20 year policy timeline

A whistle-stop tour of cultural education policies, reviews and national initiatives 1999-2019 in England


The National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education authored All our Futures, and comprised a range of key players from across academia, arts, industry and education. It’s also interesting to note the Observers to the Committee: a range of officials from across the Departments of Education and Culture, as well as colleagues from Ofsted and from Qualifications and Teaching Agencies. The report was commissioned jointly by the Secretaries of State from both departments: evidence of positive joined-up thinking that feeds directly into some of the immediate impacts: which included the launch of Youth Music, the investment of £150 million of Standards Fund into local authority music education, and commitments to augment a revised National Curriculum and invest in Teacher Training. Despite this, Sir Ken Robinson has since been clear that he was disappointed in the government’s response to the document. It did not provide the step-change in education that the Committee intended and he felt it was ‘quietly shelved’.


However, with 20 years of hindsight, All Our Futures does seem to have been part of a conversation that generated some major investment into cultural learning. The early 2000s was a time of significant funding and saw the birth of a number of key initiatives: the development of Arts Council’s Artsmark quality mark scheme for schools in 2000; the introduction of free museum admission for all in 2001; the museum Renaissance programme that established hubs in each of the English regions from 2002 with a strong focus on learning; and the Creative Partnerships Programme (CP) which was launched by Arts Council England in 2002. CP was initially designed to be run in 36 ‘areas of deprivation’ and subsequently ran for nearly ten years. In 2003 the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA) launched Inspiring Learning for All, an improvement framework which helped museums to assess quality cultural learning work.


All Our Futures was followed in 2006 by the Roberts Review: Nurturing Creativity in Young People, again, jointly commissioned by the Departments of Education and Culture and making policy recommendations ranging from investment into school buildings through the £6 billion Building Schools for the Future Programme; to Ofsted holding schools accountable for cultural learning; through to Early Years investment. It noted (and praised) the 2005 launch of Arts Council’s Arts Award qualification for children and young people. It also recommended a new Creative and Cultural Education Advisory Board to be set up. 2005 also saw the creation of Creative and Cultural Skills; one of the sector skills councils set up by government to foster a skilled workforce and to develop specialist careers advice (such as that provided by web-portal Creative Choices) and support apprenticeship opportunities for the sector (more than 7,000 at the time of writing this article).

In 2008 the then Labour Government committed to spending £25million on Find Your Talent, a universal cultural offer of five hours a week for every child and young person, tested through ten national pathfinder areas (chosen from 141 applications), and overseen by a new delivery body Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE). By now CCE was also delivering Creative Partnerships, with 25 regional agencies delivering a practitioner development programme and working in different ways with schools:

  • with ‘Schools of Creativity’ (leading hubs of good practice) – through long term partnerships
  • with ‘Change Schools’ – through year-long interventions
  • with ‘Enquiry Schools’ – through short projects

In 2008 the Building Schools for the Future programme required every local authority in receipt of its funds to set up a Local Cultural Stakeholder Group to map assets and create a local cultural vision that could be supported by capital investment. The Museums, Libraries & Archives Council (MLA), using Department for Education funding, ran museums and schools programmes in each of the nine English regions, which included week-long CPD exchange programmes for teachers and museum professionals.

By 2010 there were also a large number of Arts and Music Specialist Schools (good practice hubs) across the country, using significant ring-fenced funding to support their specialism. There were also a couple of smaller, more fleeting initiatives such as the SHINE national schools talent week and A Night Less Ordinary – a free theatre ticket scheme for Young People run by Arts Council England.

In 2009 a number of funding bodies led by the Clore Duffield Foundation came together without government to publish Get It, the Power of Cultural Learning, a document that set out plans to address the ‘patchy’ landscape. It too used the language of entitlement; recommended that all cultural organisations appointed an education expert to their boards; called for leadership, long-term funding of initiatives and better evaluation and research. 2009 was also the first year of the National Art and Design Saturday Club, launched by the Sorrell Foundation.


In 2010 we saw a Coalition Government of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives coming into power. The first Spending Review made significant cuts to DCMS (25%), to Arts Council England (30%) and English Heritage (32%). Funding for Creative Partnerships, Find Your Talent and A Night Less Ordinary was immediately and completely withdrawn. The Film Council and the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment (CABE) were abolished, as was the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, with some functions merged with Arts Council England and some with the National Archives. Funding for local authorities and for schools was dramatically reduced and the ring-fenced funding for specialist schools and the Building Schools for the Future Programme were scrapped. Significant investment was made instead into the Free Schools and Academy programmes and the concept of the English Baccalaureate was first floated.

