What is cultural learning?

24 October 2011

New terms and definitions

As a result of our extensive consultation over the summer we are now able to share with you the Guiding Principles and Definitions for Cultural Learning that you helped us to hone and shape.

These will form the back-bone of the CLA strategy and arguments going forward and should give us all some shared touchstones and language to use as we lobby for Cultural Learning in our own practice.

The Principles of Cultural Learning

  1. Every child and young person should have equality of access to a baseline
    of quality cultural learning opportunities.

  2. Cultural learning happens inside and outside of schools and colleges, and
    in a wide range of settings.

  3. Families, parents and carers are important providers of cultural learning.

  4. Young people shape the cultural landscape and are the arts
    professionals of the future. They should be empowered and supported to
    engage with, lead and drive the cultural learning agenda.

  5. Cultural learning involves diverse practice and encompasses the arts,
    heritage and knowledge valued by all individuals, cultures and communities.

  6. Arts subjects taught in schools and other settings as part of the curriculum
    have depth, rigour and an established canon of knowledge. They are of
    equal weight, status, value and importance within the curriculum as other
    subjects, and require equal resource and provision.

  7. Partnership, collaboration, a shared commitment and a collegiate approach
    from those who use cultural learning in their work with young people are key
    to its successful delivery.

  8. Cultural learning enriches our national life and intrinsically makes
    a contribution to our society. It is critical to the development of our
    economy. Through cultural learning young people gain the skills to
    become creative and cultural professionals and to contribute effectively
    to the wider workforce.

  9. It inspires civic engagement and helps neighbourhoods to make positive
    changes through collective ownership of culture. This leads to personal,
    social and community benefit and a shared sense of place.

  10. Cultural learning has clearly evidenced educational and social
    outcomes. Young people who have the opportunity to learn through and
    about culture are better equipped to achieve across the curriculum, and to
    take responsibility for their own learning. Attendance, attitude and wellbeing
    are all improved by engagement with culture. Cultural learning practice
    should be informed by rigorous research and evaluation into impact
    and outcome.


Cultural learning is an active engagement with the creation of our artsand heritage.
  • The arts’ is a broad term that includes a wide range of disciplines from theatre, dance, literature, storytelling, music, craft and visual arts to film, spoken word, digital media, photography and beyond.
  • The term ‘heritage’ encompasses an individual’s understanding of themselves, their material culture and the world around them. Cultural organisations and specialists such as museums, libraries, archives, archaeological sites, historic houses and other built environment institutions safeguard and contribute towards this knowledge and understanding.
Culture, in all its richness and diversity, can be experienced as listening, playing, seeing, watching and interacting, performing, devising, designing and composing, making, writing and doing. Arts and cultural subjects in schoolsinclude English, Drama, Art and Design, Music, Dance, History and Performing Arts. Good cultural learning takes place across all subjects, including scienceand the humanities, and through digital means. Cultural learning involves both learning through culture, and learning about culture, and involves critical thinking, creativity and the development of original ideas and action.The CLA uses the term ‘children and young people’ to mean individuals from 0-19 years of age. It also includes young people from 19-25 who do not have the opportunity to access cultural learning independently. Equality of access to cultural learning does not involve every child accessing the same thing: it involves every child experiencing a parity of access to regular, ongoing opportunities for meaningful engagement.Young people, teachers, families and communities can create, participate in – or be audiences for – culture: they are its makers and consumers. Cultural learning leaders practise at all levels in organisations and communities. Theyinnovate and drive cultural learning. They can include young people, parents, professionals and practitioners.The term ‘cultural learning settings’ encompasses a wide range of provision, including: formal and informal youth and early years settings and services; local authority provision; voluntary, community and private sector provision; services for vulnerable young people, disabled young people, looked-after children and those at risk; cultural organisations and their initiatives; children’s centres, education settings; FE provision, universities and schools.