Cultural Learning Alliance

The arts fuel children’s curiosity and critical capacity. They are every child’s birthright. It is vital that children engage with the arts early in their lives.

Arts Council England
Achieving Great Art for Everyone, 2011


Arts in Schools: Growing Crisis

Published 05 November 2012

For the last year we have all suspected that the introduction of the English Baccalaureate would have a significant effect on the place of the arts and culture in schools, and over the last few weeks we have started to see some evidence that this really is the case.

A recent poll by Ipsos Mori shows that over the last year alone 27% of schools have cut courses as a direct result of the EBacc’s introduction. Of the courses cut, Drama, Performing Arts, Art and Design and Design and Technology are the worst hit.

Last month we reported Michael Gove’s plans to create new qualifications that will replace GCSEs in the EBacc subjects. He said that these would be ‘linear’, would not involve coursework and would be assessed at the end of the two year period. Civil servants estimate that these new qualifications will take up 80% of curriculum time. If the arts and creative subjects are not included within this new suite of qualifications, then we risk a two-tier system where our disciplines are squeezed into remaining time and where they are seen as less important, less rigorous and of less value than others. This is a bleak outlook, and may only be compounded by the new plans for an ABacc (to come in to force at A-level), which initially seems to define Arts subjects only as English and History.

Central policy reform is not supporting schools to include the arts and culture in their offer. In addition to the disincentive of the EBacc, our National Curriculum is being restructured to marginalise several artforms - Drama has been stripped from the latest draft Primary Curriculum, and the place of Dance is looking increasingly uncertain. 

A large number of organisations and individuals are getting involved in this debate. This weekend the Guardian ran an extensive article on the subject of the EBacc and published some insightful thoughts and powerful arguments from both Sir Nick Serota and Grayson Perry. We have also seen press pieces from Artist Bob and Roberta Smith , Nick Hytner of the National Theatre , a group of national dance organisations, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and Julian Lloyd Webber and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

In this landscape the CLA continues to meet with civil servants and decision makers, respond to enquiries and to pull together the evidence and arguments to support this case, but it is critical that we all continue to flag this issue and call for the restoration of the arts to the curriculum and for the inclusion of the arts in the EBacc in as many different places and forums as we can.

We therefore urge you to do the following:

1. Brief your board and governors

Your Chairs, governors and board members are key influencers and we need them to make this case to politicians, the press, headteachers, funders, policy makers, decision makers and advisors. We also need them to recruit the business community to this cause – we need voices from the commercial sector speaking up about the importance of the arts and culture.

We have put together the attached document, which sets out the issues and arguments around the EBacc and we are asking you to table and distribute it at your next meeting. 

We know this is a complex issue, if you would like us to talk to your Chair directly about this, just get in touch:


2. Brief your Communications team

If you have a communications or marketing team that talks to the press or puts together positions for your organisation, give them these messages so that they can incorporate them in their work.


3. Use the evidence

Use our Key Research Findings, our ImagineNation document and our Drama in schools document to make the case to your local school and community. Tell us what other evidence and statistics you need.

4. Campaign!

Sign up to the ISM’s Bacc for the Future Campaign. It is calling for the Education Select Committee to launch an enquiry into the EBacc and to interrogate why the arts and cultural subjects haven’t been included.


5. Write to your MP

This webpage tells you how.

Use the board briefing and the evidence to help you make your case and ask your MP to write to the Secretary of State for Education (Michael Gove) on your behalf. The system is structured so that he will have to respond to you.


6. Respond to the DfE’s current consultation on Key Stage 4 Qualifications

This consultation asks key questions about the EBacc and its structure. You can find all the information about how to respond here.



