Policy and Practice round-up September 2020

10 September 2020

This month we bring you news of two new reports on the attainment gap; £1 billion of catch-up support from the DfE; free internet and mobile data for pupils experiencing disadvantage; a report on class and jobs in the creative industries; £1.57 billion of support for the cultural sector; the launch of Covid-secure guidance for learning teams in cultural organisations; updated guidance from DCMS on Arts Sector Reopening and the #HereForCulture campaign from DCMS.

EPI Annual report finds ‘sustained and increasing’ attainment gap between pupils experiencing disadvantage and their peers – greatest gap is in music

On 26 August the Education Policy Institute (EPI) published its Education in England: Annual Report on the state of education in England, which highlighted the sustained and increasing attainment gap between pupils experiencing disadvantage and their peers. It also examines the attainment gap at a local level, across different school subjects, and among different groups of pupils – including by varying levels of disadvantage.

The increasing proportion of children in persistent poverty is identified as a contributory cause of the lack of progress with narrowing the disadvantage gap. (The disadvantage gap is measured by comparing the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and their peers. Disadvantage is defined as being eligible for free school meals in the last six years.)

EPI found that:

  • The attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has stopped closing for the first time in a decade and they are critical that policymakers did not responded to earlier warning reports
  • Disadvantaged pupils in England are 18.1 months of learning behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs – the same gap as five years ago
  • The gap at primary school increased for the first time since 2007
  • The stalling of the gap occurred even before the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted the education system

The EPI looked at the disadvantage gap by subject. In the arts subjects the gaps are:

Music 20.1 months
Drama 15.9 months
Art & Design  14.0 months
Media, Film and Television Studies 12.7 months

“The most inegalitarian subjects are Music and Physical Education, which have both high disadvantage gaps and high participation gaps. Disadvantaged pupils are 38 per cent less likely than non-disadvantaged pupils to take Music at GCSE and, when they do, they score the equivalent of 20 months behind their wealthier peers.”

EPI suggests that this gap could be due to parents’ ability to invest in music outside of school with private lessons, and schools’ abilities to provide instruments and equipment.

Teachers report the learning gap between pupils experiencing disadvantage and their peers has widened

On 1 September the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) published Schools' responses to Covid-19 The challenges facing schools and pupils in September 2020. The report is based on a weighted sample of almost 3,000 school leaders and teachers across more than 2,200 mainstream primary and secondary schools in England with data collected in July 2020.

The report finds that over half of teachers estimate that the learning gap between pupils experiencing disadvantage and their peers has widened, and that teachers in the most deprived schools are over three times more likely to report that their pupils are behind in their curriculum learning than teachers in the least deprived schools. This finding is echoed in the EPI report above.

Teachers felt that for pupils who were home schooled issues included diminishing levels of pupil and parent engagement over time, and a continuing lack of interactive remote teaching approaches. For those learning in school teachers felt teaching quality suffered because of Covid. Over one quarter (28 per cent) of pupils had limited access to IT at home, and it was a particular issue for schools serving the most deprived pupil populations.

Top priorities for senior leaders for September were:

  • provide support for pupils’ emotional and mental health and well-being (81 per cent)
  • to re-engage pupils with learning (64 per cent)
  • to settle them into school (63 per cent)

£1 billion for catch up support from DfE

The Department for Education (DfE) announced a package worth £1 billion of ‘catch up’ support on 20 July:

  • £650 million one-off grant funding paid to all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the 2020 to 2021 academic year, to be spent on will be spent on activities that ensure all pupils have the chance to catch up. Details on how this will be distributed to individual schools has not yet been published.
  • £350 million for a National Tutoring Programme, which will deliver tuition to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, accelerating their academic progress and preventing the gap between them and their more affluent peers widening.

We are concerned about the focus on ‘catch up’ rather than a recovery curriculum, and the damaging narrative for children and young people that they deficient and behind. The support is also only for EBacc subjects without any provision for arts subjects.

