Cultural Learning Alliance

Dance has evolved from being a personal joy in my life to being the vehicle to take me to see the world, meet people, and discover myself.

Taha, National Young Dance Ambassador
ImagineNation: The Case for Cultural Learning


Henley Review of Cultural Education

Published 28 February 2012

The Henley Review of Cultural Education is published!

After months of wishing and wondering we can all finally draw breath, as the Henley Review of Cultural Education and the government's response were published today. We've read the documents, attended the live launch, and with this post we give you the headlines and our very first response to the findings and subsequent plans. You can also read our round-up article on the Guardian Professionals Network site. As ever, we will be following this up with a considered analysis in the next few days.

What’s in it?

Darren Henley recommends:

  • a call for cultural subjects to be recognised for their intellectual rigour and practical skills and their inclusion in the National Curriculum and English Baccalaureate
  • a set of minimum expectations for every child's cultural education experience, set out by age
  • the creation of a cross-Whitehall Ministerial Group on Cultural Education
  • the creation of a National Plan for Cultural Education
  • the creation of a Cultural Education Partnership Group (CEPG) which could include Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the British Film Institute, the Big Lottery Fund and English Heritage. This would ensure that their individual strategies/plans in the area of Cultural Education cohere in a way that adds up to a single over-arching strategy in line with the government’s stated ambitions.
  • a digital strategy for cultural education and a 'one-stop shop' website
  • the development of a 'cultural education passport' for young people, which encourages and records young people's wide-ranging cultural participation
  • the development of Local Cultural Education Hubs, possibly through the expansion of the ACE Bridge organisations
  • a call for school senior management champions and for cultural education governors in all schools
  • Design should be prioritised in the curriculum, and Dance and Drama should be recognised as subjects in their own right
  • Arts Award should be recognised as a valuable qualification, and Artsmark should be expanded to cover all cultural forms
  • Ofsted should develop guidance for schools and cultural organisations, and they should comment on individual school’s Cultural Education provision as part of their inspection process
  • a quality framework for cultural education should be developed
  • teacher's training, mentoring and on-going CPD related to teacher's own creative and cultural practice
  • funding for Creative and Cultural Higher Education and the retention and expansion of the Dance and Drama Awards to cover cultural forms
  • Downing Street medals for cultural education (given by the Prime Minister)
  • a National Schools Culture Week
  • Cultural Education Ambassadors to be appointed to meet with ministers and publicly promote cultural education


What have the Government said?

The government has responded very positively to the review. You can read the press release from the Department of Education here and from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport here.

Government is immediately responding by investing £15 million into a number of initiatives related to the sector which aim to inspire young people to engage in cultural activities. They have agreed to immediately adopt several of the recommendations. 

These are:

  • the new cross-Ministerial Board
  • a National Plan for Cultural Education
the development of a cultural education passport – so that all children and young people can have a rich variety of cultural education
  • to work with Teaching Schools and sponsored bodies to improve the quality of cultural education in schools. This will receive £300,000 funding from DfE over three years and will be supported by non-departmental public bodies
  • a new National Youth Dance Company. This will provide opportunities for 30 young people – aged 16 to 19 – every year. The DfE and Arts Council England will each provide £600,000 over three years
  • funding for National Art & Design Saturday Clubs. Funding of £395,000 over three years, and additional funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, will be used to establish a network of clubs based on the model set up by Sir John Sorrell. The clubs give schoolchildren access to specialist equipment and tuition at local colleges and universities
  • Heritage Schools – a programme providing access to local history and cultural heritage for schools. English Heritage will work with schools to encourage them to explore historical sites in their local area. This will receive funding of £2.7m over three years
  • Museum education – to encourage and facilitate more school visits to museums and art galleries
  • a Film education academy - to inspire and train the next generation of British filmmakers. This will be led by the BFI. It will receive £3m from the Department for Education over three years
  • The Bridge Network bringing heritage and film as well as arts, museums and libraries closer to every school.


What do we think?

The Cultural Learning Alliance welcomes Darren Henley's Review of Cultural Education. He has made a robust and compelling argument for the value and purpose of Cultural Education, and his thoughts chime well with the CLA's ImagineNation: The Case for Cultural Learning report, and the research that we submitted to the Review. We are particularly pleased to note his emphasis on the need for every child to gain access to cultural knowledge, skills and understanding, underpinned by a minimum level of cultural experience for all children. We also welcome the emphasis on the importance of developing partnerships across the sector.

The CLA made a number of recommendations to the Review and are delighted to see that many of these have influenced the report. For example, the £300,000 allocated to Teaching Schools to support and develop teacher training and professional development, the cross-Ministerial Working Group for cultural education and the recommendation for cultural governors in schools, are all pragmatic and tangible ways to support practitioners and partners on the ground and are things we have long been advocating for.

Going forward, we do think that there will be a need to address some of the patchiness that Darren Henley has discussed, with mechanisms identified to support out-of school, informal and early years activity. We will all need to think of ways to build and support cultural learning in these areas.

At the Review launch, Michael Gove talked warmly about the need for everyone to experience cultural education and creativity. We welcome this recognition of the value of cultural learning, alongside their £15million investment into the sector today. However, we do strongly feel that we will need to see the 'clear signal from the coalition government of its belief in the importance of Cultural Education' that Darren Henley calls for; ideally in the form of a National Curriculum and English Baccalaureate which include the arts and culture.

