Cultural Learning Alliance

From our first consciousness until our last, we should sing every song and dance every dance from every part of the world as we go on our journey to become the men and women we are

David Lan
Artistic Director, Young Vic


First response: the new Draft National Curriculum

Published 09 July 2013

On Monday the new National Curriculum was published by the Department of Education. It’s important to note that Free Schools and Academies (about 13% of schools) do not have to follow this curriculum, though it is likely that they will continue to use it as a guide. 

For cultural learning (Art and Design, Dance, Drama, History, Music) the new specifications represent a mixed bag, with some welcome and much needed revisions to the language and content of previous drafts, but also some glaring omissions and strange emphases.

What’s good about it?

DfE officials have listened to some of the points made by the Specialist Subject Associations and by the Cultural Learning Alliance and have made a few important changes. For example, we are delighted to see that space in the History curriculum has opened up to allow for more emphasis on local history and heritage, and that unhelpful phrases like ‘appreciation of beauty’ and ‘the creation of pleasing objects’ have been removed from the Art and Design specifications. Similarly, the Music Curriculum appears to be broadly in good shape, with a strong emphasis on musicianship and creativity.  Much of the language used to describe learning across all subjects has been modified to encourage a less passive and more active and engaging experience.

What needs improving?

There is more that could be done to strengthen and improve these programmes of study. The National Curriculum must be cutting-edge, stretching, innovative and ambitious. It must be future-facing. In its present form, there is very little emphasis on the contemporary, and only the Design and Technology specification makes any link to the Cultural or Creative Industries, an omission that is particularly glaring in Art and Design, English and Music. Digital texts and media are conspicuous by their absence.

What’s missing?

The subjects of Dance, Drama and Film have not been meaningfully included within the framework:

  • Dance is not described at all beyond ‘movement’ or a ‘physical activity’; there has been no recognition that as a distinct artform it involves the interconnected study of performance, creation and appreciation.
  • Drama is mentioned a few times in terms of guidance on the English Curriculum, but it is never recognised as a discipline in its own right, only as a tool to discuss language and meaning, or to develop writing.
  • Film is absent from the draft – with no recognition of digital text or influence beyond the disciplines of Design and Technology and Computing. 

Dance, Drama and Film are all rigorous disciplines as well as artforms. They involve the essential core knowledge and skills that every child needs to succeed in their lives. A clear framework to help young people progress in these disciples should be included in the Curriculum. The omission of these subjects is a grave concern.

These omissions follow a series of disappointing policy changes from the Department. For example, arts subjects continue to be dis-incentivised by the English Baccalaureate. Last week the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, admitted that omission from the EBacc has seriously harmed the uptake of RE in schools: the arts subjects are in exactly the same position.


Amongst all the proagandist newspaper reports yesterday there was a quote from Master Giove about how this curriculum had been written after years of research and with expert help from around the globe. Does his nose grow longer with every lie? That certainly doesn't apply to Art Craft and Design......and I am sure other subjects and UK "experts" will agree.
Susan COLES 09 July 2013
Gove has not taken any notice of Henley or recognised Rose or Cambridge Reviews, all of which champion the arts in education. Gove has also failed to listen to teachers, the people on the front line. Which school in their right mind would want this curriculum? I guess Academies and Free Schools can choose to opt out, and many schools are already choosing independent Curriculums like IPC. The only good thing I can see here is that it's up to arts organisations to help liven up this new uninspiring curriculum and we can hope to trust in schools to enable this and that extra funds promised by Gove to do this will be given. I think schools should follow the Australuan system whereby every parent pays around £100 a year into a 'pot' so that their children get a continuous steady flow of cultural enrichment. Those that can't pay can have it funded by Pupil Premium. I think it's time to take control and try different methods.
Karl Wozny 09 July 2013
With the recent announcement to remove Speaking & Listening as part of the English GCSE, Gove's insistence that Drama can be taught through the school play and 'external agencies', the blinkered focus on Shakespeare in English at KS2 and beyond as the only 'sop' offered to the 'importance' of Drama and the massive negative impact the EBacc is having on take up for Drama and other Arts subjects at GCSE and beyond, I fear for the future of Drama as a discreet subject in schools. The fact that it has also been virtually totally ignored in the latest national curriculum reform announcements does nothing to address my concerns. Despite not being part of the National Curriculum at the moment, Drama has enjoyed huge popularity in schools, but is now under serious threat. I fear for the future of a subject I have taught with pride and passion and that I have seen engage and uplift several thousand young souls. I fear for ther spritual and emontional future of a country that denies the importance of a subject that has brought and continues to bring in billions of pounds to the UK economy annually.
andrew rogers 10 July 2013
I am astonished that Gove's short sightedness threatens to damage the significant contribution made by Art, Design, Music, Dance and Drama to the economy. The man is so linear in his thinking, he is virtually one- dimensional. He needs to read . Why not start with John Dewey's How we Think (1933).
Fin 10 July 2013
The one think I keep hearing from different teachers as these policies keep changing is that Mr Gove is not listening. Why isn't Mr Gove listening to the professionals? At his peril - he now has to put strategies in place to 'fix the damage' eg to the RE curriculum. Mr Gove the profession is listening and watching. We also do have long memories. However, our children and young people only have today. Have children and young people been consulted about what Mr Gove wants to do to their curriculum? Can we hear thier voice in all of this?
Carolyn Davies 20 July 2013
Has Mr Gove ever seen or watched young people participating in a Drama, Dance, or other Arts lessons and activities? Has he ever followed a created or devised drama or dance project from its conception through development to a performance or presentation? I doubt he has ever had that opportunity and that the limit of his knowledge has come from reading and watching theatre and the media! He is very misinformed if he believes that reading and discussing a few plays occasionally over the now thirteen years of education will enrich young people with the underpinning knowledge and life skills that they need now more than ever for survival in the present climate of social unrest and financial hardship! The Arts have been developed over the last forty years or more at a much higher degree of psychology and sociology to the point where they are highly structured creating and recreating learning mediums. Evolving from an idea - a situation - a thought - a memory - a viewpoint and using range of devices, while in a secure environment, participants grow in self confidence and self worth. Mr Gove does not realise that because of the liberal freedoms and rights that are already provided for the younger generations, without the opportunities that participation in the Arts offer, the next few generations will be unable to make sense of the world, culture and society in which they live or to understand their relationship with those whom they come in contact. The Art provide reasons and needs to practise decision making and judgements and learning to manage and cope with the consequences of those decisions on themselves and others. By neglecting to include any one of the creative and performing arts in the curriculum, Mr Gove has decided to encourage and indeed create a generation of insurgents, rebels and renegades. His policy will only invite, for the next few generations, cores of radical groups with the inability to function in the society and the workplace that will ensure the government pays dearly both financially and by wasting the time of the law enforcement teams and governing authorities. In fact, the "living drama" that Mr Gove is currently "creating" will soon prove that Drama is required on the curriculum for both Learning and Living and, instead of being a subject in its own right delivered by specialist teachers, will waste vital resources as time is taken to include it in every subject provided by each and every educational establishment.
J H 07 August 2013
Good to remember however that there's a key opportunity here for creative and cultural organisations to produce CPD activities and teaching resources that will address some of the glaring omissions discussed above. In particular, but by no means solely, maintained schools will be hungry for non-statutory guidance and teaching and learning resources for creative and cultural learning...
Helen Charman 30 August 2013

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Cultural Campus, BFI. Photo: Olivia Hemingway
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