What we did in 2021

15 December 2021

This is our annual round-up of the Cultural Learning Alliance’s (CLA) activity over the year. We spent 2021 continuing to champion the right of every child to arts and culture, with social justice as the driver for our work.

We know the Covid-19 pandemic has widened the existing inequity in our systems, and the voices that are currently able to lead conversations about the future of our sectors often belong to those with stable jobs, or are based in traditional organisations where there is the capacity, resource and security to think creatively. We see it as a CLA responsibility to ensure that conversations about the transformation of arts education are representative of the full diversity of stakeholders.

Reporting on the state of arts education 2021

As in previous years we reported on GCSE and A Level arts subject entries and the number of arts teachers and teaching hours in England, as well as highlighting key facts about the current state of arts education.

Updates and analysis of government policy and funding

We continued to provide our members with updates on government policy and funding, with analysis of the 2021 Autumn Budget and Spending Review, which dictates the funding envelope for the Departments for Education and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for the next three years.

We provided policy analysis of Arts Council England’s Let’s Create delivery plan, the White Paper on post-16 technical education, and our response to the post-16 qualifications at level 3 consultation for members to use.

We highlighted new funding streams from the DfE: the Recovery Premium and Summer School and Holiday Activities and Food funding available in England, and models members could use to think about delivery.

We also shared our response to the Office of Students (OfS) consultation on a cut of 50% in their funding of university performing and creative arts courses, for members to use as a model for their own responses. The cut has gone ahead, and while the funding was equivalent to only 1% of the combined fee and OfS funding that a university receives for a creative course, it signals the direction of travel for higher education arts funding in the wake of the ‘interim’ government response to the Augar Review. We are keeping a close watch on further developments.

Advocating for the Arts Premium

The CLA has always worked to advocate for funding for the sector. As many of you know we have been calling for an Arts Premium since 2015 (there has been a PE & Sport Premium since March 2013). Our lobbying was successful, and this became both a Labour and Conservative manifesto promise in 2019. It was confirmed at £90 million per year for three years in the Budget in early 2020.

Due to the pandemic, the Arts Premium was not included in the Autumn budget and Spending Review. We continue to advocate for its continuation: the CLA made a presentation on this to the new Arts Minister in October 2021 as part of his first official meeting with the sector.

Advocating for curriculum change: Drama GCSE specification changes

The CLA has a history of working with the DfE, Ofsted and Ofqual to improve the quality, relevance and status of arts subjects in schools. We were really pleased in 2020 to convene a group to consider representation in the curriculum across arts subjects, and have continued to support the work of Dance, Drama and Film groups.

Warm congratulations to our colleagues on these groups who have played a key role in advocating for changes to GCSE specifications which increase the number of Global Majority artists featured. In 2021 as a direct result of this work, Pearson, a major exam board, made significant changes to its set texts for Drama.

Resources for teachers have been produced by the Decolonising Dance group and NSEAD. Our Special Advisor on representation in the curriculum, mezze eade, will be blogging about all this work in January, and signposting resources you can use. Do look out for this.

CLA in 2021 – new Advisory Panel members

The move to online meetings during the pandemic has enabled us to move to more regular Advisory Panel meetings, and during summer 2021 we ran an open recruitment process designed to increase the diversity and range of our community. The Panel now has 75 members drawn from across the education and cultural sectors, and with a range of lived experience.

We now meet every term to hear from expert speakers to inform and debate the most pressing issues: speakers during 2021 have ranged from the Chair of Arts Council England, to leading experts on social mobility and wellbeing, civil servants, former ministers, and the head of the OECD Directorate of Education and Skills

After an internal review, we recognise we need to build a more representative internal structure and working practices for the future, and model best practice for our sector. Individuals from the global majority* and people who are disabled* are under-represented in the CLA, and in our senior leadership. We are currently recruiting a third Co-Director as part of a range of actions to improve representation (do share with your networks).


A huge thank you to all our thousands of individual and organisational members, to our Advisory Panel and Strategy Group members for your support. Thank you for sharing information and evidence about the value of an arts-rich education, for talking to your MPs and councillors about your current priorities and needs, and for working with schools and local arts organisations to ensure that children and young people continue to 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 13,000 Twitter followers, and were pleased to welcome more than 1,000 of you this year. Do follow us if you don’t already: @CultureLearning.

We wish you, and all the children and 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.



*Global majority includes, but is not limited to, people of African, North African, South Asian, South East Asian, East Asian, Caribbean, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Native American, Native Australian, Pacific Islanders, Roma and Traveller heritage or diaspora.

We know that these issues are sensitive and that the language used to describe different identities is contested and evolving quickly. We welcome feedback on our approach and the language used. If you would like to comment, please e-mail us. Any feedback you provide will be dealt with confidentially and will not impact your relationship with the Cultural Learning Alliance.