Policy and practice round-up February 2016

19 February 2016

This month we bring you news of continuing EBacc debates, views on why arts subjects matter, teacher shortages as confirmed by the National Audit Office, RSA advice on giving schools the power to create, and a survey for those working in museum learning.

English Baccalaureate debates

The English Baccalaureate consultation closed on 29 January, but there continue to be rumblings both from the creative industries and education about school accountability.

On 4 February the BBC reported the concerns voiced by the National Association of Head teachers about the diminution of Progress 8 as a measure before it has even bedded in, and the negative impact of the EBacc on a broad and balanced education.

On the same day there was a debate in the House of Lords in response to a question from the Earl of Clancarty on the English Baccalaureate. Many of the speakers picked up on the issue of access to creative subjects. A week later Baroness Afshar asked a question in the House of Lords about the Creative Industries and the role of the Ebacc in limiting student choice, and access to arts subjects was raised again. You can read the full text of the debates on 4 February and 8 February on Hansard.

If you haven’t yet written to your MP asking them to write to Nicky Morgan about your concerns over the EBacc it is still worth getting in contact. See our briefing for how to do this.


Why arts subjects matter

‘Taking GCSE dance was the best decision I ever made … Dance gets me into school.’


Words from a 16 year-old writing in The Guardian. She decries the attitude to arts in schools as soft subjects which limit career choices, and puts in to words the struggle many of our members face in their schools to get arts subjects recognised and championed.

On 9 February Peter Bazelgette, Chair of Arts Council England came out strongly for the need for arts in schools, and for equality of access, in the TES.

Sam Gyimah, Childcare and Education Minister, writing in the Telegraph on 7 February talked about the scandal of the cultural disenfranchisement of many children and young people and the need for: ‘children in our schools to be exposed to as many cultural artefacts as is possible during their school years.’


Teacher shortages confirmed by the National Audit Office

On 10 February the National Audit Office (NAO) published their report on training new teachers. It was widely reported (see BBC and Telegraph pieces) – for the first time there was evidence that teacher shortages are growing and the Department for Education has accepted that the available data doesn’t fully reflect recruitment difficulties.

The NAO also reported that teacher recruitment targets have not been hit for the last four years and there is no process in place to try and make up previous years’ shortfall. In 2015/16 the three subjects with the lowest proportion of training places filled included Design and Technology (41%) and Art & Design (63%). The Department did change the teacher supply model they were using to calculate the number of places needed in 2015/16. This resulted in the target number of places for Art teachers being increased by 97%.

It is government policy to increase the number of teacher training places in schools and the report confirmed that the National College for Teaching and Leadership will intervene to ensure that the proportion of trainees in school-led provision grows by halting university recruitment if it reaches a certain level.

We have expressed concern in the past about the failure to recruit the target number of arts teacher trainees. We are also concerned at the focus on school training for arts subjects. A university training route exposes students to a wider range of specialisms than may be possible in a school with only one or two arts teachers in post. You can read more about this in our 2014 response to the Carter review of teacher training.


Giving Schools the Power to Create

The new RSA report Giving Schools the Power to Create helps answer the question: How can we develop creative capacities in learners, teachers and schools? The report includes definitions and a set of 12 design principles for schools to use when planning strategy and curriculum. You can download the report from the RSA blog.


Do you work in museum learning?

Arts Council England (ACE) has commissioned CapeUK to carry out a ‘state of the sector’ review of formal learning in museums in England – and they want to hear your views.

If schools use your museum, please spare 20 minutes to complete this short survey before the deadline of Monday 29 February.

Your response will inform the research and recommendations to ACE about the future of formal learning in museums and help ACE plan its advocacy and investment.