What we did in 2020

05 January 2021

Welcome to our annual round-up for CLA activity.

In our 2019 round-up we predicted that 2020 would hold ‘upheavals for the arts and education sectors’. This now sounds like the understatement of the decade. The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the context in which we are working and will continue to do so in 2021.

Access to the arts and education for children experiencing disadvantage has plummeted. Much of the cultural learning workforce is in crisis or is unable to deliver in the way that it has done historically, and teachers and schools are delivering well beyond their capacity.

As we enter a third lockdown, we expect 2021 to continue to hold similar levels of disruption, with the impact of pandemic cuts driving more arts education job losses, and less arts for the most disadvantaged due to Covid restrictions on performing arts and schools focusing on catch-up curriculums.

CLA in 2020

We spent 2020 continuing to champion the right of every child to arts and culture, with social justice as the driver for our work.

We worked to ensure the arts education workforce was championed and supported fairly. We ran lightning consultations with freelance arts educators just before the announcement of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), and we worked hard behind the scenes on the emergency support from government with Lizzie, one of our Co-Directors, sitting on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Events and Entertainment Taskforce, the Greater London Authority (GLA) Transition Board and the Labour Cultural Taskforce.

We kept the arts education sector updated on support available from government. We reported on the changes to 2020 GCSE and A Level exams; on guidance from the Department for Education, and guidance on providing Covid secure arts education.

As usual we reported on 2020’s Arts GCSE and A Level entries and the number of arts teachers and teaching hours in England.

We reported on Ofsted research Building great teachers; on the quality of ITT; on the impact of Covid on arts teaching; on government debates, including a Lords debate on arts education; and on Ministerial changes. We supported the launch of the Drama, Theatre and Young People Manifesto.

Policy analysis 

In January Arts Council England published Let’s Create, their new 10 year strategy. We published headlines and provided detailed analysis on what it could mean for children and young people.

We were thrilled in March when the Arts Premium – a Conservative manifesto commitment and something the CLA has been calling for since 2015 – was confirmed in the budget.

We analysed the impact of the November Spending Round on art and cultural learning.

As part of our work with DCMS and Task & Finish groups (see section below) we developed a comprehensive proposal for arts blended learning CPDL which we will continue to champion.


In response to the Covid crisis we invited colleagues to blog about the pressing questions facing the arts education sector and published thinkpieces from:


We spoke in person for the Culture and Leisure Officers Association (CLOA), the Royal Shakespeare Company and ROH Bridge, and via Zoom at the following:

  • Creative Industries Federation Conference
  • National Cultural Education Partnerships conference
  • National What Next? chapter meetings
  • Greater London Authority (GLA) Education Taskforce
  • Westminster Media Forum
  • Local Cultural Education Partnerships North East event
  • University of Winchester Culture and Arts Management MA
  • Children and Young People’s Dance Programme Board
  • Tybed Creativity, Arts and Culture in Education workshop
  • Derby Museums STEAM Session
  • RSA Creativity Matters event celebrating the life of Sir Ken Robinson

We also gave evidence at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Art, Craft and Design in Education.

Task & Finish groups

We supported a series of Task & Finish groups and roundtables on representation in the curriculum, and on the needs of arts educators continuing professional development and learning (CPDL).

Mezze Eade has been working as the CLA Special Advisor on representation in the curriculum. This has included providing support, and in some cases running subject-specific groups to push forward change in exam specifications to include more global majority artists, and CPDL to support teachers in making changes to the texts they teach, and their pedagogy, for example how they approach teaching different styles or periods.

Workforce survey

We have continued to witness and record changes due to Covid on the arts education workforce. To evidence the need for support we have launched a workforce survey which ran in December 2020, and which we will run again in April and July 2021.


In 2020 the Black Lives Matter movement foregrounded the historic and systemic inequality that is inherent in both the education, and arts and cultural sectors. This has been a catalyst for the Cultural Learning Alliance.

We recognise that we, the CLA, have not done enough to challenge the inherent racism and wider inequality in our sector, to listen to colleagues with lived-experience of this, or worked to address it. We acknowledge our agency in this landscape and are working to implement sustainable change across all CLA functions, activity and systems. We recognise that this will require dedicated capacity and funds.

We are increasing the number of colleagues on our Advisory Panel with lived experience of racism to help shape the thinking of the CLA and have started offering honorariums to unwaged colleagues who volunteer their time. We will continue to focus on actions to make the CLA an anti-racist, anti-ableist alliance which supports, platforms and empowers change in the sector.


A huge thank you to all our thousands of individual and organisational members for your support this year. Thank you for sharing information about the difficult choices and situations you have found yourselves in, for talking to your MPs and councillors, and for continuing to find ways to work with schools and local arts organisations to ensure that children and young people have access to the arts.

Big thanks also to our funders the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Clore Duffield Foundation.

Social media

We end the year with more than 12,000 Twitter followers, and were pleased to welcome more than 1,000 of you this year. Do follow us if you don’t already: @CultureLearning.


In 2021 CLA will continue to champion children’s cultural learning opportunities and experiences, the value and place of cultural learning within a broad and balanced curriculum and advocate for the cultural learning workforce: teachers, artists and arts organisations. We will also work to champion high-quality arts experiences that reflect the lived experiences and heritage of young people in our society and ensure that the CLA is an anti-racist, anti-ableist alliance which supports, platforms and empowers change in the sector.

We will also publicly witness and record changes due to Covid, gathering evidence and data as needed (please fill in our workforce survey if you have not already), advocate for cultural learning as a strategic, policy and funding priority in a Covid context and prepare the ground for transformational planning for cultural learning in a post-Covid-19 landscape.

We wish you, and all the young people you work with, a healthy and happy 2021.

P.S. Please tell your colleagues and friends about the Cultural Learning Alliance and encourage them to join. Every member adds weight to our call for children and young people to have access to high quality arts and culture in their lives.