Policy and Practice Round-up June 2016

28 June 2016

Despite the seismic implications of the European referendum, there has still been a great deal of activity in the cultural learning world over the last month. We bring you news of; the new Ofsted Chief and the outgoing words of current boss Michael Wilshaw; some new evidence, blogs and arguments for Cultural Learning from Arts Council England; new PISA plans for tests on cultural awareness; the opening of the new Tate Modern extension; great case studies from the RSC and from Yorkshire Dance; good news for cultural learning in Scotland; and the TES School Award winners.

New Ofsted Chief in the wings

The Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, has recommended Amanda Spielman as the new Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Spielman is co-founder of academy chain ARK, is Chair of Ofqual and is a trustee of STEMNET. There has been some controvosy about the appointment as Spielman has never trained or worked as a teacher – you can read the coverage from the Guardian here and the Telegraph here. Morgan’s comments indicate that Spielman is expected to oversee the implementaion of the Education White Paper.

Outgoing Chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw made a speech at the Festival of Education where, amonst other things, he accused government of failing the poorest pupils in schools. This is particularly hard-hitting as it is a direct response to the Prime Minister’s current focus on Life Chances.

Arts Council England: new blogs, films and evidence

Arts Council England has been busy creating new content to help us make the case for cultural learning. You can read a new blog from the Chief Executive, Darren Henley, here, read this from CLA member Marcus Davey at the Roundhouse on putting young people at the heart of an organisation,  and you can watch a new narrated slide-show of evidence and case studies on arts and education.

New PISA plans

This month we heard that the OECD is considering introducing a new PISA test – one that measures the cultural awareness of children and young people and their competencies and skills in navigating an increasingly digital and global landscape. You can read the OECD rationale here.

This would be the second PISA test that has a creative/cultural component. In 2012 PISA also ranked pupil performance in Creative Problem Solving for the first time (reflecting a global recognition that these skills are essential for both the economy, society and for young people’s life chances). The UK was ranked 11th in these tables. The OECD states: ‘In Australia, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Korea, Macao-China, Serbia, England (United Kingdom) and the United States, students perform significantly better in problem solving than students in other countries who show similar performance in mathematics, reading and science.’

Whilst it is heartening to see the OECD’s broadening of its understanding of the purpose of education, we wait to see whether the government’s current focus on narrowing the curriculum and focussing on a smaller range of subjects will have an impact on the UK’s international ranking in these league tables.

The Tate Modern extension is open

CLA member, Tate, staged a ‘children only’ day as part of the opening of the new Tate Modern extension, the Switch House. Talking to the Guardian, Director Nick Serota said Tate Modern had been built for the next generation.

‘This special day signals Tate’s ambition to give some of the young people with the least access to art and culture the opportunity to express their own thoughts and creativity and to engage with art on their own terms.’


As part of the day, artist Bob and Roberta Smith worked with Primary school children to stage a creative parade that celebrated the value of arts education.

Two case studies: cultural learning is great

This month the Guardian ran a great piece on the ways that the Royal Shakespeare Company has helped King Ethelbert School in Kent to transform its results across all subjects.  We also recommend you take a moment out of your day for this 3 minute film about an intergenerational dance project from Yorkshire Dance: a brilliant example of the power of cultural learning.

Every child in Scotland to see Theatre in their own school

News from The Stage this month that every primary school pupil in Scotland will experience at least one live theatrical performance in their own school every year, under a new project launched in Edinburgh.

Theatre in Schools Scotland is a joint initiative from Imaginate, Scotland's national organisation devoted to theatre and dance for children and young people, and the National Theatre of Scotland.

NTS will bring its expertise as a 'theatre without walls' to the project. The company’s experience includes visiting geographically hard-to-reach communities with its work.

The initial pilot project will expand over three years, exploring different models for touring theatre into schools.

TES School Awards

Congratulations to the great cultural learning champions that are the winning and nominated schools and teachers of the TES School Awards this month. It’s really good to see the dedication and imagination of our creative schools and arts teachers recignised in this way.