Policy and Practice round-up September 2017

28 September 2017

This month we bring you news of the House of Lords EBacc debate, teacher training places, the Sutton Trust report Extra Time, OECD conference on creativity at Durham, Sir Peter Bazelgette’s Independent Review of the Creative Industries, School Funding and the Fun Palaces weekend.

House of Lords EBacc debate

On 14 September Baroness Stedman-Scott, a Conservative party member of the Lords, secured a debate on the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) about: the impact of the English Baccalaureate on the take-up of creative and technical subjects, and the case for broadening the curriculum to create a coherent and unified 14 to 19 phase.

It was a wide ranging debate highlighting a range of issues, including the purpose of education in a democracy, the vision for schools and the curriculum, economics, employability and social mobility, as well as the risks of a more limited curriculum comprising just the EBacc subjects that drives disengagement with education. The number of Conservative Peers who spoke was notable, as was the extent to which they criticised the EBacc.

Referring to the current low percentage of students who actually achieve the EBacc, Baroness Stedman-Scott said:

‘we run the risk of creating a generation of young people who either have a narrow range of academic skills or will feel that they have already failed at the age of 16.’

Lord Baker, another Conservative peer noted:

‘We have to train youngsters today for the jobs of tomorrow, and not with the sort of curriculum that I studied years ago, which is what the EBacc is. In fact, it goes back even further. Its progenitor was the curriculum announced by a Minister at the board of education in 1904. It is word for word the same curriculum. Those who support the EBacc so strongly should perhaps ask why it has not worked well for 120 years and why are we still committed to it.’

It was also interesting to hear a Labour Peer, Lord Watson of Invergowrie say: ‘Labour is not opposed to the EBacc—certainly not per se. We recognise its value, and it is right that every student should have the opportunity to take all the EBacc subjects if they want to. But we do not believe that it should be compulsory.’  This would suggest that Labour’s education policy could include the EBacc.

Lord Nash, the Department for Education spokesperson in the Lords, set out the DfE’s view on entries to Arts GCSEs, saying:

‘Since 2010, in percentage terms, those taking music has stayed static at 7%. For art and design, the figures since 2010 have gone up slightly from 26% to 27%, but in the years prior to that from 1997 to 2010 they fell from a third of pupils to just over a quarter. Drama has declined a little from 13% to 11% since 2010.’

We disagree with these calculations and think the EPI report published last week provides a much clearer look at what is happening to the arts at secondary level.

Lord Nash also the echoed concerns of some of the other peers about the narrowness of the curriculum saying:

‘I am personally concerned about the narrowness of curriculum at key stage 3 and about the narrowness of curriculum in many of our primary schools.’

Lord Nash closed his comments by restating the governments commitment to the EBacc.

You can read the full debate on Hansard.

Teacher Training allocation caps removed

Long-time readers of this website will know that in 2011 the number of teacher training places for arts subject PGCEs were drastically cut. We and other colleagues spoke loudly about the problem at the time, and in 2015 the number of places was restored to around pre-2011 numbers, albeit with the additional places being offered through school-based programmes rather than being restored to universities. (Read more about ITT numbers in this briefing.)

However, since 2015 the allocated places have not been filled. In 2016 only 41% of Design and Technology places were filled, 82% of Art and Design and 90% of Music. Across the board there are not enough teachers going in to the profession to replace those leaving, and teacher shortages/retention are acknowledged problems for schools. For example, 30% of teachers who qualified in 2010 had left by 2015.

A Commons Public Accounts Committee report in June this year reported that:

‘The Department calculates how many trainee teachers are needed but has, for four years running, fallen short of that number and, last year, missed targets in 14 out of 17 secondary subjects.’

It is therefore good news to hear that teacher training allocation caps have been removed and for the 2018-19 year universities and school-based ITT providers will be able to recruit as many trainees as they believe appropriate for courses, except for PE and some primary schools courses. We will report in due course on how this development has affected recruitment numbers.

