Cultural Learning Alliance

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Michael Boyd
Artistic Director, Royal Shakespeare Company


CLA response to the Henley Review of Cultural Education

Published 01 May 2012

It has been a few weeks now since the Henley Review of Cultural Education and the government’s response to it were published. Since then we have been talking to colleagues and CLA members, sifting through documents and responses and thinking deeply about the long-term implications of the Review.

As we said in our initial response, there is a great deal to admire in Henley’s report and you can read the nitty-gritty on his recommendations on our website and the government’s subsequent investment and actions in their press release. However, the devil is truly in the detail, and it will be the next steps and follow-up to the Review that really make a difference to the sector.

Today the CLA is publishing its official response. In it we outline some of our suggestions for implementation, as well as our concerns and the critical areas we think have been omitted. The CLA response has been sent through to government ministers and officials and we await their reply with great interest.


Here are the headlines:

Now, more than ever, root and branch investment is needed

The Review and the government’s response to it took months to produce, and the cultural learning landscape has changed, even in that short time, with both resources and key professionals becoming increasingly scarce. We know that Children’s Services has been one of the most deeply affected services in authorities, hit particularly by job losses and a reduction in spending, but that Libraries, Cultural and Heritage services have taken the next largest proportional reduction, followed by Early Years Services and then Sport and Leisure.

Over the same period the last tranches of Creative Partnerships funding were disbursed and will not be replaced, and numbers of teacher training places for cultural and arts subjects have been significantly reduced. The number of young people applying for higher education places in cultural and creative industries has also fallen. There is no longer the same level of provision, participation, expertise or funding underpinning cultural learning in this country as there was prior to 2012.

As a result of the Review the DfE and DCMS have announced plans for significant investment in cultural learning: £15 million of new money for a range of new initiatives. This money will support worthy and interesting projects, but when this investment is viewed within the broader context it is clear that it cannot replace the resources that have already been stripped from the system: education funding is due to drop 13% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2014-15; £10 million was lost from the Museums, Library and Archives remit when it moved to Arts Council England from the MLA; and £7 million from the Booktrust budget between 2010 and 2012. The £15 million also falls into sharp contrast when viewed alongside the £1 billion investment that was recently made into school and community sport.

The government needs to help to grow demand and capacity for Henley’s vision and we believe that his recommendation for a Cultural Champion in each school would be one effective move towards making this happen. However, more than an encouraging statement in response, this recommendation needs on-going funding, training provision and support to enable widespread adoption. We strongly suggest that there is scope for further investment in this area.


Lottery funding and policy making

Cultural learning is strengthened through partnership, shared language and joint thinking and any move towards coherence and dialogue between lottery distributers is to be welcomed. We know that the Henley-proposed Cultural Education Partnership Group has already met a number of times and are looking at ways to communicate and collaborate. However, we do have a number of real concerns about Darren Henley’s vision for this group.

As the National Lottery Good Causes Website states: ‘National Lottery money is given out by 13 independent organisations, each with specialist knowledge of their sectors. All are arms-length from Government and follow strict guidelines when deciding which applications will be successful’.

This independence must be maintained and lottery funders must continue to operate at arms-length from government. Funds should not be used to plug gaps in government spending, nor should they be channelled towards government set priorities as this could set an alarming precedent.

We are also concerned that the group only includes suggested representation from cultural funders. We believe that any new ‘sponsored bodies’ group with the power to set priorities and policy for cultural learning (which is hinted at by the Review) should reach beyond funders and include representation from the full range of education, learning, cultural and informal sectors. It should also include and act on the views and opinions of children and young people themselves.


The National Plan is critical

As we said in our last post, the Henley Review sets out a vision, not a strategy, and it is up to the government now to put together a plan that helps the sector to join-up and support children, young people, cultural professionals and families. 

The National Plan needs to achieve a great deal. It needs to give schools, youth and all other learning settings clear incentives and easy routes to embedding cultural learning into their offer. It must set out the core minimums that every child is entitled to, must make it clear how cultural organisations and professionals can support and deliver the core minimum, and must outline the resources and infrastructure that can be used to do it. The corresponding National Plan for Music Education did this very neatly and anything less than an equivalent document and serious consideration will create an unwelcome hierarchy and imbalance between cultural forms.