The National Plan for Cultural Education that the Review proposes will need to shape this vision into a coherent strategy, and will need to robustly address the ways that Music Hubs, Bridge Organisations, Local Authorities, schools, Ofsted and practitioners will work together effectively. It will also need to clarify the funding, roles, responsibilities and reporting structures that are needed to make this strategy work. It is critical that demand for cultural learning is grown within schools, youth, family and learning settings, and that young people who are not able to access culture independently are effectively supported in their active engagement with the arts and heritage.

David Puttnam, Chair of the Cultural Learning Alliance said:

'We warmly congratulate Darren Henley and the team on his well-considered Review of Cultural Education and are pleased to see a number of our recommendations and ideas reflected in his report. Overall, he has laid out a vision which offers real potential for effective cultural education for all children and young people. 

We are pleased to note that the DfE will be funding some new projects as a result of the review, and look forward to finding out more about plans for the development of the Film Academy, the National Dance Company, Saturday Arts Clubs, and the Heritage Schools programme.

The forthcoming government National Plan for Cultural Education will be a critical document, as the infrastructure, funding and policy needed to make this vision a reality will centre on the place of cultural subjects in the National Curriculum and the English Baccalaureate, the role of Ofsted, quality support and training for teachers, governors and cultural practitioners.'


What did everyone else say?

You can read the responses from Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the British Film Institute and English Heritage. We will be talking to all our partners in the next few days and will bring you comprehensive coverage of media and partner responses as they emerge.

As always, get in touch to let us know what you think and how you are affected.


experience of culture for all must be predicated on creative, active, participatory involvement of all from the earliest years, this aspect does not come across strongly enough.
jonathan.barnes 29 February 2012
Can I just say that throughout, I've found this web site incredibly helpful and informative and this precis is typically to-the-point.
Michael Simpson 07 March 2012
Well done on a comprehensive summary and positive response. As someone who heads up a national organisation in the informal sector, I was very disappointed with the review, in particular the schools focus, although its understandable as its far easier for the government to use the existing structure. However, I asssume that youth theatre sits in the 'sketchy' category, the one thats harder to crack as we have no national structure for informal cultural learning. What I find alarming is the idea that we make 'high arts' available to 'poor kids' and that everyone seems to agree that schools are the places where the best cultural learning takes place. Those of us who work with young people outside of school settings know this is not the case. Young people need to be participants and creators of art, not just appreciators of it. I'm more than disappointed with the review and with the fact that CLA hasn't supported the informal cultural providers more! How can anyone justify £1.2 million for the participation of only 30 young people in dance? I too was at the launch and think it speaks volumes that Gove described disadvantaged young people as 'accidents of history and circumstance'! If we want more young people from deprived backgrounds to engage, then this attitude will need to not only be challenged but changed. The whole thing smacks of those who really don't understand young people, how they learn and what is really meant by quality and inclusion. Jill Adamson NAYT.
Jill Adamson 07 March 2012

Susan Stranks - Coordinator, Sound Start Group

Any initiative to bring arts and culture to children and young people is to be welcomed. A mass of evidence shows that children raised in an environment with books, music, song, performing and visual arts and a range of cultural experience do better at school and lead more fulfilled lives. We congratulate Darren Henley on both his reports.
That said, it should be emphasised that radio has a leading role to play in supporting his recommendations and this opportunity needs to be listed as a priority.

Radio is widely accessible and, in the case of the BBC, a public service. It can deliver arts and culture into homes and school settings, reaching children from their earliest years with high quality programmes to engage the imagination, encourage participation and stimulate critical faculties but, despite the unprecedented expansion of radio spectrum and adult choice, young listeners are increasingly sidelined. Perverse UK law protects radio access and choice only for 'adults' aged 15 and above: an anomaly requiring correction in the new Communications Bill.

After decades of failure to attract young listeners the BBC has cut its children's radio by 75%, to less than 'Children's Hour' provided in the 1940s, when the Home Service was the only platform of delivery. Oblivious to blame, executives reasoned that children may no longer be able to listen without visual stimulation! What remains is inappropriately scheduled on R4extra - an adult speech network licensed as home of horror, sci-fi and stand-up comedy. Children as young as six must circumnavigate murder; suicide; offensive language; sexually explicit content; the occult and supernatural. This unsatisfactory mix is creating another platform for busy parents to monitor for harm and offence against their young.

Matters can improve. The 10 year old Asian Network is currently under BBC Trust review. This most costly per listener of all radio formats is charged with lax management and returning poor value for the licence-fee. The current remit to provide speech and music for its small primary target audience of British Asians under 35 is considered to be patronising and segregationist.

Responding to a BBC Trust Consultation, the Sound Start Group of parents and child-care professionals proposed that the Service Licence be revised, to provide music, stories, songs, rhymes and learning programmes for families with young children across all sections of the community, including Asians. This would help to support listening; language; literacy; numeracy and other essential skills. It would also launch an accessible and cost efficient source of arts and culture - in particular for families who may lack the awareness or resources to embrace these fully in their daily lives.

Three separate pieces of research confirm public preference for this radio option, by a significant margin, and it's time to give the public what they want. Children are the future takers and makers of our arts and cultural industries and they should be cherished as such. - National Campaign for Children's Radio - Children's Radio Workshop

Susan Stranks 08 March 2012
All very pleasing, although the £600000 for 90 students over three years seems generous compared with £395000 for Saturday clubs which will provide experience for many more. Also, it is disappointing that the words imagination, creativity and practical have such a low or non-existent word count in this report and responses.
Peter Kendall 13 March 2012

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