One of the first acts of the Cultural Learning Alliance was to publish Imagination: the Case for Cultural Learning in 2011, a document that set out definitions, principles and the meta-analysis of key evidence proving the value of cultural learning. It was signed and endorsed by a range of leaders from across the education and cultural sectors and aimed to champion culture in an acknowledged climate of ‘social and economic stress and retrenchment’ – one of the first documents of its kind to do so.

2011 was also the year that Darren Henley (then Managing Director at Classic FM) was jointly commissioned by the Departments of Education and Culture to review Music Education in England. The Review made a number of key recommendations designed to ensure an entitlement: a national offer for all children and young people. He stated clearly that a national plan was needed to tackle patchy provision. The National Plan for Music Education was published in November of the same year. The Plan re-allocated the Standards Fund money – whilst cutting it by 27% –  away from local authorities and to 123 Music Hubs (consortia of providers which bid in to deliver a universal service in their area).

In 2011 Arts Council England published new strategic aims for children and young people and re-imagined its delivery infrastructure in the wake of the cuts to Creative Partnerships and to its core grant. The National Skills Academy, Creative and Cultural became part of the ACE portfolio and the 25 Creative Partnerships delivery organisations became ten Bridge Organisations and were given £10.5m of funding pa, co-funded by the Department of Education. The Bridge organisations were tasked with joining up local and regional provision; providing advice and guidance; signposting, developing quality and evaluation frameworks; contributing to national policy development; championing Artsmark and Arts Award; and working with the Music Education Hubs.

2012 saw both the Olympics (with an associated bump in funding and provision for cultural learning) and the publication of Darren Henley’s second Review: Cultural Education in England, again commissioned by both the DfE and the DCMS. This Review aimed to do for the rest of the cultural sector what had been done for music in the previous year, with a clear checklist of experiences that all children should have at different stages of their development. It too called for Ofsted to develop and share best practice; for there to be a link governor for cultural learning in all schools, and a nominated teacher who could act as a champion and link schools to industry; leadership from household names who would become ‘Cultural Education Ambassadors’; Royal patronage; funding for professional training; resources for Newly Qualified Teachers; Downing Street Medals; an arts pillar in the English Baccalaureate; a ‘Cultural Education Passport’ which would record young people’s cultural activities; and, crucially, a National Plan for Cultural Education.

The government responded to this warmly and promised to set up a new cross-departmental ministerial board and a corresponding group for arms-length bodies (the Cultural Education Partnership Board) and to invest £15m into a number of initiatives, including a National Youth Dance Company, Heritage Schools, National Saturday Clubs, the Passport, the Music and Dance Scheme, and the National Plan. You can read our CLA response at the time here.


The Government waited until the hour of the Wimbledon Final in July 2013 to publish the promised National Plan for Cultural Education, and when it arrived it looked very different to the Music Plan and to that described in the Henley Review. Instead of a plan the document had been retitled: Cultural Education: a summary of programmes and opportunities, it aimed to ‘encourage and liberate’ colleagues to follow its example. The document included no framework for delivery, no further investment and no description of a national infrastructure.

However, the Cultural Education Partnership Group did meet to develop partnership working programmes, with arms-length bodies deciding to concentrate their investment into three pilot localities: Bristol, Great Yarmouth, and Barking & Dagenham. The Cultural Passport scheme of the Henley Review was developed through this work, as was a digital recording tool/platform to support it: ACE Artsbox. The pilots were evaluated in 2015, and were seen as ‘proof of concept’ for Local Cultural Education Partnerships, but the digital platform was passed to Trinity College London to operate as part of its Arts Award support, and was closed in 2018.

In the same week in 2013 that the Henley Review appeared, the new National Curriculum was published, omitting Film, digital, recognition of Drama and Dance as subjects in their own right, and including a new aim: to provide pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge that they need to be educated citizens. [The National Curriculum] introduces pupils to the best that has been thought and said; and helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement. There were also significant reforms to the GCSE and secondary school accountability systems with the creation of Progress 8 and Attainment 8.

In 2013 ACE and CCSkills also launched a new qualification for music educators designed to ensure quality of practitioner (this is now delivered by Trinity College). It also worked with the (then) Teaching Agency (now The Teaching Regulation Agency, via a brief life as the National College for Teaching and Leadership) to develop some add-on modules to Initial Teacher Training courses for arts specialists, but it’s not clear where this work ended up after the third agency restructure.

This was also the year that the Paul Hamlyn Foundation funded Circuit; a national youth network for the visual arts, with a £5 million investment. The network ran for four years.

