The strategy publication is the result of substantial consultation with the sector, experts from a range of fields, and the public.
The headline for children and young people? Goal ‘5’ is no more
In the previous strategy, ‘Children and Young People’ (CYP) was a specific Arts Council Goal. In practice this meant that some funded National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) had a specific Goal 5 requirement as part of their funding agreement, and those in receipt of funding were expected to report their progress and activity against it. However, it was possible to be a funded NPO and not be assessed against delivery for children and young people.
In the new strategy there are sections on children and young people in each of the three ‘Outcomes’ instead.
ACE strongly makes the case that this shift doesn’t mean a de-prioritisation of our agenda. It makes it clear that ACE colleagues have heard that the public ‘places tremendous value’ on it, and it pledges to ‘focus a large part of its development role on ensuring that children and young people are able to fulfil their creative potential and access the highest quality experiences where they live, where they go to school and where they spend their free time.’
All NPOs will now need to think about their work with children and young people in an integrated way.
How are children and young people specifically mentioned?
The opening vision statement includes a line committing ACE to ‘creating opportunities for children and young people to reach their creative potential and to access the highest quality cultural experiences’.
The three outcomes that the strategy is built around are as follows. We’ve indicated the specific mentions of children and young people, or of education, in each one:
‘Everyone can develop and express creativity throughout their life
- High-quality and affordable early years provision – through partnerships with local and community organisations
- Providing more and better opportunities for young people to take part in creative activities
- Making the case for teaching for creativity and critical thinking across the curriculum, both to school leaders and to the DfE
- Ensuring that a broad and vital arts curriculum is taught in all schools
- Encouraging the Department for Education to build on its current investment in Music Education Hubs, National Youth Music and Dance organisations, In Harmony and Saturday Clubs
- Creating clearer, more accessible pathways for children and young people who are interested in pursuing careers in the creative industries.
Villages, towns and cities thrive through a collaborative approach to culture
- Encouraging cultural organisations to work in partnership with local education providers to plan, resource and deliver a joined-up cultural education programme
A creative and cultural country
England’s cultural sector is innovative, collaborative and international.
- Working in partnership with further and higher education and the commercial sector to undertake more effective research, and strengthen training opportunities so that more people working in the cultural sector become ready adopters and developers of new technologies
- Careers in the cultural sector or the wider creative industries
What else should we note?
New definitions of culture and creativity
The language of this strategy is different to that of its predecessor, with ‘the arts’ rolled into ‘culture’ and ‘creativity’ – to express the emphasis on individuals’ personal engagement. As expected, the document includes a definition of creativity that lifts directly from the recent Durham Commission on Creativity in Education, with some small but significant qualifiers.
Both use the same phrase ‘imagine, conceive, express or make something that wasn’t there before’.
But ‘Let’s Create’ goes on to state:
‘While creativity is present in all areas of life, in this Strategy, we use it specifically to refer to the process of making, producing or participating in ‘culture.’;
and Durham asserts:
‘There remains a misconception that creativity is solely the province of the arts. This is not true. Creativity exists in all disciplines. It is valued by mathematicians, scientists and entrepreneurs, as well as by artists, writers and composers.’
This divergence is important, as it is still unclear how far the Durham Commission’s recommendations will form part of the Arts Council’s new delivery plans, and it contributes to a blurred advocacy focus in the document – especially in regard to ACE’s dealings with the Department for Education. We are however, delighted to see that ACE commits twice in this document to championing the place of the arts subjects in schools.
Social Justice focus
In our response to the last round of consultation the Cultural Learning Alliance called for a much stronger focus on social justice, and this comes through, with the document mentioning inequality multiple times, and clearly stating that ‘opportunities for children and young people to experience creativity and culture inside and outside school are not equal across the country’.
National advocacy campaign?
The vision section alludes to ACE’s role in ‘speaking directly to the public in order to raise awareness of activities and their benefits.’
The Outcomes are underpinned by four investment principles:
- Ambition and Quality
- Inclusivity and Relevance
- Environmental Responsibility
These include a large number of wide-ranging and detailed requirements for arts organisations in receipt of funding. They include a requirement to demonstrate how children and young people are being listened to.
The document states that this strategy will ensure that ‘more of our funding is directed at widening and improving opportunities for children to take part in creative activities’ – so we’ll be looking closely at the overall financial envelope for this work as the strategy unfolds and the delivery plans are published (some time in April).
What do we think is missing?
It’s difficult to know what might be missing without seeing the delivery plans that will support Let’s Create, but at first glance we are surprised not to see a much larger emphasis on Continuing Professional Development and Training – particularly in the cultural education workforce where we believe it is much needed – in teachers and in cultural providers. We also believe a National Plan for cultural learning is needed to deliver the ambitions for children and young people in the strategy, which is also a recommendation of the Durham Commission. You can read more about our thoughts on this in our CLA Three asks document. We also feel that children and young people are missing from the third international outcome (besides the duplication of the careers focus).
Anything else are we concerned about?
- Replacing statutory funding?
To deliver a strategy that is truly aimed at engaging the whole population and championing everyone’s right to express themselves creatively, Arts Council England would need to embed its work within local authorities, schools, the NHS and other universal provision – as this strategy aims to do. ACE does not have the resources to invest in this alone, and the current economic realities, of ten years of austerity and the uncertain economic implications of Brexit, mean that there are even fewer resources available to achieve this goal. ACE has previously made clear to the sector that it will not replace funding that should be the responsibility of the state – local and national – but it is difficult to see how the ambitions of this strategy will be achieved unless these boundaries are blurred much further. Will they look to directly fund work that would historically have been the province of local authorities or schools?
- Conservative government Spending Round
These are ambitious and wide-ranging plans from ACE, and they will need funding in the forthcoming Spending Round (due some time this year). We will all need to work to make the case for cultural learning to this new government, and the priorities and outcomes will need to align for the strategy to be realised.