A cabinet reshuffle prompts ministerial change at the Department for Education
Rishi Sunak’s latest cabinet reshuffle resulted in two significant changes at the Department for Education. Veteran Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, resigned from the role and announced his intention to step down from being an MP at the next election. Gibb is frequently described as one of the main architects of the current trends towards a ‘knowledge-rich’ curriculum in education policy and practice, having a detrimental impact upon the role of the arts in school life, and a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to pupil behaviour.
Gibb has been replaced by Damian Hinds MP, who previously held the role of Secretary of State for Education between 2018 and 2019. Hinds’ brief period at the DfE saw the conclusion of the government’s new guidance into relationships, sex and health education. In his most recent role as Minister for Prisons, we know that Hinds has spoken about the importance of art and creativity for prisoners. As the sixth Schools Minister in 18 months, there is a hope that Hinds can bring some stability and passion for the arts into his new role.
New tool highlights how new cuts to school funding vary across the country
The relaunched Schools Cuts website, run by some of the country’s largest teaching unions, states that 99% of secondary schools will be unable to deal with the increasing costs they face. The website features a digital tool that allows users to see the level of cuts at an individual school level.
New projections for school funding show that, assuming staff were to receive pay awards next year in line with the award for 2023-24, then “92 per cent of mainstream schools will face real-terms cuts from April”.
The tool is currently being used by trade unions and other education experts to call for increased school funding in order to retain standards of teaching in schools. Polling of school leaders indicates that the arts are one of the first areas to be cut during periods of financial challenge, making increased investment in core funding for schools a priority for preserving creative learning in schools.
Two new reports call for significant Ofsted reform
The IPPR report argues that the current regime of school inspection may be effective for pushing schools from inadequate to adequate, but is insufficient to drive excellence across all schools. Drawing on a range of evidence, the report recommends:
- A refocusing of Ofsted and its capacity on school improvement - including a review of school improvement services across the country and investment in initiating these services where there are shortages
- A new three-tier approach to school regulation, with schools either moved to ‘school-led development’, ‘enhanced action’ (involving school improvement partners), or ‘immediate action’ based on the outcome of inspections
- A new approach to reporting inspection findings that ends the use of one word judgments for schools (e.g. ‘Outstanding’) but also produces richer, more narrative reports on what schools do well
The ‘Beyond Ofsted’ inquiry, chaired by former schools minister Lord Jim Knight, with the support of the National Education Union and UCL, similarly recommends:
- Schools should conduct their own self-evaluations on their performance with the support of external school improvement partners. Their findings are publicly reported and are used to inform schools’ own planning over how they are to improve their offer
- The role of Ofsted would be to oversee this self-evaluation process, ensuring it runs effectively and is leading to successful school improvement
- Safeguarding inspections will continue to be conducted, but by a new independent body
Appetite for Ofsted reform has increased in the past year, particularly following the tragic suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry. While the government has already made minor modifications to Ofsted’s inspection process in response to recent calls, there is more appetite for reform in the Labour Party. Current Shadow Education Secretary, Bridget Philipson, has briefed that she would be interested in reforming how schools are graded by Ofsted and moving the inspectorate towards a role that focuses more on school improvement.
New study captures the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health
The COVID Social Mobility and Opportunities (COSMO) study conducted by The Sutton Trust and UCL has released its latest data. Based on surveys of more than 10,000 young people the study finds that:
- 44% of young people in Year 13 are classified as experiencing high psychological distress (a figure that has barely changed since the pandemic)
- A quarter of young people have sought some form of mental health support over the previous 12 months. Of those, 35% said they are either on a waiting list or have not received some of the support they have sought
- Just over a third (33%) of young people say that the COVID-19 pandemic is still having a negative impact on their education
- LGBQ+ young people are more likely to indicate signs of poor mental health
Given the association between arts participation and positive mental health, this latest data strengthens calls for improving access to arts opportunities for young people. Given that poor mental health is estimated to cost the UK economy £117 billion a year, investment in arts now could lead to enormous public investment savings in the future.
CLA is recruiting new Trustees
CLA champions a right to arts and culture for every child. It uses evidence to demonstrate the ways in which an arts-rich education provides skills for life and skills for work, enabling all children to fulfil their potential. Working with educators, arts education practitioners and policy makers, it aims to create positive and sustained shifts in arts and cultural learning access, opportunities and experiences, and in national policy, infrastructure and funding. Working on behalf of its members, CLA is actively inclusive and applies a social justice lens to all its activity.
We are looking for new Trustees to join us as we establish ourselves as a new charity after a decade of working as an informal alliance. We have a real sense of energy and ambition, a clear strategy, and much that we want to achieve, including a new evidence framework, and establishing new ways of working on behalf of our members. We are seeking applicants with experience of working in cultural learning – in the education, arts, youth or policy sectors – but are also interested in hearing from people with experience of any of the following: SEND, communications (particularly digital communications), fundraising, charity finance and accounts, and charity law. We would welcome applications from younger applicants and those with no previous board experience – but equally don’t let this deter you if neither of these applies to you. We are committed to inclusion and diversity, and particularly welcome applications from Black and Minoritised candidates.
If you are passionate about the value of arts education and think that you have the skills, qualities or experience to help us deliver our mission on behalf of all children and young people, then we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email telling us why you’re interested, and summarising your relevant skills and commitment in no more than 500 words. To apply email the Co-Chairs before 8 January: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information you can find our CLA Trustee Application Pack here.
CLA is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Registered Charity Number: 1203017