With restrictions gradually lifting there is a cautious optimism in the air. However, following the announcement by the DFE of a £1.4bn recovery plan - far short of the three-year funding package of £13.5bn proposed by the Government’s Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, it is clear that much greater investment is needed to reverse the damage to pupils’ learning as a result of the pandemic.
Sir Kevan Collins has resigned as the Government’s Education Recovery Commissioner, saying “The support announced by government so far does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge”. It is extremely disappointing that the broader and bolder plans set out by Sir Kevan have been reduced to a short-term focus on tuition. In briefings over the last two months, we were greatly encouraged by his focus on a sustained and comprehensive programme of support, that recognised the importance of the arts as an essential part of any recovery from the disruption of the pandemic and repeated school closures.
When Sir Kevan was appointed, his comments about play and the role of performing arts were welcome signs of his openness to a holistic and creative education approach and prompted a joint letter from NSEAD (National Society for Education in Art and Design), DATA (the Design and Technology Association) and the Crafts Council reminding him of the importance of hands-on making in ensuring every child has the best start to life.
Wanting to back up our words with action - to be part of the solution - we convened a roundtable of educationists and cultural learning leads to identify practical steps. The intense session saw an outpouring of ideas and examples of good work that have been carefully reviewed, classified, and grouped.
Its perhaps not surprising that many of the suggestions and ideas have been made before. Rather than being frustrated by the Ground Hog Day scenario, we prefer to see it as a ground swell of unity; a consensus on the steps needed for real change. For those of us who can draw on decades of experience, the big change is the willingness and openness to work more collaboratively – we are a sector coming together. As art organisations, education institutions, think tanks, schools and experts stand shoulder to shoulder we recognise and celebrate the small differences each is making and can continue, together, towards more fundamental improvements.
In his letter of resignation, Sir Kevan said: “A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils”. We agree, and will continue our efforts, working with you, to ensure that creative and practical education is not undervalued, and that a generation of children and young people are not let down.
Our roundtable’s list of ideas will inform the strengthening partnership Crafts Council and NSEAD are building. We commit to taking more ‘small steps’ together, encouraging our networks to join us and sharing updates and opportunities with our communities.
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