The government sent a very clear remit to Darren Henley and asked him to focus on schools. As a result, both the Henley report, and the government’s response to it, lack any explicit reference to the full range of professionals and settings which work with children and young people and their families, parents and carers. Particularly notable by their absence are Early Years settings and Youth Services. Since submitting our official document we have also been in touch with colleagues from the Library sector who feel strongly that though they are named in the Review, none of the £15million has been allocated to support their on-going delivery and involvement.

The professionals working in Bridge Organisations are already starting to do some great and very valuable work supporting the sector. However, unlike the proposed Music Hubs, which will serve every local authority, Bridge Organisations are regional, and it is unclear whether they will have the reach and resource to engage with or signpost every school, setting, parent, cultural practitioner or young person needing their support. There are over 25,000 schools in England and it is critical that all are engaged if a true ‘national ambition’ is to be achieved. 

We look forward to learning more about who is on the task-group to develop the National Plan, and to seeing a timescale and publication date.


Policy making must join-up beyond this Review

Over the last year there have been numerous changes and revisions to education and cultural policy and we believe that it is important for the government to recognise that a number of recent decisions and changes will deeply affect the teaching and learning of arts and cultural subjects in schools. They include:

  • The introduction of the English Baccalaureate – which places emphasis and value on non-arts disciplines
  • A significant reduction of the numbers of PGCE places for teachers in cultural disciplines
  • The classification of larger vocational qualifications as equivalent to only one GCSE (these qualifications are valued by industry but take up more curriculum time than a single GCSE, there is therefore a distinct possibility that they will be squeezed out)
  • A marked reductions in arts and humanities courses in higher education, which are certain to reduce both progression and interest in careers in the arts and creative industries

We also learned from the Museums Journal that the DCMS has removed the requirement for National Museums to report on outreach and diversity – this is in direct contravention to the recommendations the CLA made to the Review.

For Henley’s vision for a national ambition to become a reality the National Plan must influence and drive broader cultural and educational change and the decisions outlined above should be revisited and evaluated in the light of the Review of Cultural Education. The on-going National Curriculum Review must also embrace Henley’s ambitions and include robust and rigorous provision for the teaching and learning of art, craft, dance, design, drama, film, literature, media and music. 

What next?

The CLA is a time-limited Alliance. We have always felt that we should be operating as a collective in order to help and support the sector, to share information and to champion and raise the profile of cultural learning in this current climate, but we are very aware that we should not become a new or permanent bureaucratic organisation.

With this in mind we had originally planned to start winding up the CLA in March 2012. However, in light of the current climate, the on-going National Curriculum Review and the imminent implementation of the Henley Review, the Steering Group has suggested that we remain in operation for a further 12 months. We will be using this time to continue to champion cultural learning in all its forms. Let us know how we can champion you and your practice and if you still haven’t joined the 7,500 members of the CLA, sign up today.  




