The Cultural Learning Landscape summer 2020

01 July 2020

Like the weather during the current climate emergency, extremes characterise the cultural learning landscape this summer. Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement are washing away what we took for granted and throwing into greater relief the lack of social justice in Britain. This blog looks at the raft of different proposals and initiatives that are developing as a result of the changes.

Recovery curriculum

The Education Endowment Foundation, Children’s Commissioner, 1,500 paediatricians and child health specialists, and a wide range of other well informed bodies, have highlighted their concerns about the lost learning and experiences of children since schools shutdown in March. They fear the damage to children’s life chances could be permanent, as not only their education but also their mental health suffers from not being in school.

Barry Carpenter, Professor of Mental Health in Education at Oxford Brookes University, and Matthew Carpenter, Principal at Baxter College, have suggested a Recovery Curriculum that will address the losses being experienced by all children: routine, structure, friendship, opportunity and freedom. They have proposed five levers for schools to use to develop their Recovery Curriculum:

  • Lever 1: Relationships 
  • Lever 2: Community 
  • Lever 3: Transparent Curriculum 
  • Lever 4: Metacognition
  • Lever 5: Space – to be, to rediscover self, and to find their voice on learning in this issue

Carpenter has a series of podcasts and has established a learning community to develop the Recovery Curriculum – scroll down the Recovery Curriculum page to see all the resources. Other organisations have also published ideas, including the Arts Council England Bridge Organisation in London, A New Direction.

The Black Curriculum

The Black Curriculum delivers arts focused Black History programmes, teacher training and support for young people to campaign for change. Founded in 2019, they are seeking to address the lack of Black British history in the UK Curriculums. England’s school curriculum and exam specifications, last reformed in 2014, have been criticised for their lack of diversity – for example in the texts studied in drama, or the focus on the Western Classical tradition 1700-1900 in music.

Decolonising the Curriculum – London Theatre Consortium

For the past four years education teams from across the London Theatre Consortium have been working to ensure that in Drama ‘schools study a diverse – inclusive of race, gender, ability – range of texts and practitioners that are relevant to current practice and British society’. The group has run teacher CPD, spoken with exam boards, prepared lists of texts and developed resources, including BBC Bitesize films.

SHAPE – social sciences, humanities & the arts for people & the economy

A new initiative from, among others,  the British Academy, Arts Council England and the London School of Economics, wants to rebrand social sciences, humanities and the arts as SHAPE subjects, in the way that we have STEM subjects for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, to highlight the value of SHAPE to our national life.

‘SHAPE is a new collective name for those subjects that help us understand ourselves, others and the human world around us. They provide us with the methods and forms of expression we need to build better, deeper, more colourful and more valuable lives for all.’

The campaign wants people to talk about the value of SHAPE subjects for people and the economy to help government and the public understand how vital they are for our national life and our international success. Support is growing, with positive articles in Wonkhe, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

Observer manifesto for children and young people

On 20 June the Observer newspaper took the unusual step of publishing a manifesto of eight measures they want to see implemented to minimise the impact of the pandemic on children and young people. They are all things that we wholeheartedly agree with.

The eight measures are:

  1. Urgent support for nurseries
  2. A detailed plan to get all children and young people back to school full time in September 
  3. A free programme of structured summer activities open to all five- to 18-year-olds
  4. Every school should be assigned a child mental health counsellor
  5. A programme of investment in services for vulnerable children up to 18 and their parents
  6. A civic service scheme offering all 18-25-year-olds a guaranteed job paid at the living wage for six months
  7. A reduction in university fees
  8. Equal investment in all 18-year-old school and college leavers, whether or not they go to university

Read the full Observer manifesto.

Creative Industries Federation – Creative Coalition

The Creative Industries Federation has assembled a Creative Coalition, bringing creatives and industry leaders together to shape a collective future that aims to ensure creativity sits at the heart of the UK's economic and social regeneration. The Federation is consulting with its members ‘to create an inspirational view of what our sector could look like if we reimagine our future, backed up by innovative ideas and the evidence needed to drive meaningful change.’ The first working group was held on 12 June, to discuss ‘The Case for Creativity’, co-chaired by Sir Peter Bazalgette and Karen Blackett OBE, and members were invited to get involved. As always the role of education has been a key part of the discussions that the CLA has been involved in, and we look forward to seeing the proposals that are developed.

Let’s Create – Arts Council England 2020-2030 Strategy

We cannot, of course, forget that the 2020-2030 Arts Council England Strategy Let’s Create has a focus on creativity, and will be aiming to ensure that ACE creates ‘opportunities for children and young people to reach their creative potential and to access the highest quality cultural experiences’.

The delivery plan for the strategy has been postponed due to Covid-19, and when it is published will take account of the sweeping changes Covid-19 has caused to the arts sector. This will be another key part in the puzzle of how we ensure every child has a right to arts and culture, and another step on the road to social justice.

Arts Premium?

Finally, in the March 2020 budget the Chancellor confirmed that there would be an Arts Premium for Secondary Schools. We are told that this is still in the Department for Education’s budget, but are waiting for confirmation.


Image credit: Leeds Museums and Galleries, Abbey House. Credit: Sarah Zagni. Taken 2017.