The Cultural Learning Alliance: What we did in 2014

22 December 2014

Before striding on to 2015 we thought we would pause a monent and reflect on all the work we did together in 2014.


The CLA has been at the forefront of a national drive to influence the government’s prioritisation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) - pushing for the Arts to be included in the associated resourcing, narrative and infrastructure. We have been working on this alongside NESTA and Arts Council England.

We commissioned and produced a research paper to highlight the main activity and drivers for STEAM in the UK, drawing evidence and information from colleagues working on the agenda here and in the US.

This paper was the basis for partnership working and dialogue with a range of specialist organisations including; My Science, the Wellcome Trust and the British Science Association.

In January 2014 the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, made a major speech embracing the STEAM agenda and we believe that the lobbying and briefing by the CLA to government and to key arts sector colleagues in What Next? was a direct contributor to making this happen. Similarly, the Conservative Party held a fringe event at their conference this year on the importance of STEAM, with key panel members briefed by the CLA.

Disappointingly, the new Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan, made a recent speech which did not embrace the importance of the arts in this context.

We have written to her and the new Secretary of State for Culture Sajid Javid (who we have already briefed on this issue) with the evidence and arguments, and we are working behind the political scene to challenge this thinking.

Party political manifestos and lobbying

This year the CLA has strengthened its relationships with colleagues across the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and has provided information to all three main parties as part of their manifesto writing process:

  • We worked to brief panel members and organisations taking part in the Labour party fringe event at their annual conference, an event which was focussed on arts and children and young people.
  • We are regular attendees of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design, and have held meetings, sent briefings or had dialogue with nine MPs including ministers and members of the shadow cabinet.
  • We also briefed the Labour Arts Alliance and five of the members the House of Lords speaking in the November debate on the importance of arts education.

Chief successes for cultural learning this year have included:

  • the widespread adoption of our recommendation that Ofsted should not judge any school outstanding without evidence of their arts and cultural offer. This has been taken up by the Labour Party.
  • a partial back-track from the government on ‘discount codes’ classifying arts subjects as too similar to be counted separately in league tables – Dance and Drama are now seen as separate qualifications.
  • a welcome, dramatic rise in the number of initial teacher training places allocated to arts subjects

Evidence, consultations presentations and research

In addition to the data and evidence described above, the CLA made presentations to; Arts Council Bridge Organisations, Youth Dance Programme Board, the SSAT, engage, and the Westminster Education Forum. We also made submissions to the Warwick Commission.

The CLA has strong working relationships with colleagues in subject specialist associations working in the arts, with What Next?, with the Cultural Campaigning Network, and are pursuing one with the emerging Creative Industries Federation.

In March we published our major paper on the proposed content and structure of Arts GCSEs which many of you contributed to. This paper was commissioned by the Arts Council and was shared with the DfE, Ofqual and OFSTED.

This year we have also made submissions to the Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training, to Ofqual on the structure and assessment of GCSE and A-level qualifications, and to OFSTED on their forthcoming reform.


The CLA website has been visited by over 17,000 unique users this year, and we have written and published more than 29 articles. We have 6,713 individuals and 3,832 organisations signed up to the CLA, and we send our regular newsletter to 4860 subscribers. We have over 6,500 followers on Twitter

Future structure of the CLA: 2014 Review

A review and consultation with the 30 members of the CLA steering group, plus a wider member survey, was conducted February to June 2014.

The conclusions were:

  • the purpose of the CLA is to be a hub of intelligence gathering, analysis and advocacy;
  • members overwhelmingly wanted the CLA to continue beyond May 2015. Most felt the CLA should exist until arts and culture in education were not under threat, or that it should continue for the foreseeable future;
  • The three most useful activities the CLA leads are:
    • Representing the sector to policy makers
    • Research and evidence reports
    • Newsletters;
  • Subscription membership is not the right structure for the ethos of the CLA and its administrative requirement that would fundamentally alter how the CLA is run.