Digital divide – free internet and mobile data for pupils experiencing disadvantage

DfE is working in partnership with BT to offer free access to BT wifi hotspots for disadvantaged pupils and also say they are working with the ‘major telecommunications companies’ to offer free additional data to families who rely on mobiles for internet access.

The DfE has published information for schools on how to apply for some of the 10,000 BT vouchers. Every voucher comes with content filtering, and one voucher can be used on up to three devices at once. Vouchers will work until the end of December 2020.

Class and job quality in the Creative Industries

The Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) published Getting in and getting on: Class, participation and job quality in the UK's Creative Industries on August. This is part of their series of work looking at the impact of class and other factors including gender, ethnicity, disability and skill levels on employment in the creative industries.

The creative industries have a greater problem with social mobility than industry as a whole – those from privileged backgrounds are 1.7 times more likely to land any professional role, and in the creative industries 2.5 times more likely.

The report finds that those from privileged backgrounds are more than twice as likely to land a job in a creative occupation and that class interacts with other factors – such as gender, ethnicity, disability and skill levels – to create ‘double disadvantage’.

“Women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, those with a disability, and those with low skill levels from working-class backgrounds generally experience multiple disadvantages in getting into creative occupations.”

They also found that these groups were also less likely to progress on in their careers once in the creative industries. Given that Covid-19 is having a disproportionate impact on already marginalised groups the concern is that the situation will get worse over the coming months.

Culture Recovery Fund: £1.57 billion support for the cultural sector 

At the end of July DCMS announced £1.57 billion funding for the cultural sector across all the home nations with the aim of supporting the survival of cultural and heritage organisations that:

  • are of international or national cultural significance
  • or that contribute to the levelling-up agenda
  • and that are at risk of closing by the end of the year

The funding can be used to support activities and essential running costs. 

The £1.57 billion comprises:

  • £500 million made available in Cultural Recovery Fund grants that could be applied for via the Arts Council England. Both round 1 and 2 have now closed for these grants.
  • £500 million is being distributed via the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme which is UK wide.
  • £270 million was made available via a Repayable Finance loan programme for organisations asking for more than £3 million. Applications for this close on 11 September. Decisions on these awards will be made by the government’s new Culture Recovery Board, which was appointed by DCMS. 
  • £53 million devolved to the Welsh Government:
    • £27.5 million distributed by Arts Council of Wales to support theatres and galleries – the grant process for this closed on 9 September.
    • £18.5 via the Cultural Recovery Fund which is open for applications from 14 September 2020 until midnight on 30 September 2020.
    • £7 million for freelancers affected by Covid-19
  • £3.36 million via the Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund for grassroots music venues facing imminent closure.  

Currently £243 million of this fund is unallocated.

Space for Learning: Covid guidance launch

Helping museums, galleries, heritage and performing arts sites adapt their learning spaces and programmes in response to Covid-19 

The Clore Duffield Foundation, Group for Education in Museums (GEM), Engage (the network for gallery education), and the Theatre Education Forum (TEF) have worked together to draw up guidance on how learning spaces in museums, galleries, heritage and performing arts sites can be 'Covid Secure' when they reopen, and to consider how their programming will need to change and adapt.

Read and download the guidance on the Space for Learning website.

Updated Guidance from DCMS on Arts Sector Reopening

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced on 14 August that live indoor performances in front of a socially-distanced audience could re-start.

They also provided updated guidance on how to resume singing, woodwind and brass playing indoors with mitigating measures. This advice is based on the results of a UK Government-commissioned study Perform and the study by SOBRADA which found the risks of Covid transmission for singing and playing are similar to those for speaking at a similar volume.

There are now no set limits on the number of people who can be involved in events taking place outside at a Covid-secure venue which has an appropriate risk assessment and measures in place, including social distancing.

#HereForCulture campaign from DCMS

On 22 August the Government launched a new #HereForCulture campaign, highlighting the support available for the cultural sector, including the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. The campaign also aims to encourage the public to help the cultural sector through visiting cultural and heritage attractions, buying tickets, engaging with content, supporting membership of friend schemes and so on.

There are social media assets you can share with the hashtags #HereForCulture and #CultureRecoveryFund.


Image credit: Leeds Museums