Cla Logo
Policy And Practice Round Up February 2024

Latest news

Policy and Practice Round-up February 2024

This month we bring a new EPI study on the positive effects of arts participation at secondary school level; new analysis on the economic impact of the cost of living crisis on Higher Education students; new data on 500,000 young people waiting for mental health treatment; parents’ career ambitions for their children; and cuts to local councils funding for culture. 

New study finds that participation in extra-curricular arts activities associated with broadly better outcomes

New research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) finds that participation in extra-curricular activities at secondary school is associated with broadly better outcomes by the time young people reach their twenties. 

Based on findings from from the Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England: Cohort 2 (LSYPE2), the National Pupil Database and data from the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA), the study finds that: 

  • Students from independent schools are much more likely to attend extra-curricular arts and music than those attending all other types of schools
  • Students who attend extra-curricular clubs (including arts) have a higher probability of progressing to higher education and being in employment. But the association for arts clubs is especially strong, with the odds of progressing to higher education being 56% higher for those attending clubs for arts and music (compared to 42% for those who attend sports clubs)
  • Vulnerable students are less likely to attend clubs for arts and music when compared to their peers. This includes students eligible for free school meals, those with lower prior attainment, and those with poorer health and special educational needs or disabilities.

The report concludes by recommending a new government framework on what high-quality arts enrichment looks like and how schools can support access to it for their most vulnerable pupils. 

The impact of Shakespeare’s work on young people’s social and emotional development

New research from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, has found that learning about Shakespeare’s work can have a positive impact on children’s language development and social emotional skills. 

The findings, based on a randomised controlled trial using RSC’s approach to teaching Shakespeare as an intervention. This was complemented by a teacher-led action research programme by experienced RSC practitioners. The research found that young people who participated in RSC programmes:

  • Employed richer, broader and more sophisticated vocabulary
  • Showed a better grasp of linguistic structures and devices
  • Were better at writing in character and expressing emotion
  • Demonstrated a broader understanding of abstract terms and descriptions
  • Were 17.3% more confident in their ability to work out what to do next when stuck
  • Were 11.3% more confident in their own ability as a good learner

The report concludes with recommendations that build on these findings, including a shared outcomes framework to enable better understanding of the impact of arts interventions on young people and investment in a centralised research hub for arts and cultural learning in the UK. 

New analysis captures the impact of the cost of living crisis on Higher Education students

The government recently commissioned an analysis of the potential impact of its modest proposal to increase Higher Education students’ loans and grants by 2.5% for the 2024-25 academic year. The analysis focuses on the potential impact of the policy on students who are from non-traditional backgrounds for Higher Education participation. This equalities analysis finds that the 2.5% uplift would do very little to improve the HE students’ economic circumstances, with an uplift of 21% required to enable undergraduate students in 2024-25 to have loans and grants of the same real terms value as those issued in 2021-22. 

The report underscores the financial challenges HE students are facing, with 90% reporting struggling more with the cost of living this year compared to last year. As the cost of being a student increases, there is evidence to suggest that prospective students from poorer backgrounds will not enrol in Higher Education. As the government continues to communicate a narrative to young people and the wider public that Creative Arts and Design subjects do not leave students better off financially in the long run, the latest funding pressures may further squeeze young people from non-traditional backgrounds out of arts degrees in Higher Education. 

New investigation finds that 500,000 young people are waiting to start mental health treatment 

The Independent’s analysis of NHS data has found that: 

  • A total of 289,047 children have been approved for treatment under mental health services but are still waiting to have their first appointment 
  • 11 areas in England recorded under-18s waiting more than four years to be seen
  • There has been a huge increase in the number of young people aged eight to 25 who probably have a mental health disorder – an increase from 12.5% in 2017 to 20% in 2023 

These statistics reflect the great pressures on our young people at present, but also the pressure on services to meet the needs of young people. While investment in services to help young people presently in need is vital, a long-term solution to supporting good mental health for young people will involve prevention as much as treatment. As the government’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Creative Health, arts education in schools is a vital preventive measure for reducing the number of young people who develop probable mental health disorders. The Health Action Research Group have made similar arguments, summarising evidence from academic research that shows that “arts-based interventions may be effective in reducing symptoms of trauma and negative mood”. 

Disadvantaged families don’t see STEM as a career for their child – but what about creative jobs?

new survey by Teach First finds that 51% parents from a lower socioeconomic background believe their children are unlikely to go on to a career in Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM). The same survey found that only 41.8% of young people from a lower socioeconomic background are interested in a STEM career. The findings are related to the challenges of recruitment and retention for STEM subjects in schools, leading to lower quality teaching and lower pupil interest in STEM subjects as a career pathway. 

The article rightly highlights the shocking state of recruitment for Initial Teacher Trainees (ITT) for subjects such as Design & technology, where the most recent data shows the government missing its ITT recruitment target by a staggering 73%. The article also prompts the further research question of how lower socio-economic status parents view careers in the Arts and creative industries for their children. This research is timely and vital given the significant participation gaps in the creative industries between individuals from more advantaged backgrounds and those from more disadvantaged and non-traditional backgrounds. 

Council spending on culture drops by 43% since 2010 

An investigation by The Guardian has found that between 2010-11 and 2022-23, net spending per person on cultural services by local councils was cut by 43% in real terms. More than 40% of councils have cut their cultural budgets by half or more over the 2010-11 to 2022-23 time period. Croydon, a council that has issued two bankruptcy notices, has made the biggest reduction in cultural net spending per person, down 85%, followed by Herefordshire (-81%) and Windsor and Maidenhead (-81%).

The findings align with an increasing number of announcements of significant cuts to arts funding by local councils in the past year. Broadcaster Melvyn Bragg recently discussed the issue during a House of Lords debate, arguing that local council cuts to culture were frustrating the UK’s ambitions to be a world leader in the creative industries. 

As campaigners and advocates make the case for greater local investment in arts, it is worth remembering the LGA’s Cornerstones of Culture report that sets out key findings on the benefits and importance of local arts investment that can support making the case to local authority leaders. The LGA has also argued that local councils remain one of the country’s key investors in local cultural provision and there is a need for the sector to work closely with local councils to work strategically to support ongoing cultural investment under the constraints of squeezed budgets. 

Nominations open for the Northern Cultural Education Awards 

Nominations are now open for The Northern Cultural Education Awards. Led by Curious Minds, this year’s Awards programme 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 details on the awards and how to enter can be found here

Invitation – we want to hear from you!

At the CLA we’re always looking to champion the amazing arts practice we know happens in schools and communities across the country. If you have a case study you would like us to platform, please do get in touch here. We’d also be delighted to receive any high-quality images of arts delivery in your space or setting. We look forward to hearing from you!