The Cultural Learning Alliance: What we did in 2012

16 January 2013

Now we’re into our stride in 2013 we thought we’d just pause to spend a moment reflecting on some of the work that we all did together last year, and direct our thoughts to the next six months.

What we worked on

Last year was dominated by reform of the formal education system at unprecedented speed and scale. We focused on three main areas: the Henley Review of Cultural Education, The National Curriculum Review and the development of the English Baccalaureate.

  • The Henley Review of Cultural Education

On the day of publication we 'live-tweeted' our reading of the report and the launch, flagging up all things great and all things that caused us concern. It was great that many of the Alliance’s recommendations made it into Henley’s report and that £15 million was allocated to cultural learning projects – many of which are starting to pick up steam. Throughout March we worked with all of you to do a detailed analysis of the report and sent an official response through to government. In this response we flagged up concerns about local authorities, youth services and early years, and for libraries. We asked about funding, about the English Baccalaureate and the National Curriculum and we called for a swift and comprehensive National Plan for Cultural Education – 11 months on we are still waiting.

  • The National Curriculum Review

As the Review of the National Curriculum picked up steam we worked with brilliant Subject Specialists Associations, teachers, experts and cultural organisations to draft a key position paper that outlines principles for good cultural learning in the curriculum for every cultural subject.

We submitted this to the Department of Education, and met with members of the National Curriculum Review team to make our case. As a result, we were charged by the DfE with hosting four half-day Roundtables where CLA reps and DfE colleagues consulted on the detail of the emerging Art and Design and Music curricula. We are now awaiting the new drafts and are keen to see how much of our advice was taken.

We reviewed the English Curriculum and were very concerned at the removal of Drama and Speaking and Listening from the Programme of Study – something that we took up strongly with Department of Education officials. They asked us to provide evidence of the problem. Even at terrifically short notice and in the depths of the summer holidays CLA members contributed brilliantly to our research survey. This was presented to DfE and DCMS colleagues and sent through to Ministers. We will be following this up with a further Roundtable on Drama in the New Year.

The P.E. curriculum has not yet been published and we are awaiting the new documents. However, we have flagged up our fears about the removal of Dance and are ready to act as soon as necessary.

  • The English Baccalaureate

In 2012 the EBacc really started to take hold and drive our education system – having a serious and detrimental effect on arts provision in schools.

Working with our partners we met with the officials leading on the EBacc in the DfE, we drafted documents and briefings, made Freedom of Information requests, pulled together key data and helped to raise awareness of the impact: 15% of schools have withdrawn arts courses.

For all this, we felt that more campaigning and a louder voice was needed, so we worked with the press, with cultural leaders, and with other campaigning organisations, from Bacc for the Future to the National Union of Teachers, to make your voices and experiences heard. We drafted a brief which has made its way into speeches, articles and organisations. CLA members have written letters to MPs, briefed their Chairs and governors, signed petitions, consulted on the DfE Key Stage 4 proposals, and they have met with Michael Gove, civil servants and several All Party and Specialist Parliamentary Groups.

The CLA has grown

Looking at our yearly statistics we are delighted to see that we have 17,000 regular users of the website – up from 14,000 last year. Membership is up by 1,600 to almost 9,000, which includes over 3,220 organisations. We have also gained about 1,000 new Twitter followers this year and around 1,000 new readers of our newsletter: welcome to you all – do tell your friends. The more members we have the louder our voice is with policy makers.

We have met with, listened to and briefed colleagues all over the country – speaking at conferences, roundtables and meetings about the value of culture to the lives of children and young people – thanks for having us. We also took Imagination: the Case for Cultural Learning across the pond to the President's Committee of Arts and Humanities in Washington USA and compared data and approaches to cultural learning with our American counterparts.

This has truly been the year of partnership and collegiate working for us and we want to say a big thank you as ever to our Steering and Advisory Panels, but also to the Early Years Strategy Group, Creative Industries Council Skill Set Group, Group for Education in Museums, What Next?, the National Museum Directors' Council, the National Curriculum Review Team, our Bridge colleagues, our wider membership, and particularly the Specialist Subject Associations who have all given us fantastic support and advice. Also grateful thanks to our growing band of committed supporters, including the Clore Duffield Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Foyle Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

What we will do next

The next few months are critical. We will be running more Roundtables with the DfE on curriculum, will be closely analysing the forthcoming National Plan for Cultural Education, and will be continuing to focus on the EBacc and schools’ accountability. We also know that the next few months are going to be extremely difficult for colleagues working in and with local authorities, those working in libraries, with youth arts and with early years. If there is any way we can collectively support you, or you would like to get more involved with the CLA, let us know.