Policy & Practice round-up June 2021

21 June 2021

This month we bring you news of a Welsh Labour manifesto commitment to a National Music Service; the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign fighting for BTEC funding; the new Future Skills report from Kingston University; why a change in recording date means that children most in need are missing out on pupil premium funding; the call for Proposals for the World Alliance for Arts Education Virtual Global Summit and an uplifting video compilation of Tweets from the Festival of School and College Arts.

National Music Service in Wales promised in Labour manifesto

Ahead of the Welsh Senedd elections on 6 May, won by Labour, the Welsh Labour manifesto committed to ‘Establish a National Music Service to make sure that a lack of money is no barrier to young people learning to play an instrument.’ This is great news, and we look forward to hearing more about how the Service will be delivered.

We are of course waiting on the fulfilment of another manifesto commitment in England – that of an Arts Premium, promised in the Conservative 2019 general election manifesto and outlined in the last budget statement before the pandemic.

#ProtectStudentChoice campaign fights for BTECs funding

Many of you will remember the consultation on Post-16 qualifications, including BTECs, that closed in January. We are awaiting the results of the stage two consultation, but there continues to be a risk that Applied General Qualifications (AGQs) are defunded as part of any reform.  

A group of education bodies including the Sixth Form Colleges Association, ASCL and NEU have issued a joint position statement outlining their concerns about the risk of moving to a binary system of T Levels and A Levels. The statement points out that damningly the ‘Department for Education’s own impact assessment concludes that students from disadvantaged backgrounds have the most to lose if AGQs are defunded’. They have launched #ProtectStudentChoice as a campaign. Do follow on Twitter and share your concerns.

Why studying the arts increases students employability: new Future Skills report from Kingston University

Kingston University has published the Future Skills report, which includes results of a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 employers that shows the portfolio of skills for innovation that businesses believe are vital for a thriving national economy. The top ten skills cited by business are:

  1. Problem solving – 77 per cent of respondents
  2. Communication skills – 66 per cent
  3. Critical thinking – 64 per cent
  4. Digital skills – 64 per cent
  5. Analytical skills – 63 per cent
  6. Initiative – 62 per cent
  7. Adaptability – 60 per cent
  8. Creativity – 56 per cent
  9. Ability to build relationships – 55 per cent
  10. A questioning mindset – 55 per cent

If you are familiar with our Key Research Findings or Briefing Papers you will know that evidence suggests studying the arts develop many of these skills, including problem solving and communication.

In the report foreword, Professor Steven Spier, Kingston University’s Vice-Chancellor states:

“The importance of creativity and innovation to the future UK economy contradicts government declarations that university education for the creative industries is not important strategically, with reductions in funding no doubt to follow.”

These declarations include the government’s response to the Augar review published in January, and the recent consultation by the Office for Students on HE arts courses funding, prompted by a letter from the Department for Education.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations for government, universities and employers. Read the full report for more details.

Free School Meals: change in recording date means pupils most in need miss out on pupil premium

Several members of the CLA have highlighted that a change in the date when eligibility for Free School Meals (FSM) was recorded this year, from January 2021 to October 2020, means that a large number of children most in need are missing out on pupil premium funding.

As a result of the pandemic many children have become eligible for FSM since October 2020. Schools must provide services, including FSM, but without receiving funding for them. Between October 2020 and January 2021 ASCL reports that 100,000 more children became eligible for FSM and pupil premium. At Greenwood Academy Trust, which has 37 schools, the change in date means they have ‘lost’ £400,000 of pupil premium funding.

The financial threshold for qualifying for FSM is incredibly low: the household income needs to be below £7,500 per year. The pupil premium is not just there to support attainment but mental health, wellbeing, purchasing clothes and so on. Schools often use the funds to ensure that children continue to access arts activities, for example using the pupil premium funds to pay for musical instrument lessons for children. 

Read more about the issue on BBC news.

Call for Proposals: World Alliance for Arts Education Virtual Global Summit 

The World Alliance for Arts Education (WAAE) is partnering with the University of Florida and SEADAE to host a virtual World Summit from October 11-15, 2021. The summit will bring together arts education professionals worldwide to share the latest research, thought, and practice in arts education assessment and evaluation.

CLA attended the 2020 virtual summit. It was fascinating and thought-provoking to hear about arts practice from around the world. 

This event is inviting arts educators, higher education professionals, arts education researchers, policymakers and education officials from across the world to submit proposals and attend the summit. Ahead of the summit, there will be a Young & Emerging Leaders Forum on 11 October. 

The deadline to submit a proposal is 19 July, 2021, with decisions by 30 August, 2021. Registration to attend the summit opens on 6 July. Do put those dates in your diaries or join their mailing list.

Festival of School and College Arts compilation

Finally, for a little lift we suggest watching the video compilation from ASCL of a selection of the amazing art works and performances from children and young people posted for the Festival of School and College Arts (#EduArtsFest) on 28 May.

This reminds us that the creativity, skill and talent of our children is amazing, and that we should celebrate and salute it.