Policy and Practice round-up March 2017

21 March 2017

This month we bring you updates on school funding and our new publication ImagineNation, news of Free Schools, a drop in visits to museums, new opportunity areas, a House of Lords debate, Sing Up Day and an installation at Tate asking ‘Why do spaces for education look the way they do?’.

School funding

Reductions in school funding have been in the headlines for the past couple of months. The consultation for the Schools National Funding Formula on new proposals for the structure of school funding runs until 22 March and is proving a catalyst for teachers to speak out about the challenges they are facing.

Many of the main players in Education have been describing a landscape of cuts, retrenchment and serious financial pressures for the school system. Last year the National Audit Office estimated that schools are facing an 8% cut, and research last month from the Institute of Fiscal Studies estimated that per-pupil funding in schools will reduce by more that 6.5% in real terms by 2020.

Research from the National Union of Headteachers shows that the cuts are hitting the schools with the highest proportion of disadvantaged children the hardest. One of the reasons for this appears to be the rising costs that schools are required to meet: from the Apprenticeship Levy, to the the increasing costs of pensions. But as this survey of 1,000 schools from the National Association of Head Teachers shows, schools are also funding things such as mental health services for young people, where wider Local Authority support has fallen away.

Ahead of the Chancellor’s budget, both the National Governors Association and the National Association of Head Teachers wrote to make the point that schools have ‘run out of things that they can cut’. You can read the coverage here in Schools Week.

New funding for selective education and Free Schools announced in the Budget has generated even more debate. Read more about this in our piece, What is the true picture of the arts in schools today? and see our Budget Briefing for more details on how arts education and culture could be affected.

ImagineNation update

A huge thank you to all our members who have shared the new publication, ImagineNation: the value of cultural learning that we launched in January. It has already been downloaded more than 4,000 times. Please continue to share ImagineNation with colleagues, governors and boards.

At the launch we had stirring speeches from ministers, artists and funders, and amazing performances from young people, as well as an excellent turn-out from parliamentarians from both Houses. The launch event speeches are now available online and you can watch the highlights reel on our website.

A number of our partners have covered the event, from this great blog by Andy Thwaite, Head of Arts Faculty at Hurlingham School and a member of A New Direction’s Cultural Learning Community CPD programme, to this blog by One Dance UK Youth Ambassador, Jessica Eades and blogs by Derri Burdon of Curious Minds, Joe Hallgarten for the RSA, Abigail Pogson of the Sage Gateshead , and June O’Sullivan, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation.

You can also read coverage of the launch in the Guardian, in the TES, from inews, The Evening Standard, Arts Professional, the Museums Association and The Stage.

If you do have a spare moment, why not e-mail your MP a link to the report and recommend some weekend reading? And if you haven’t been using our bank of ImagineNation images, quotes and statistics to make the case, then you can download and share them.

Free Schools

The Hallé Orchestra, working with the City Learning Trust, is opening a new Free School in Stoke on Trent that will cater for children aged seven to 19. Inews reported that students will spend at least 40% of their time on music and singing, although this does include extra-curricular activities.

A report published by the New Schools Network in February (the charity devoted to Free Schools) called for more arts organisations to start free schools. Read our article about the report for more information.

DCMS figures show substantial drops in visits to museums and galleries

The Museums Association has reported on significant drops in the number of educational visits to the museums and galleries that the DCMS sponsors – with around a 3% drop in visits and 6% drop in participatory activities.

Justine Greening: 6 New Opportunity Areas

In October last year Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, announced 6 Opportunity Areas. These 6 geographical areas (West Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough, Derby and Oldham) will be first in the queue for innovation and  partnership programmes from the DfE. With the aim of ‘local partnerships being formed with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities to ensure all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential’.

In January 2017 Greening announced six new areas:  Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland & East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, and Stoke. You can read coverage here in the TES.

House of Lords Debate

Last month, Cultural Learning Champion the Earl of Clancarty asked the following question:

‘To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effect of proposed levels of funding allocated to secondary schools on the quality of education including the teaching of non-English-Baccalaureate subjects.’


Many thanks to the many Peers who spoke up for the arts, including Baroness Nye, Lord Watson, Lord Storey and Baroness Kidron, who shared a great quote from Professor Brian Cox:

 ‘Physics has taught us that the world had a beginning and will most probably have an end, but the arts will teach us how to live in the vast expanse of time in between’.


Upcoming cultural learning events

Sing Up Day returns on 22 March 2017

Sing Up Day is an annual opportunity for schools to sing together. A Sing Up Day anthem has been written and the song is available for free download from the Sing Up website. There are also an array of accompanying resources including backing tracks, sheet music, lesson plans and a lyric video.


The Freelands Foundation is supporting three days of Occupation at Tate Modern from 2-4 April asking ‘Why do spaces for education look the way they do?’. Occupation will present an installation by new teachers from the Institute of Education/University College London alongside a programme of provocative discussions, workshops and film screenings.