Reviewing Cultural Education

28 February saw the long-awaited release of Darren Henley’s cultural education review. Without trying to add to the plethora of summaries that have appeared over the past week, Cause4 feels that the review is enlightening, creative and most importantly entrepreneurial. Through his recommendations, Henley has managed to recognise the importance of crucial aspects of good development thinking (co-operation and partnership building, a focus on outcomes and accountability and the production of a long-standing legacy) whilst  putting together a package of measures that could shift cultural education to a new level. The highlights from Cause4′s point of view are as follows:

Placing significant emphasis on co-operation and partnerships at both a local and national level with a new Cultural Education Partnership envisaged between Arts Council England and the British Film Institute and the development of new ‘cultural hubs’ as a logical development step from music education hubs.

Placing emphasis around providing CPD opportunities and support to teachers and cultural practitioners – for example through the building of links between teachers and industry and developing new qualifications for cultural practitioners.

Placing significant focus on developing clear measurable outcomes and accountability within cultural education. Henley emphasises the importance of the Arts Award as ‘ a valuable qualification’, a new Cultural Education Passport to measure pupils’ progress and the inclusion of Ofsted reviews across all Cultural Education subjects. This all builds on established practice or pilot initiatives – and points to a shift in a more outcomes focussed approach, a move that Cause4 feels is inherently positive.

Recognising the importance of corporate support to supplement central statutory funding of the arts. This, Henley suggests, could take place through a new National Schools Culture Week with the prospect of leveraging significant funding from a national corporate a real and distinct possibility. This is the next crucial piece in our mind for Henley, Government and its stautory bodies – - developing such sponsorship models that can work at local and national level is essential in Cause4′s view to the sustainability of our cultural heritage – there are programmes crying out for such investment from music hubs to the roll out of El Sistema to emerging culture hubs. There are many good practices that can be built upon here and the potential also lends itself to philanthropic investment, for example U2′s superb examplelinked to music education in Ireland. However, there is much that can go wrong and the models need to be creative and entrepreneurial to convince our funders that new investment will make a difference – and is not simply filling a gap in the provision that is the responsibility of the state. 

Co-operation is essential in providing a complete cultural education

It is not just Cause4 which has positive things to say about the review. Lizzie Crump, in a piece for the Guardian Professional Network, suggests that the report is wide-ranging and well considered, whilst praising Henley’s emphasis ‘on the need for every child to have access to cultural knowledge, skills and understanding (rather than just knowledge and facts) – an important feature given emphasis of the current skills agenda. This is a view backed by the Coalition who announced immediately following the release of the review, a new National Film Academy and a National Dance Academy.

Whilst Cause4 feels that these are positive steps, it is important to recognise that there are still pressing issues which must be addressed – not least in relation to the funding. With news emerging over the weekend of the impact of local and national Government cuts means that Henley and Government will have their work cut out to balance the demand for cultural learning against the dramatic drop in capacity and funding in local authority children’s and cultural services.

Indeed, recommendation number 3 of the review points to the development of a new national plan for cultural education – Cause4 feels that Henley’s next piece of work, might just be his most important yet…

Let us know what you think – in particular we would love to hear from people with ideas around models of private sector investment to realise the potential in this cultural review.

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