Policy and Practice Round-up December 2013

17 December 2013

This month we bring you Ofsted’s annual report, the PISA rankings, the UN Creative Economy report, the Arts Index, the Art Party Conference and something you probably already know: Art Makes you Smart.


Ofsted published its annual report on the 11 December. In his commentary Sir Michael Wilshaw noted the changing landscape – over half of secondary schools are now academies, with many in federations, clusters and trusts. See page 22 of the report for a useful infographic on this.

Wilshaw flagged up the “significant underachievement of children from low-income families” and used his commentary to push for a return of Key Stage one and three external assessment.

The commentary and report also focuses on the importance of high quality teaching which the CLA wholly endorses – high quality arts teaching flows from well trained and supported specialist teachers.


The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.

Early December saw news stories about the 2012 PISA test results, Britain’s rankings in them and comparisons about the type of school systems that produced the results. See pieces by the Telegraph, BBC and Michael Gove’s speech to parliament.

The United Kingdom now ranks 26th for Maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for Science in the Pisa results.

This is the first year since the tests were introduced that Britain was not ranked in the top 20. The falls in UK ranking are caused by other countries improving faster than the UK with the CBI describing UK schools as ‘treading water’.

In June the TES reported comments by Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education at OECD and the man in charge of PISA. Schleicher talked about the need to measure ‘Global competencies’ in which he included creativity.

The OECD strategy document Beyond PISA 2015 highlights in paragraph 12 that future education will need to build the very high skills levels required to solve complex problems never seen before, to be creative, to synthesise material from a wide variety of sources, to see patterns in the information that computers cannot see, to work with others in productive ways, and to be able to both lead and be a good team member when necessary.

Creative economies boost growth: UN Creative Economy Report

The United Nations has published a report detailing how the creative economy boosts growth and social and cultural development. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, said “While creating jobs, [the] creative economy contributes to the overall well-being of communities, individual self-esteem and quality of life, thus achieving inclusive and sustainable development,” Read more here.

NCA Arts Index

The National Campaign for the Arts published the Arts Index, a health check for the arts, on 5 December. This shows the state of the arts in the UK over twenty measures. There were big gains in adult attendance at arts events and in funding from trusts, foundations and the lottery. It also tracks reductions in Treasury and local government funding and in the reserves of arts organisations.

Children and Young People’s participation in the arts has remained steady, although we know from the Taking Part data and the Museums Association analysis that children’s attendance at museums is starting to fall.

Download the full index and report here.

Art Party Conference

The CLA attended the Art Party Conference, organised by CLA steering group member Bob and Roberta Smith, in Scarborough on the 23 November.

Like Catlin Moran’s definition of a library it was “a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival” for art with over 1,000 people attending.

Education and learning featured heavily in discussions, the Guardian reported on the day and Bob and Roberta Smith blogged about it.

Art Makes You Smart!

Something many of us already know has been further proved through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA.

Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the Museum on a field trip, demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions. Read more here.