts subjects in the next phase.

See here for further information about the pilot, including the criteria for grants.

Lack of funding forces cuts to arts subjects at A Level

The day before the 2018 A Level results were announced ASCL (the Association of School and College Leaders) released a survey of 420 school and college leaders that showed that 69% have had to cut back lesson time, staff or facilities in A-level subjects over the past two years due to funding pressures.

39% of leaders had cut Music, 31% Design and Technology and 28% Drama.

As our analysis of A Level arts entries shows there has been a decline of -24% in entries since 2010 with -5% in the last year alone. Across the UK there were 1,316 Dance A Level entries in 2018 and 6,251 Music A Level entries in 2018.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: 

‘Subjects like A-level music, French and German are hanging on by their fingertips in the state sector because schools and colleges cannot afford to run courses with relatively small numbers of students on current funding levels. Their erosion will mean we have fewer musicians and linguists in the future, and this will have a long-term impact on related industries and on the number of teachers we are able to train in these disciplines.’

ASCL’s website.

Funding announced for new collaborative Centre for Cultural Value

The 2016 Understanding the Value of Arts and Culture report from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) set out some of the different ways culture impacts on our lives and how we measure this impact. Building on this work and a scoping report, the AHRC, Arts Council England and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation are funding a £2.5 million Centre for Cultural Value. 

The Centre will function as a custodian and communicator of cultural value in all forms. It will synthesise existing research and bring together organisations and sectors with an interest in using evidence about cultural value in their work.

Read more on the AHRC website.

GEM’s 70th anniversary conference

The Group for Education in Museums (GEM) is 70 years old and will be celebrating at their September conference ‘Past, Present and Future’ in Nottingham on 4-6 September. The conference will be exploring how the landscape of heritage education has evolved over time with a look to what lies ahead for the sector. You can find out more about the conference and GEM’s training programme on the GEM website.


Image: FIGMENT 2016 9. Credit - Derby Museums Trust