In 2018, the Minister of Education, in line with the Culture White Paper indicated that the Government was determined that all children develop artistically because high-quality arts education should not be the preserve of the elite, but the entitlement of every child. Music, art and design, drama and dance are included in the national curriculum and compulsory in all maintained schools from the age of 5 to 14.
From 2002 until 2011, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in co-operation with the Department of Education, supported the Creative Partnerships initiative, administered by Arts Council England. With a budget of GB£ 380 million, 5000 schools, 90,000 teachers and over one million young people involved, it was the largest arts education intervention ever in the UK. The aim was to put creativity at the heart of learning and to foster relationships between schools and cultural organisations to ensure every child had access to high-quality cultural experiences. Evaluation of the initiative showed modest gains in learning outcomes, but a considerable increase in well-being of the young people. In addition, the government launched the Find Your Talent programme in 2008, which gave young people access to five hours of high-quality arts experiences every week. Unfortunately, both this programme and Creative Partnerships were discontinued due to government cutbacks.
A new initiative, the Cultural Educational Challenge, was launched in 2015 and modestly funded by Arts Council England. It encourages collaboration between sector leaders in the arts, education, local authorities, schools and higher education institutions. A key element is Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEPs) intended to generate new ways of working. There are around 100 such partnerships which are overseen by “bridge organisations” that seek to connect the cultural and education sectors. However, a report in 2019 suggested that only one-third of LCEPs consider they have developed sufficiently to fulfil their goal of ensuring all children and young people have access to arts/culture (www.bop.co.uk).
TheDurham Commission is a two-year research initiative established by ACE in conjunction with the University of Durham to examine the role of creativity and creative thinking should play in the education of young people. It has proposed the establishment of a national network of “Creative Collaboratives” that envisages schools co-operating to establish and sustain the conditions needed for nurturing creativity. The proposal envisages a three-year pilot scheme of nine hubs, before a rollout nationally in 2023. The Commission has suggested funding could come from the Department for Education, ACE and educational trusts. Some criticisms have been expressed about the similarity with the Creative Partnerships programme referred to above, but the difference is said to be the emphasis on stimulating creativity across the curriculum and not only focussed on arts/culture-related engagements. Nevertheless, it will still be dependent on the financial and political commitment. Moreover, the Department for Education has declined to participate in that part of the Programme for International Students (PISA) dealing with the evaluation of young people’s creative engagement and expression, knowledge creation and problem solving (though it will do so for three other areas: mathematics, science and reading). The Welsh Government has also decided not to participate.
A review on music education in England for DCMS and DfE led by Darren Henley (subsequently Chief Executive of Arts Council England) led to the creation of the first ever National Plan for Music in 2011. This resulted in the creation of 123 Music Education Hubs supported by Arts Council England, with funding from the Department of Education. Music Education Hubs are groups of organisations such as schools, local authorities and community organisations that provide joined-up approaches to provide access to high-quality music education for all children and young people and thus address inconsistent provision. However, there is concern that music remains the preserve of white and middle-class young people and that non-white students, students from economically deprived backgrounds, boys and students with special educational needs remain under-represented.
A further independent review was conducted by Darren Henley for DCMS and the DfE on Cultural Education in England shortly after the National Plan for Music. Among its recommendations were that Government should develop a single National Cultural Education Plan setting out its ambitions for children and young people, with a framework that enables the ambitions to be delivered. It also recommended cross-departmental governmental co-operation on cultural education, as well as the creation of a new partnership between the arm’s length cultural agencies to ensure their individual strategies cohere to build a single over-arching strategy on the issue.
Schools that show a commitment to the full range of the arts – art and design, music, dance and drama can get recognition through Artsmark, a national award by Arts Council England. The award recognises, promotes and spreads good practice on how to provide the arts in education; gives young people more opportunities to access the arts; and encourages schools, arts organisations and artists to work together.
However, in the last decade, a combination of different factors has created an environment in which arts education in schools has been increasingly ‘squeezed’ in the curriculum. One major factor for this development was the extended period ofausterity. Although ringfencing of educational budgets was introduced to ensure the continuing provision of high-quality education, there was a negative impact on arts education. Due to financial constraints, many schools cut back on arts and music lesson hours and reduced the number of specialized arts and music teachers. Unsurprisingly, it is primarily children in areas of social and economic deprivation who have been hit hardest by these changes.
Another adverse impact on arts education was seen as the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in 2010. The EBacc is a school performance indicator linked to the General Certificate of Secondary Education. It measures students’ performance in English language and literature, maths, the sciences, geography, history and foreign languages, but excludes arts-related subjects. It has been claimed that the EBacc has a negative effect on the perceived value of arts subjects in schools and is blamed for a major fall in GCSE entries in arts subjects with a 28.1% decline since 2014, which in turn had a knock-on effect on A-level exam entries in arts subjects, which fell by 16.8% in the same period. The Government has faced mounting criticism that the E-Bacc has penalised the teaching of arts subjects as schools focus on EBacc core subjects, further reducing time for arts tuition. Moreover, performance measures that assess school education standards is also considered to have contributed to the decline in arts education, not least because of controversial inspection criteria employed by OFSTED, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. The impact for the EBacc is worst for lower-attaining students and those from underprivileged backgrounds and it has been described as detrimental to social mobility. It is feared that the long-term effect will be an insufficient number of specialist arts teachers and a skills shortage in the creative economies.
In contrast to the situation in England, arts are at the heart of the national curriculum for children aged 3 to 16 in Wales. In 2015, the Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales launched the Creative Learning through the Arts action plan (see chapter5.1). ALead Creative Schools scheme is a five-year project to embed creativity in the classroom. It started with 150 schools in 2015 and there are plans to roll it out in schools all over Wales. Similar to other programmes, schools will be connected to so-called “creative agents”. These developments followed An Independent Report for the Welsh Government into Arts in Education in the Schools of Wales in 2013 which, among, other things, recommended the use of the arts in helping to deliver improved numeracy and literacy.
In 2018 a Cultural Inclusion Manifesto was agreed by arts organisations, some teachers, members of parliament and charities to drive support for making arts and education more inclusive for children and young people with disabilities. It outlines, among other things, the need for partnerships between cultural organisations and special education needs schools and organisations.
Concern for the health of arts/cultural education led to the creation of the Cultural Learning Alliance, which brings together organisations in the arts, museums, libraries, film, heritage etc. to work with the education and youth sectors to campaign for cultural education. The second edition of its report Imagine Nation in 2017 and its Key Research Findings are intended to set the agenda for a national debate on the value of cultural learning.