I run the Kent Art teacher's network (KAT). This will be on meeting agendas in all districts.
michele gregson 05 November 2012
This country needs creative thinking.
Jacqueline Slade 05 November 2012
In February 2011 the BBC's controversial Strategy for Children's Audio wrote off its core remit to provide non-advertising radio for children. 75% of their air-time and 50% of their budget was passed to grownups. The under-sevens were relegated to podcasts - disenfranchising those in homes without internet access and requiring extra equipment, know-how, and parent-time. Remaining content for seven to 14 year-olds, re-dubbed as 'family friendly', now airs on R4Extra - the adult speech network licensed as Home of Horror, Crime and Stand-up Comedy. Children have less publicly funded radio than 'Children's Hour' provided in the 1940s, when the Home Service was the only platform of delivery. Please join the national campaign for non-commercial radio for UK children at
Susan Stranks 05 November 2012
I work as a writer with Kneehigh Theatre in Cornwall, and as lead adventurer on their connections project, (engaging with vulnerable young people and communities) as well as in schools and colleges throughout the county running writing and theatre workshops with many excellent company’s and educational Arts organisations. I’ve seen first hand the transformative power of theatre, writing , dance, music and the arts , especially to those who don’t normally have a voice, which is many of the groups I work with, young carers, young people in care, young mothers to name a few. It is hard to quantity it's power on a dreaded evaluation form or league table, and in Cornwall, where our traditional industries are in decline, creativity is our best hope. I deplore Gove's and the government’s decision, as it will further make the arts and cultural the domain of the rich and privileged, as arts in education is often the only way that many of our young people can experience it. How lacking in any imagination is this present government. I invite them to come with me on a workshop down here or come to live theatre with one of the groups I work with.
anna murphy 05 November 2012
I am a poet, writer and playwright who has worked as a visiting artist in schools for many years. I specialise in all aspects of creative literature. Many of the organisations & schemes through which my peers and I used to engage with schools, have been entirely abolished or stunted with up to 100% funding cuts; this includes for work with Gifted and Talented schemes, as well as with' various 'improving failing schools' projects, and other live literature programmes. This makes it additionally difficult for schools to know what specialist literature or other arts services are 'out there' and for us to engage in what we do so well. Please be aware that we are - and totally condemn this move to impoverish a generation of Cultural Capital by alienating education from engaging with the practice, presentation, and performance of all art forms.
Lucy Lepchani 05 November 2012
I am hosting a meeting of the SLNAT (South London Artist Teachers Network) on Thursday evening. This issue, and what we as individuals and as a group can do about it will be on our agenda.
Amanda Richards 05 November 2012
I work in YPT, and we've practically given up trying to get into secondary schools already. Unless you're doing issue-based work, such as sexual health or bullying, it's virtually impossible. The drama teachers feel helpless, they know they won't get other teachers to agree to students missing a lesson to see a play or take part in an extended workshop. Even Year 10/11 work experience is being phased out. We're now trying to engage with young people in out-of-school time with youth theatre, summer schools and so on, but it's no substitute for creative learning embedded in the curriculum.
Kitty Parker 06 November 2012
As an artistic director of Greenwich Mural Workshop, a group active in producing artworks with schoolchildren I believe it is essential that the government, TV and radio media urgently address the need for increased support to the arts activities to arts groups, to schools and through non-commercial programmes.
Steve Lobb 10 November 2012
I trained as a designer and the whole of my life has been informed and driven by design thinking. This is significantly different from other types of thinking and has helped place Britain as one of the top countries for design. My school education featured arts, english, drama, physics, making, geometry, music, economics and philosophy - each of which gave me a solid base for design after school. I now run 5 creative hubs which have built a strong local economy which is world beating as aresult of my careeer in design and creativity. Is the government really suggesting that we throw away this essential part of the knowledge economy which contributes billions of pounds to our economy and culture?
Ian Elwick 14 November 2012
I have been head of an art department for over 20 years and I know this will be a disaster for the future of our country if allowed to go through . The arts are as important as every other subject and to neglect them is a tragedy. We are known world wide for our inventiveness and creativity and our art schools are the envy of the world Increased support rather than reduced is what is needed.
Lizzie Lockhart 14 November 2012
I am fortunate enough to teach Gap Year students about Art History but one of the most rewarding moments for me was when I gave a series of classes at my son's primary school, Oxford Gardens Primary in London W10. The series of classes were about the history of painting on walls, from Lascaux to Banksy. The kids responded so amazingly well and positively, I realised what therapeutic effects an engagement with art and making art had. Kids and parents accosted me in the playground in the following weeks to tell me how their lives had changed. For those children to lose art would be a disaster for them.
Charlie Hall 20 November 2012
I have spent my long working life engaged with the arts, working mainly with young people. i work collaboratively across performance disciplines. My school gave me my first experience of music, dance and drama, without that I would not have been able to be involved since I had no other means of access. The disappearance from the school curriculum will be a personal disaster for many and a national calamity.
Wendy Cook 04 December 2012
I find it incredible that we are known the world over for our amazing creative industries and yet young people and children are not being encouraged in this area. As well as losing a generation of creative workers and thinkers we will also be losing a generation of appreciation for culture.
Caroline Rackham 17 January 2013
I am a Deaf teacher working with Deaf students and a range of hearing people learning British Sign Language. I was academic when young, but very naive in lifeskills; this experience has been helpful in ensuing my teaching is as holistic, realistic as well as informative. The new KS4 proposal consultation occurred during the first term of the new academic year 2013-2014, causing many dedicated professionals to belatedly making huge efforts to drag away from essential teaching in order to feedback to the Government, as articulately as possible, the risks of the changes in our own today's very diverse schoolchildren population. This kind of consultation needed to be 4.5 months long to give professionals of learning support, deaf/disabled support, etc.. to collaborate in order to give consistent feedback on the basis of a child's human rights to be able to leave school with justifible qualifications according to ability, and not to be damned as a failure for the rest of his/her life. The Equality Act of 2010 has not been appropriately taken up in the development of the KS4 changes; and the elite-style proposals mean a future growing underclass of unqualified young people - where is the British common sense in all this? The proposals' intention is understandable, but potentially cruel to all in relation to school children today - families, communities, youth work, teachers, support staff and the students themselves.
Penelope Beschizza 01 February 2013

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2009 Summer Show at Benton Park Primary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
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