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Policy and Practice round-up March 2023

This month’s round-up includes commentary on the government’s spring budget; Ofsted’s review of art and design education; Oak National Academy’s announcements on its music curriculum; calls from Arts Council England for sector input into their Music Hubs programme; and an update on Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s work to bring arts education to geographically isolated children.

The government’s spring budget is released, with little to support the cultural learning sector

As our head of policy discusses in Arts Professional, the government’s latest spring budget is a mixed bag for the cultural learning sector. On the one hand, the government has failed to deliver on its promised £90 million Arts Premium policy that could significantly improve the access of disadvantaged young people to arts learning. The policy was a manifesto commitment of the present government and there have been two successive assurances that the policy will be delivered. Secondly, the spring budget offers nothing on the pressing issue of teacher pay. The current crisis of low teacher pay is one of key drivers of the current recruitment and retention crisis in schools. The crisis affects schools’ ability to deliver cultural learning, with schools particularly struggling to recruit and hold onto music teachers. The consequence is music being taught by teachers without subject expertise – or the subject not being taught at all.

On the other hand, the budget did have two more promising upshots. Firstly, the maintenance of tax relief rates for theatres, museums and galleries will allow these institutions to save money that can be reinvested in their educational work. Secondly, the budget’s £289 million commitment to introducing wraparound childcare in every primary school may have a positive impact on the cultural learning sector. A previous incarnation of this policy idea, the ‘extended schools’ policy of 2003-2008, led to many schools using third party cultural learning organisations supplying pre and post-school childcare in the form of arts activities. However, expectations should be tempered given the relatively small amount of money being invested (around £17,000 for each individual primary school in England). 

Ofsted publishes its research review on the factors that contribute to a high quality arts education in schools in England

Ofsted is currently publishing a series of reviews of school subjects. In its latest review, the inspectorate looks at the available evidence on what makes art and design teaching effective in schools, with a particular emphasis on curriculum (as per the emphasis on this issue in Ofsted’s overall inspection framework). 

The report includes: 

  • The claim that art and design teaching is deeply complex, with no single right approach to great teaching (this is contrasted against other school subjects)
  • Data on the current context of art and design teaching in schools, including the point that the number of art and design teachers has fallen between 2010 and 2022. In the same period the number of GCSE entries for art and design has increased but NSEAD views this as being due to the transfer of design and technology students to more 3D arts and design options (design and technology has seen a 70% decline)
  • A detailed overview of the practical and theoretical skills young people develop through art and design 
  • Specific recommendations on how art and design teaching can be properly sequenced in a curriculum to achieve the best learning experience for young people
  • Guidance on supporting young people with SEND in art and design lessons
  • A summary of effective techniques for assessment in the art and design classroom 

The review follows Ofsted’s 2021 report on effective music teaching, with reports on other arts subjects slated for the coming year. 

Oak National Academy announced new partner to provide secondary music lesson resources for their website from September 2023

Oak National Academy, the government funded online bank of school lesson resources, has announced its curriculum partners for the next academic year. These partners will create lesson resources for the platform, with the first set of new resources being released in September 2023. 

The site features lesson resources for only one arts subject – music. The partner for creating music resources for secondary phases will be Knowledge Schools Trust, a London-based trust of free schools. These resources will also be scrutinised by a panel of experts from across the profession, including voices from the Music Teachers’ Association, Music Education Hubs and Independent Society of Musicians. 

Partners were appointed through a ‘blind’ recruitment process, and a further partner is to be appointed for curriculum content to ensure diversity in all subjects to be hosted on the website. 

Oak National also announced that no applicants for providing primary level music resources met their minimum requirements for quality. As such, resources in this area will not be available until the Autumn term of 2024. 

Arts Council England seeks sector feedback on the Music Hubs Investment Programme and its proposed next steps

Arts Council England’s (ACE) Music Hubs Investment Programme seeks to create a group of organisations that work together to create joined-up music education provision for children and young people. This aim is for this provision to be nested under ‘Hub Lead Organisations’, who will be appointed to oversee this hub function in specific localities using funding from ACE.

Since September 2022, ACE has been consulting the sector to understand attitudes towards the overall hubs programme. It is now currently surveying those working in the cultural learning space to understand:

  • Where music hubs should be located around the country
  • How music hubs should be structured to ensure they reach young people who need support in accessing music education the most 

A map of the proposed locations of hubs can be found here. The survey can be completed here, with the closing date for submissions on March 31st. 

Funding from Paul Hamlyn Foundation is being used to give a high-quality arts education to young people from some of the country’s most isolated schools

thoughtful blog from Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation looks at how ‘educational isolation’ affects the delivery of arts education in primary schools. 

Schools are educationally isolated if they have “limited access to resources for school improvement, resulting from challenges of school location”. Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Teacher Development Fund (TDF) has been proactive in reaching out to educationally isolated primary schools, with the aim of developing communities of sustainable expert creative arts teaching in schools that have been deprived of but deserve targeted resources.

Case studies in the blog include:

  • Training for a group of isolated schools in West Shropshire to upskill in the drama-based ‘mantle of the expert’ teaching technique. Using the technique has  allowed teachers to work with pupils in a way that has “massively boosted [their] confidence” (especially for pupils with low literacy levels)
  • Resources for an isolated group of schools in Penzance to set up an art gallery in each school, with pupils reporting awe and amazement at seeing their artwork displayed in a professional-feeling setting 

Overall the blog captures the need for overcoming the resourcing challenges of geographic isolation of schools if all young people, whatever their background, are to access a high quality arts education. 

Landmark ‘Arts in Schools’ report to be published at the end of this month

At the end of this month, on 30 March, the Gulbenkian Foundation and A New Direction will be publishing The Arts in Schools: Foundations for the Future, co-written by our Co-Chair, Sally Bacon. Co-writer Pauline Tambling is a founder member of the CLA. The new report marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Gulbenkian Foundation’s seminal The Arts in Schools report. When The Arts in Schools report was published in 1982 it was extremely well received. Many local education authorities and their arts advisers took it up, and conferences were organised for teachers across the country, resulting in more engagement and examples of good practice.

The new report, funded by Gulbenkian and supported by all ten of the outgoing Bridge organisations, will be accompanied by a shorter Executive Summary, together with a revised 40-year Timeline, a series of 20+ arts case studies demonstrating what works well in schools, and a collated series of blogs about the project. 

We look forward to bringing you news of the report’s key findings and recommendations in our next newsletter. We know that it will provide fascinating reading for all of us involved in cultural learning and we look forward to sharing more next month.