Dear All: I think Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director at the Old Vic, hit the nail on the head when he said, 'culture should be at the heart of the school curriculum so that every child can have the kind of cultural opportunities I was offered early in my education.' I had similar experiences which enhanced and enriched my life in countless ways. More information on this is contained in two articles - Foundations for Life and The Cultural Imperative - on the home page of the World Culture Project website at I hope this information proves helpful at this crucial time in the development of the arts and culture in educational systems in Britain and throughout the world. With my very best wishes. Paul Schafer
D, Paul Schafer 03 May 2012
Section 3 of the report has a wealth of insight into the value of cultural learning in relation to the wider curriculum, engaging learners and the importance of creative careers to the continuing success of our creative industries. However this does not seem to be reflected in the recommendations. The Ideas Foundation is in schools helping young people who are creative or inspired by the creative industries to return to study or focus their talents towards jobs in the creative industries. We use creative industry briefs, talk about moneytorising creativity, using new media and providing information and advice on creative industry careers and this is not just for those with artistic ability but for those who are in the myriad enterprise, service and administrative roles. There are very few organisations doing this yet there is little support for this work. The Education Endowment Fund turned down an application to research and apply creativity to the curriculum, saying there was no evidence that creativity advances learning in the core subjects. The application used the same the research data that support Healey. The lead school is a Teaching School that pioneers the creative curriculum and the a US university has identified as one of the top 15 creative schools in the world. Our allows students and teachers to download creative briefs designed by top creative agencies for global company clients and the Foundation, as a contribution to Big Society developed the site design and marketing for Plotr, the new careers service online portal. The DfE say Arts Council territory but the Arts Council and report’s named creative charitable funding organisations turn up their noses at such philistine activities as design, digital media or creative communications. Our students, mainly from disadvantaged and BME communities are massively stimulated at the prospect of using their creative talent to earn a living, they are also massively talented and their raw and diverse experience is exactly what has given us the creative edge that makes UK a world leader in the creative industries. Many of us are banging this drum but why is the beat so muffled or are people just wearing ear plugs?
David Hollway OBE 03 May 2012
David Holloway OBE tells us that the Education Endowment Fund turned down an application, saying there was no evidence that creativity advances learning in the core subjects? Having spent three years collecting this kind of evidence with Creative Partnerships, I struggle to believe that this can be possible. Are the voices of folk like Ken Robinson proving totally ineffective? Lindsay Ibbotson
Lindsay Ibbotson 04 May 2012
Briefly- I think you are doing a superb job and I'm delighted that CLA is there for at least another year. Thank you.
Susan Coles 04 May 2012
There are 2 areas of concern : 1] That those responsible for drawing up guidelines and provision for education almost always do not have an "arts" background and 2] that there has until recently been no real recognition of the unique but vital role that thinking in a truly creative way contributes to a fully rounded education [ except where it exists in a scientific or mathematical context ]. This ability is in fact a separate but vital discipline on a par with logical and analytical thinking.
Kate Cliffe 04 May 2012
I am glad CLA is carrying on and as much as I agree with lots of the Henley review havent we been here before? Did not the old Creative Partnerships 'prove' all this. What about all the creative practitioners who have loads of professional experience both in their own practice and of education having a voice somewhere?The original concept of CP was of partnerships - between local artists, practitioners, schools and communities. It valued the individual artist and not only the person working for large art organisations lucky enough to secure ACE funding. It valued the input of the creative young person. It valued all the arts and crafts from knitting to digital experiments. We need to support our talent quickly before we are all so dispondent that we take a job in Tescos in order to survive.
Val Baxter 07 May 2012
At Plymouth College of Art, we're delighted to learn that the CLA is to remain in operation as a champion of cultural learning, and we also welcome the Henley Review of Cultural Education for bringing the importance of creative and cultural education to the top of the national agenda. We're currently working on an application to open Plymouth School of Creative Arts, a mainstream city-centre 4-16 through school that will make creative and cultural education a reality for young people in Plymouth, regardless of their backgrounds. We see the Henley Review as the latest building block in a gathering body of evidence and research internationally, making a compelling argument for the value and purpose of cultural education. We want to create a learning environment where children can study English, maths, science, history, languages and other subjects, within a broad and balanced curriculum that has creative thinking at its core, and we hope that this model may prove to be of national significance. Nurturing creativity in young people is critical to re-engagement and regeneration in our city, and to the success and growth of the broader creative economy.
Jo Cowper 12 May 2012
Phew - deep relief and delight that the CLA will continue for another year. Fair to say we're at the crux of the issue i.e. the transition from Henley's vision to a strong strategic plan for cultural education that can be readily implemented at national level. I'd propose, given the positive reception and perceived strengths of the National Music Plan, that there's no need to reinvent the wheel for Cultural Education, but instead build a commensurate strategy based on the model presented in the Music Plan. What do other people think? On a different note, I remain utterly perplexed, nay, astonished, that the E-Bacc does not currently include an arts subject, given what is known about the extrinsic benefits of arts education (employability, attainment etc) for young people. So it's brilliant that the CLA is communicating and advocating to DfE in this respect as there is a strong persuasive case to be made . Teacher voice was somewhat absent from the Henley Review (not a criticism of subject bodies, but perhaps telling about an underlying pervasive disconnect between culture and education?), so it's also hugely important that the arts subject specialist organisations do likewise. From the perspective of design education, DATA is holding a series of consultations on a revised curriculum for Design over the next 6 months so please contribute if you can, because design gives young people a sense of creative and impactful agency in today's complex world, and goodness knows our young people need this more than ever.
Helen Charman 19 May 2012

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engage: Peckham Park Primary at South London Gallery. Image: Richard Eaton
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