Policy and Practice round-up May 2016

19 May 2016

This month we round-up news of Academy U-turns, updates on testing, resources and research from the AHRC and Arts Council England, the Pupil Premium Awards, a STEAM opportunity and guidance on the sector’s engagement with the EU Referendum.

Academies U-turn

As was widely reported in the press this month, the government has softened its plans for all schools to become academies. You can read the coverage from the BBC here, and from Toby Young in the Telegraph here.

In a press release on Friday 6 May Nicky Morgan stated:

‘Since launching our proposals in the education white paper, the government has listened to feedback from MPs, teachers, school leaders and parents.’


This is a modified policy – only schools who are Good or Outstanding and are situated in a high-performing local authority with a ‘critical mass’ of schools under their management will be allowed the choice to remain maintained. Others will still be required by the DfE to convert.


SATs and testing

This month we have seen a large number of announcementsand news stories about SATs, testing and assessment. The DfE announced that it is dropping plans for a baseline assessment of four and five year-olds because they asked multiple providers to carry out the tests and then found that they were not comparable to one another. You can read the Guardian report here.

The SATs have also been at the centre of a number of controversies, with both a Spelling test and a Maths tests leaked, and some parents choosing to boycott the SATs exams. You can read the open letter to Nicky Morgan from the ‘Let our Kids be Kids’ campaign here.


Pupil Premium awards single out arts provision for praise

We want to congratulate Greenfylde C of E First School in the South West and Northern Saints Church of England Primary School, Sunderland which were amongst the winners of this year’s Pupil Premium Awards.

Both schools demonstrated clearly how the arts can be used to drive up attainment and improvement. Greenfylde used the funds to ensure disadvantaged pupils have access to the broadest range of opportunities, visits and experiences, and Northern Saints formed partnerships with local museums, using heritage materials and resources to develop disadvantaged pupils’ problem-solving skills on visits to the Victorian school and Edwardian bakery.

Read the government press release about the awards.


Making the case for arts and culture

The Arts and Humanities Research Council Cultural Value report was published on 27 April. Chapter 8 was devoted to the impact of arts education and is well worth a read. Our key take-aways were around the strong evidence base for the impact of arts education on developing resilience, character, and the skills needed to improve life chances. 

Culture Matters resources

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England, has launched a new report in partnership with the New Local Government Network on local authorities and the arts, as part of the ACE Culture Matters suite of documents. Funding Arts and Culture in the Age of Austerity shows a number of key headline statistics, namely:

  • Local authority investment in arts/culture has declined by £236 million, 17% since 2010
  • While English local government still spent £1.2 billion on arts and culture in 2014/15, the cuts remain significant and are likely to continue
  • London boroughs saw the largest cuts in arts and culture spending: 19% between 2010 and 2015

Bazalgette highlighted a wide range of innovative models for sustaining the arts, including libraries restricting themselves as mutual;, and ring-fencing funding from car parking for culture and commissioning.  However, there is not yet any recognition from ACE of the need to directly address the loss of education funding from local authorities, and the specific impact that this has had on children and young people’s provision. 

The Arts Council’s key message to local authorities at this briefing was ‘Find a way to keep faith with arts and culture’.



The British Science Association has published research on how people identify themselves as arty, ’sciency’ or sporty and held an interesting debate that the CLA joined about why this is on the 20 April. As regular readers will know, we want children to get a STEAM education that gives parity to arts and sciences and makes real world links between the subjects in the classroom. We want children to see themselves both as arty and sciency and not one or the other. 

To further the STEAM work we’re really pleased that STEAM Co is hosting an evening with Barclays on the 24 May. It will be ‘An evening of short talks and huddles to celebrate creativity and how it can inspire children, innovate business and connect communities.’

You can book tickets on their website and join the conversation, as well as offer to give a quick talk. You can also watch the streamed event live on the evening.


Have you registered to vote in the EU referendum?

The Referendum on our membership of the EU is on 23 June. The deadline to register to vote is 7 June. CLA members across the country have been talking about their role in encouraging young people and communities to vote, and some have been exploring whether the sector can proactively engage people with registering or with turning up to the polls. There are a range of ways to engage – from holding hustings events to commissioning artwork which aims to make the debate more rounded and more interesting. Bite the Ballot has some excellent resources for engaging young people with the democratic process.

Matthew Couper runs and has offered colleagues access to artwork to display in buildings and foyers to encourage voting. Do get in touch with him directly if you’d like to take him up on it:

Some colleagues have felt comfortable taking a direct stance on the referendum, whilst some have expressed concerns as to how the Referendum relates to the Charity Commission Guidelines. Arts Council has prepared guidance and in addition, colleagues in arts organisations can use the What Next? Guidance on Meeting Ethical and Reputation Challenges to help them talk through the implications of taking a public stance on the campaign and feel confident about their actions.