Policy and practice round-up September 2014

15 September 2014

This month we welcome everyone back for the Autumn term, and if you’re one of the teachers implementing the new school curriculum for the first time, we’d be really interested to hear how it’s going; especially in the cultural learning subjects. If you're an artist or cultural organisation then do let us know if you’re developing new resources or practice around the new curriculum. This month the British Museum and the DfE launched online resources for teachers: ‘Teaching History in 100 objects’ and we’d love to hear of other initiatives of this kind.

Also in this Round-up we bring you an update on GCSEs (including the current consultation), the cultural learning moments at the party conferences, the new Don't stop the music campaign, new research on after school clubs from Labour and the Sutton Trust and on UK Education from the OECD.

GCSE update

Congratulations to everyone who worked towards their GCSEs last year and saw their hard work pay off on results day this summer. We’ve now managed to crunch some of the GCSE data and can confirm that this year there has been a very slight, but heartening, increase in the number of young people taking arts subjects at GCSE. There are now 13% fewer young people studying arts subjects compared to 2010 levels, as opposed to the 14% fewer we saw in 2013.

Party politics, conferences and manifestos

Over the summer, both the Conservatives and the Labour party made statements about their plans for the future role of Ofsted.

The Telegraph reported here that the Conservative Manifesto will state that Ofsted will not be able to judge any secondary school ‘good’ or ‘outstanding ‘ unless all children are studying the English Baccalaureate. In contrast, MP Kevin Brennan posted on the Labour Arts Alliance website that

Labour will insist that no school can be rated ‘outstanding’ unless it delivers a broad and balanced curriculum – including in the arts - to its students. We will ensure that the National Plan for Music does not just teach a minority of pupils as Ofsted found. We will ensure that publicly funded schools, regardless of type, collaborate to meet the cultural needs of children.’

Both parties are holding fringe meetings at their Conferences that will address cultural learning issues. The Labour event will take place in Manchester on Saturday 20 September 2014 at 1.45pm. It will involve a panel including young people, Jude Kelly, Dave Moutrey, Sam West and Harriet Harman, who will be debating the difference that the arts make to children and young people’s lives. The Conservatives are holding a panel event on “Creative Skills: STEM to STEAM” as part of their Birmingham Conference. It’ll be held at 16:00 on Monday 29th September. We’ll attend both and report back.

Don't Stop the Music

Twitter has been a-buzz this week with responses and reactions to Channel Four’s newest documentary: Don’t Stop the Music, which sees classical pianist James Rhodes highlighting the power and importance of music education and provision. He talks about the patchiness of current provision and has called upon the general public to donate any unused musical instruments in their homes to Oxfam – so that they can be redistributed to schools as part of a national amnesty scheme.

What really resonated with us about the show was the need for teachers and staff to be trained and supported to value and champion music within their schools, something that was flagged in the recent Paul Hamlyn report.

After school clubs research

After school clubs have been in the news quite a bit of late, with Harriet Harman publishing an analysis of the government’s Taking Part data to show:

  • a third fewer primary school children are take parting in arts activities after school since the election; and
  • a widening arts gap between white and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) children.

The Sutton Trust also published recent research showing that young people from affluent families are gaining significant advantages from extra-curricular activities which children from poorer backgrounds are unable to access.

OECD: Education at a Glance

The OECD have published their annual statement on the state of education for a range of different countries and the document for UK makes fascinating reading. Highlights include an all time high for the number of women gaining university degrees, and for young people gaining degrees in general.