In the run-up to the 2015 general election many organisations and bodies lobbied government and their MPs for cultural education and the CLA produced a Manifesto in 2014 asking for a range of measures, including local cultural learning strategies; a real National Plan; learning trustees for cultural organisations; cultural learning co-ordinators in every school; a stronger line from Ofsted, with no school judged ‘outstanding’ without outstanding arts; the extension of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) in schools to STEAM (including Arts); improved teacher training and development; and high-quality industry-endorsed careers advice. We also urged the government to introduce an Arts Premium – ringfenced funding for every primary school to match its pledge for Sport.

Ed Miliband, then the leader of the Labour Party, gave a speech in early 2015 which wholeheartedly embraced the CLA’s recommendations – calling for STEM to STEAM, Oftsed changes and a universal offer for children and young people.

Just before the election in May 2015, the Warwick Commission: Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth was published. This Commission comprised many of the great and good from across the cultural sector, but did not have any formal links to government or to the education sector. It did, however, have a number of key recommendations for cultural learning, including recommendations for Ofsted; a national vision for cultural education; education board members for cultural organisations; Arts in the EBacc; the removal of facilitating subjects; funding for careers and brokerage; and an Arts Premium. It also directly acknowledged financial cuts and declining provision.

Arts Council England’s Cultural Education Challenge was launched at the end of 2015. With this call-out to the sector ACE aimed to inspire colleagues to pool existing resources and make more happen for children and young people. It published a number of tools to help this to happen: a teaching resources database (that appears to have been taken on by the National Foundation of Educational Research); three case studies; a Cultural Education Data Portal that gives a local authority level breakdown of statistics, funding and key players; a set of quality principles to be used as benchmarks; and a set of advice and guidance on cultural education for School Governors (which was felt by the education sector to be more manageable than a mandatory arts governor). The Challenge also launched new Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEPS) – there are now over 100 operating through the country. LCEPs were launched without any core funding, but were envisaged as groups of key cultural education stakeholders who would come together to pool resources, create local strategies and deliver cohesive provision. Regional Bridge Organisations were required to support and enable these local groups.


In 2016 we saw the publication of the first Culture White Paper in 50 years. It introduced a Cultural Citizenship project, aimed at engaging disadvantaged young people in out-of-school activities in three pilot areas (Barking & Dagenham, Liverpool & Blackpool and Birmingham) through a partnership model. This ran for one year 2016-17 and was funded via a £479,700 grant from ACE. The White Paper also pledged government to work with the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) to support schools to use their Pupil Premium for arts and cultural interventions that would raise attainment and other outcomes (this the £1.2million Learning about Culture programme, which is working through five randomised control trials and which is due to report in 2020). It also called for better diversity in the talent pipeline and for a stronger focus on apprenticeships. Critically, this White Paper had no read across the Education White Paper that was published at the same time.

2016 was also the year the National College for Creative and Cultural was set up (now the National College for Creative Industries), offering courses and apprenticeships directly to young people, and the year that the Paul Hamlyn Foundation set up the (ongoing) Teacher Development Fund to support delivery of effective arts-based teaching and learning opportunities in the primary classroom, and to embed learning through the arts in the curriculum. It aims to do this through supporting teachers and school leaders to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, confidence and experience.

In early 2017 the Cultural Learning Alliance revised its key publication ImagineNation to make a stronger statement about the value of the arts and cultural learning against a backdrop of decreasing provision and financial retrenchment. It recruited a number of leaders as signatories and expanded its key evidence findings from five to ten. Since then it has also worked with partners, including Nesta, the Association of School & College Leaders, the Edge Foundation, and Place2Be, to publish a series of Briefing Papers on topics such as STEAM, Arts in Schools and Health and Wellbeing.

In March 2018 the government published the Creative Industries Sector Deal, which included funding for the Creative Industries Federation, CCSkills, and Screen Skills to work together on a two-year creative industry careers programme. In October 2018 the DCMS announced that it would invest £5 million over three years in five Youth Performance Partnerships, to be delivered by Arts Council England. They aim to enable 10,000 young people in areas of disadvantage and low cultural engagement to design their own programme of workshops, events and productions as well as developing backstage and technical skills. They are running currently in Croydon, Salford, Derby, Medway and Plymouth.

2018 also saw the publication of Time to Listen; a joint publication from the University of Nottingham, the Tate and the Royal Shakespeare Company which formulated policy recommendations after direct consultation with young people and teachers. It called for funded, champion teachers; breadth of study at Key Stage 3 and 4; recommendations for Ofsted; an Arts Premium; for the Russell Group to drop its ‘Facilitating Subjects’ measure (subsequently dropped in May 2019); and a national campaign for parents and students on the value of cultural learning.

Still to report 2019-2021