Policy and practice round-up July 2018

17 July 2018

This month we bring you news from Westminster including a new Culture Secretary and a House of Lords committee hearing on STEM and arts; Ofsted research on art; a draft Culture Strategy for Scotland; the Children’s commissioner 2018 report into Childhood Vulnerability; a new Artist in Residence programme; a teacher wellbeing case study; and birthday wishes for Action for Children's Arts.

News from Westminster

New Secretary of State for Culture: Jeremy Wright

Matt Hancock who was the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has moved to become Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with Jeremy Wright QC replacing him at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Wright was Attorney General from 15 July 2014 to 9 July 2018 and is the MP for Kenilworth and Southam. His mother was a music teacher and he plays the trumpet.

House of Lords Communications Committee evidence session considers the balance between the arts and STEM subjects in schools

The House of Lords Communications Committee – which focuses on communications, broadcasting and the creative industries – held a one-off evidence session on the balance between arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects in schools on 3 July. Announced with the title: Is the government sidelining arts subjects in schools? the Committee invited six experts to give evidence.

The Committee acknowledged the decline in children’s access to arts with the Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford saying:

‘The reason we have invited you here is because we buy the thesis that there is a bit of a problem going on here, you don’t need to persuade us of that. I see it every week … the Church of England is a major stakeholder in education, the diocese which I serve has over 100 schools. I go into them virtually every week. I see the way the arts are squeezed’

Speakers were invited to suggest what needed to change to reverse the squeeze on arts in schools. They were clear that it was not STEM that was pushing out the arts, rather it was the accountability systems. The English Baccalaureate – and the Russell Group’s facilitating subjects list – as well as the CLA’s statistics were mentioned. You can watch the entire hearing on and read Arts Professional’s coverage of the session.

Ofsted announces new research on Art in secondary schools and continues focus on curriculum

In her speech at the Festival of Education on 22 June Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, announced that Ofsted will be undertaking research on Art in Secondary Schools over 2018-19 and will be publishing a report with a system-wide view.

The full list of themes they will be looking at over the next two years are:

  • science in primary schools, and foreign languages and art in secondary schools
  • how pupils with SEND in mainstream schools can get better access to support
  • teacher wellbeing and workload
  • improving basic skills and knowledge in further education
  • how we develop curriculum knowledge in initial teacher education
  • what it means to a school to be part of a MAT

New 2019 Inspection Framework

In the same speech Spielman talked about the plans for the new Ofsted inspection framework that will be published in 2019 and applied from September 2019. She was keen to emphasise the message that the new framework will be an ‘evolution not a revolution’ and promised a consultation on the proposals ‘shortly’.

She also talked about the work being undertaken to feed in to the new framework, focusing mostly on curriculum review and development, and understanding how a broad range of indicators can be used to understand the quality of a school’s curriculum. Spielman also confirmed that Ofsted plans to keep the current grading system of outstanding; good; requires improvement; and inadequate.

Focus on curriculum

The focus on curriculum continued in the Ofsted July School inspection update. In the section entitled: Implementing the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in schools – what inspectors will be looking at on inspection from September 2018, Sean Harford clarified that inspectors will always ask about the school’s curriculum and this: ‘does not merely mean the national curriculum or a set of GCSE subjects. It also includes schools’ wider provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’.

As soon as more detail on the proposed 2019 framework is published we will share, and of course respond to any consultation.

Consultation on draft Culture Strategy for Scotland

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on its draft Culture Strategy for Scotland which closes on 19 September.

Key themes in the draft are the role of the arts as a positive force in society, and the transformative potential of culture across society. For example, the importance of partnership working across justice and health is recognised. Importantly the draft acknowledges an inclusive and extended view of culture which recognises and celebrates the value of emerging, every day and grassroots culture and creativity.

The draft opens with the statement:

‘The strategy seeks to stimulate a step change that will bring about a shift in how society and government view and value culture. It aims to build collaborative alliances that will help to realise the full potential of culture for everyone and every community.’

The draft also highlights that ‘Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government recognise the potential and importance of culture as an intrinsic part of Scotland’s wellbeing and that other policy areas should give consideration to it.’

Children’s commissioner 2018 report in to Childhood Vulnerability

On 4 July the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield published her annual report on childhood vulnerability, which calls for more early intervention for vulnerable children, and for the government to ‘have as strong a focus on children’s emotional well-being as they do on their exam results.’

The report draws together a range of data for the first time on different types of vulnerability and risks to better understand their combined role in poor outcomes for children. Longfield makes the point that often services are not aggregating the risks faced by children and some children therefore do not get the help they need.

The report finds that over 2 million children in England are living in families with substantial complex needs, and that of these, 1.6 million children have no established, recognised form of additional support.

The number of children living in households with one or more of the ‘toxic trio’ of domestic violence, dependence on drink or drugs, and poor mental health, is identified:

  • 1 million children under 18 live with an adult experiencing at least one of the issues, including 690,000 children aged 5 or under.
  • 471,000 children live with an adult experiencing two of the issues, including 159,000 children aged 5 or under.
  • 103,000 children live with an adult who is experiencing all three issues simultaneously. This includes 52,000 children aged 5 or under.

The report estimates the cost of late intervention to support children affected by the ‘toxic trio’ to be £17 billion per year, which is just the immediate costs when acute and statutory services have to step in to pick up the pieces.

The report makes a strong case for early intervention as it is much less costly.

The report also looks at how children manage their situations, with children citing music and reading and afterschool clubs as ways they cope with the impacts of the toxic trio.

Global Teacher Prize winner launches Artists in Residence programme

Andria Zafirakou, winner of the Global Teacher Prize of a million dollars, announced at the end of June that she is using the money to found an Artists in Residence programme to fund artists in residence in London schools. Read about the launch in the Guardian and Evening Standard.

Teacher wellbeing

Ahead of the school holidays perhaps take a moment to consider your own wellbeing? For inspiration read about how one school in partnership with A New Direction is using the arts to address teacher wellbeing.

Happy Birthday to Action for Children's Arts

August 4 marks the 20th birthday of Action for Children's Arts. They are celebrating with an event at the National Theatre and the launch of new plans for arts engagement for children. 


Photo credit: Adults and children enjoying Family Dance Day at The Place, WC1H 9PY. Photo by Jalaikon 2