Policy and practice round-up November 2018

27 November 2018

This month we bring you news of two reports from the Edge Foundation and CBI/Pearson that reinforce the case for arts education; a Radio 4 Front Row debate on arts education; a Royal Albert Hall call for arts GCSEs and DfE response; funding for teacher development from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation; and a call for nominations to the National Creative Learning Awards.

Towards a 21st Century education system – Edge Foundation

On 30 October the Edge Foundation launched ‘Towards a twenty-first century education system’ at the V&A Museum of Childhood.

The report sets out the existing problem of large and growing skills shortages in the UK and identifies the types of skills that are in demand, stating: 

 ‘… the challenge set by employers and the economy is clear. They want young people leaving the education system to have a broad range of experience and they are looking for well-rounded individuals with the interpersonal skills, resilience and problem-solving abilities that help every organisation to succeed.’

The report is damning of the current education policy’s ability to deliver on employers’ needs saying: ‘the Government’s focus on a ‘knowledge rich’ curriculum at the expense of all else goes in precisely the opposite direction from the challenge set by employers and the economy’. It also laments the decline in entries to creative GCSEs and the loss of teachers to teach these subjects.

Case studies

The report includes a number of useful case studies of different schools and models for education across the UK and internationally that showcase how a broad, balanced and creative curriculum can be delivered including arts subjects.

Framework for future learning

Edge also trail a framework they will be publishing in 2019 of common principles for an education system that develops the skills that young people need. The framework and principles are being developed by university researchers from among others, the Institute of Education at UCL and Oxford University:

‘Over the next year we will hone and develop this list with our team of researchers to develop a detailed and effective theoretical model that incorporates lessons and practice from the world’s leading organisations. This framework will be able to be used and adapted by any school or college to underpin future learning in their institution.’


Educating for the modern world – CBI & Pearson

On 4 November the 10th annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pearson education report Educating for the Modern World was published. The report summarises the 2018 CBI Education and Skills Survey and represents the views of 28,000 businesses.

In his introduction Rob Bristow, President UK & Core, Pearson noted:

‘As I look over our past reports, it is impossible not to notice the primary trend that persists –  the gap between what is taught in schools, colleges and universities and what is valued by employers.’

Going on to point that the right attitudes, behaviours and skills were just as important to employers as the right qualifications.

Key results from the survey for the arts are:

  • 45% of businesses ranked aptitude and readiness for work as the single most important factor when recruiting school and college leavers.
  • 60% of businesses rated among their top three priorities resilience, communication and problem-solving skills.
  • 70% of businesses rank teamwork, creativity and listening in their top three most important areas for action at primary school.


 As you may remember productivity is one of the big themes of the government’s Industrial Strategy – the UK is not as productive as our international competitors. The CBI found in their 2016 report Unlocking Regional Growth that the educational attainment of young people at 16 was the single most important driver of productivity differences across the UK.

Providing a broad and balanced education that includes the arts and enables all children to reach their potential is an essential part of solving the UK’s productivity problem. Read our Employability and Enterprise Briefing for more information.

Front Row Arts Education debate

On Wednesday 14 November BBC Radio 4’s Front Row ran a live debate on arts education from Soar Valley College secondary school in Leicester.

On the panel were:

  • Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive, Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)
  • Trina Haldar, founder, Leicester-based Mashi Theatre
  • Branwen Jeffreys, BBC Education Editor
  • Julie Robinson, Headteacher, Soar Valley College in Leicester
  • Bob & Roberta Smith, artist
  • Mark Lehain, interim Head, New Schools Network
  • Carl Ward, Chief Exec, City Learning Trust MAT, Stoke on Trent

The panel discussed the decline in access to the arts and touched on issues including accountability, funding, mental health, diversity in the arts and the talent pipeline, what makes education worthwhile, and what motivates children.

Art subjects taking a hit in disadvantaged schools

Teachers on the panel observed that children do not choose arts subjects at Key Stage 4 if they have not been taught well at Key Stage 3. They also noted that while some schools are continuing to offer the same level of arts subjects as before, art subjects have taken a hit in those vulnerable and disadvantaged schools where their results may be poor or they are watched more closely by Ofsted, and where they feel they have to measure themselves on the league tables and need their students to study subjects that gain points in the league tables.

Arts help join the dots

Artist Bob and Roberta Smith spoke about the role of the arts in teaching people to ‘join the dots’, and helping them to understand ‘how the world really operates’. In a memorable turn of phrase, the panel was asked if the role of education was to ‘open the sweet shop’. Smith also said that if the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) measure worked as a way of increasing social mobility we should have seen a plethora of state school children applying to Oxbridge this year, which hasn’t happened.

Mark Lehain, interim head of the New Schools Network, was keen to point out that in England schools have the freedom to teach children whatever they want, within funding and accountability constraints, and that freedom could be used to include arts in schools.

Fixing the issue of arts in schools

The programme closed with the panel’s suggestions on what could fix the issue of declining arts in schools. Suggestions ranged from opening more specialist schools (Lehain); adding an arts pillar to the EBacc (Annetts); to getting business, education and government to create and deliver on a long-term plan for education (Ward).

Listen online to the recorded show.

Royal Albert Hall calls for compulsory arts GCSE. Department for Education says funding already at a high

On Sunday 25 November Lucy Noble, artistic director of the Royal Albert Hall wrote an open letter to Damian Hinds Education Secretary calling for at least one arts subjects to be compulsory for children taking GCSEs.

Published in the Sunday Times letters to the editor section (paywalled) and covered by City AM and Sky News the letter drew a response from the Department for Education who reiterated the funding they provide for arts subjects, and a Tweet from Hinds.

Apply for a grant of up to £150,000 to support teacher development

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation Teacher Development Fund (TDF) aims to support the delivery of effective arts-based teaching and learning opportunities in the primary classroom, and to embed learning through the arts in the curriculum. It seeks to do this by helping teachers and school leaders to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, confidence and experience.

The Fund will award up to £150,000 to partnerships between arts and cultural organisations and up to ten schools, who will work together for two academic years.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF) will prioritise applications that support pupils experiencing disadvantage, and those that demonstrate co-construction of content as part of an effective partnership. A series of blogs and films, and an independent evaluation of the pilot projects, offer more details and unpack features and principles that are central to the Fund.

Applications are now open for projects beginning in September 2019. The deadline is Wednesday 5 December 2018 at 12pm.

Find out more and apply here:

Know someone you want to be recognised for their contributions to arts in schools?

Nominations are open for the National Creative Learning Awards until 14 December 2018, for creative projects which make a difference in people’s lives. Alongside categories for individual teachers and partnership projects across early years, primary, secondary, FE and HE settings, art-form specific work (including heritage), SEND projects, young people and charities are being recognised separately. 

A full list of categories and details of how to make a nomination can be found at:


Image credit: Leeds Museums and Galleries, Leeds Industrial Museum. Credit: Lisa Stonehouse.