Policy and practice round-up June/July 2013

04 July 2013

This month we bring you; updates on the National Curriculum Review, news of the new Russell Group led advisory body on A-levels, Youth policy moves, congratulations to the new Children’s Laureate, possible changes to PISA, new international education data, the first Commons debate on arts and culture in five years, a discussion on education and cultural partnerships, emerging Labour education policy, a new call for inspirational cultural learning films clips, and many congratulations to this year’s winner of the Clore Award for Museum Learning.

National Curriculum and A-level update

As we all wait with bated-breath for the new National Curriculum to emerge, rumours are beginning to leak that there have been some changes – notably to the History and Design and Technology specifications. Our best guess is that the new documents will be published in the next week or two (if they’re not it will be nigh on impossible to get them fully signed off by government before parliamentary recess on the 18th of July).

We’ve been clear that there needs to be substantial change to a number of subjects – particularly to English to include Drama, to Art and Design, to PE to better include Dance, and to all subjects to include Film and Media. If you want to refresh yourselves of the changes we recommended to the proposed drafts, you can read the notes to our Roundtables.

The government has confirmed that it will 'disapply' elements of the current National Curriculum from September 2014

This ‘disapplication’ will mean that while maintained schools will still be required to teach national curriculum subjects, they will not be required to teach the centrally prescribed programmes of study (or use attainment targets as part of statutory assessment arrangements) from September 2013 for the following subjects:

  • English, maths and science for pupils in year 3 and year 4
  • all foundation subjects for pupils at key stages 1 and 2
  • all subjects for pupils at key stage 3 and key stage 4

The idea is that schools will be able start moving towards the new National Curriculum specifications before they fully come into force in 2014.

Gove has also made a recent agreement with the Russell Group of Universities, who will have a new role advising on the content of A-level exams – particularly those that are included in the new ‘facilitating subjects’ school performance measure (which measures A-level results in EBacc subjects).

The universities will form a new body known as the A-level Content Advisory Body (ALCAB). ALCAB will initially advise the qualifications regulator, Ofqual, on the content for A-level subjects that the Russell Group regards as "adequate preparation" for higher education admission: maths, advanced maths, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and modern and classical languages.

Youth policy responsibility to move to the Cabinet Office

The government has announced responsibility for youth policy and strategy will move from the Department for Education to the Cabinet Office.

At the CLA we are increasingly worried about the impact of the significant cuts to, or complete removal of youth services. A report from the Local Government Association and National Youth Association (NYA) earlier this year highlighted the problems this part of our sector is currently experiencing.

The NYA cautiously welcomed the move of responsibilities to the Cabinet Office while warning of the risk to the educational nature of youth work and the good practice around this if links with the Department for Education were weakened.

Call for fantastic cultural learning films!

We all know that some film clips can be worth a thousand words - telling the story of the power and impact of cultural learning, giving us new ideas and inspiration, and capturing moments of brilliant practice. In September we'll be adding some new content to the CLA site and will be running a competition to find the five most inspirational cultural learning films.

What inspires you? Is it Ken Robinson's RSA Animate on changing education paradigms or TEDx Schools kill creativity talk? Young people at Contact Theatre explaining why the arts are central to their lives? Benjamin Zephaniah reciting his poem 'Imagination Nation' in celebration of creativity? Or something else entirely?

To nominate your favourite film clip, whether it's of your own project or of someone else's, send a link to with the e-mail title 'Cultural Learning Films'. Don't have a favourite and want to make your own? Let your imagination run wild.

In September we'll ask an illustrious panel to whittle down the best and we'll announce the winners in style.

Congratulations to Malorie Blackman, New Children’s Laureate!

Celebrated children’s author, Malorie Blackman has been appointed as the 8th Children’s Laureate. She's been in post a month, but is already shaping up to be a strong voice in the cultural learning landscape. She has spoken out on a number of issues: urging Michael Gove to encourage all children’s reading and not to condemn their choices (this in response to Gove’s controversial speech ‘What does it mean to be an educated person?’) and championing libraries and the need for all children to own a library card.

Evidence and statistics from the OECD

Education at a Glance
The OECD has published Education at a Glance – a really interesting dossier of information on education trends across the world. The data is primarily drawn from 2008-2011, and it provides an excellent snapshot of investment and young people’s outcomes in different countries. Here’s the note on the UK system and here you can browse our international comparators.

Creativity to be included in PISA tables?
This month the TES reported that the PISA tables (which rank international educational attainment in a number of disciplines) could be modified to test a number of 21st Century skills; such as problem solving and creativity. This is an interesting departure, particularly as our education system is currently being reformed to move towards a more ‘knowledge based’ approach. Michael Gove has made it clear that he sets great store by our performance in these rankings, so will the new National Curriculum (when it finally emerges) equip young people with the skills and competencies to do well against these new measures?

Arts for arts sake, the Impact of Arts Education
The Centre for Educational Research and Innovation has published a new report analysing the impact of the arts on innovation, thinking, behavioural and social skills.

First commons debate on Arts, Culture and Creative Industries in five years

On the 19th of June the House of Commons held a debate on culture and the creative industries. You can read the Hansard record here.

It was great to hear many MPs from across the country and from different parties standing up to agree the central nature of the arts and creative industries to our society and to our economy, and it was extremely heartening to hear so many talk about the importance of arts and cultural education.

However, it was also important to hear from those MPs who acknowledged that the number of young people studying arts subjects both at school and university is dropping, and that this is an area of real concern. Much more needs to be done to reverse these trends.

As has been the case for the last 18 months, the current government re-iterated its intention to publish a Cultural Education Plan later this month.

RSA and ACE discussion

Last month the RSA hosted a group discussion on ‘Re-imagining a grand partnership between education and culture’. The papers and findings will be published in the autumn, but in the interim Holly Donagh from a New Direction has summarised her take on the discussion on her blog.

Labour party education policy

Stephen Twigg MP is the shadow Secretary of State for Education and this month saw him make his first major speech on the direction of Labour’s education policy.

Some of the headlines included:

  • Labour would make it a requirement for all schools to partner with weaker schools as a condition for attaining an Outstanding rating by Ofsted
  • Twigg has asked David Blunkett to lead a review into the local oversight of schools, looking at the role of the local authority and the interplay between central and local government
  • Labour will give all schools the same freedom over the curriculum that academies currently have, whilst continuing to insist that all schools teach a core curriculum including English, Maths and Science. It will also make changes to the Schools Admissions Code to allow all schools to prioritise disadvantaged children who are eligible for the Pupil Premium, a provision that currently exists only for academies
  • Labour will not continue the Free Schools programme – but will look to set up more ‘Parent Academies’ – set up by parents.

Twigg has also recently announced that he will set up a network of excellent, ‘gold-standard’ vocational colleges.

Historian Tristram Hunt has just joined the Labour Education front bench. In this piece in the Guardian he outlines his background and ideas for education policy.

Winners of the Clore Award for Museum Learning

Very many congratulations to the Hepworth Wakefield, winners of this year’s prize for excellence in learning. Very well deserved indeed.