The Sutton Trust report shows poorer pupils have less access to extra-curricular arts activities

The Sutton Trust recently published Extra Time which looked at the support pupils from different backgrounds get from private tutoring outside of school. They concluded that ‘Talented young people from less well-off backgrounds receive substantially less extra help than those from more advantaged backgrounds.’ They also highlighted that poorer pupils receive less parental help with homework.

Poorer pupils were more likely to receive tutoring in subjects like maths and English, while their richer peers spend more time learning subjects like music that will build their cultural capital. The report makes clear:

‘Private tuition is not purely about academic subjects alone, and can influence educational inequality and social mobility in different ways. For instance, children may be tutored how to play a musical instrument or in a sport, building their cultural capital and skills that help them to gain a place at a top university, and entry into a professional job.’

Recommendations to help level the playing field include a voucher scheme for pupils to use to buy extra tuition of their choice, homework clubs in schools and better communication with parents to support homework.

You can read the full report on the Sutton Trust’s website and coverage from Schools Week, the Telegraph and BBC.

OECD Conference at Durham University: Fostering Creativity through Education and Culture

Ahead of the forthcoming Durham Commission from Durham University and Arts Council England, Durham University and the OECD hosted a conference looking at creativity on 4 – 5 September.

The OECD shared some of the interim results of the OECD’s CERI project which looks at fostering and assessing students’ creative and critical thinking skills in education. Strong practice from the Welsh Creative Learning through the Arts programme was praised, including deep consultation on transforming the curriculum, the quality of teaching, leadership, assessment and evaluation. You can read more key points shared on our twitter feed on 4 September.

The conference also heard speeches by Darren Henley and Sir Nicholas Serota, Arts Council England’s Chief Executive and Chair respectively, who talked about the Durham Commission.

Industrial strategy 

Sir Peter Bazelgette’s Independent Review of the Creative Industries, part of the work on the new government Industrial Strategy, was published on 22 September. The Review sets out areas where government and industry should work together to develop a Sector Deal for the Creative Industries as part of the Industrial Strategy.

The launch event included speeches by Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and Greg Clark, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The Review includes a section on skills and developing the talent pipeline into the Creative Industries, and three recommendations for government:

  • A national careers ‘attraction strategy’ and communications campaign
  • Expanding the network of Saturday Clubs
  • Modifications to the Apprenticeship Levy to make it more fit for purpose for the structures of the creative industries.

Greg Clark also formally launched the AHRC £80 million Creative Industries Cluster fund for HE and Cultural partners. Led by the AHRC. The Programme will support eight Research and Development Partnerships between industry and a group of universities to respond to challenges identified by the creative industries in each cluster.

School Funding in England

On 14 September Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, announced more details on the new National Funding Formula for England which will come in to place in April 2018, and additional funding over that announced in July. You can read the DfE announcement and Schools Week’s analysis.

There will be a minimum per pupil amount of £3,500 for each Primary School pupil on role from 2019-20, and Greening confirmed the £4,800 per secondary pupil announced in July. Every school will also get a lump sum of £110,000 and there will be a £26 million fund for rural and isolated schools. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that this additional funding reduces the real terms cut from 6.5%to 4.6% between 2015 and 2019. Teachers report that this still falls short of what is needed and are continuing to lobby MPs via parents.

Fun Palaces weekend 7 & 8 October 

Over the weekend of 7 & 8 October 2017 hundreds of communities and cultural venues across the UK (and globally) will simultaneously put on free, participatory arts and science-inspired events as part of the fourth, annual nationwide Fun Palaces campaign weekend. It’s about bringing people together, celebrating creativity, and having fun. 

There will be over 300 Fun Palaces planned by thousands of people countrywide and they will happen everywhere, including several National Trust properties; the Museum of London; the Royal Shakespeare Company working with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-Upon-Avon; National Theatre of Wales; and local libraries, village halls, universities, orchards and more. Find your nearest Fun Palace here.


Photo credit: Helen Murray. Fun Palaces activitiy