The party manifestos – what do they say about the future of cultural learning?

20 April 2010

The three major political parties unveiled their election manifestos last week. We’ve been reading them keenly for clues on each parties plans for cultural learning for children and young people, both inside and outside of school.

Despite convincing rhetoric earlier this year, the Conservatives have little outlined in their manifesto to help us understand what their plans are for cultural learning. We know that David Cameron supports cultural learning – he told us so in his video for our website – and we’re delighted to see Ed Vaizey following us on Twitter, but this support and interest hasn’t been transferred into promises for an entitlement to cultural learning within this manifesto. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Conservatives want to see Britain become the most family-friendly country, the creative industries are noted as being a part of Britain’s future prosperity and more money from National Lottery funding is promised back to the arts.Apart from an acknowledgement that the arts contribute to education, the Liberal Democrat manifesto also has no specific promises on cultural learning. But then, there aren’t any mentions of other areas of learning within their “best chance for every child” reforms. They recognise “the arts are a central part of civic and community life” and that they contribute to education as well as diversity, innovation and social inclusion. There is a promise to maintain free entry to national museums and galleries, set up a fund for training, mentoring and small grants or loans for new creative businesses, and reform the National Lottery.Culture and the arts are given a much higher profile in the Labour party manifesto, with acknowledgements of culture’s place in schools, a modern economy and promoting well-being. Here, we get the promise we want – that “every child and young person should be entitled to five hours of art, music and culture per week, through learning to play a musical instrument, visiting local museums and joining film clubs, or taking part in local theatre”. In the Education chapter, there is a promise for opportunities for primary school children to “take part in the arts, culture and music, including the chance to learn a musical instrument”. For secondary schools, the Building Schools for the Future programme will ensure quality facilities that support access to the arts, and the Gifted and Talented programme will be reformed and improved.In addition, children and young people are to benefit from reduced-rate tickets for theatrical productions around Britain, new Creative Bursaries to support young people in their early artistic careers and lifetime library membership from birth.Whichever party wins the election, the Cultural Learning Alliance will be there to promote our vision of every child and young person experiencing the range and breadth of culture in Britain.