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  • Make:Shift conference 2014. Photo: Tas Kyprianou

January 2016 Policy Brief

This month we give special attention to concerns about the likely impact of new EBacc targets and to the forthcoming culture White Paper. 

We also highlight new research findings on:


and new announcements on:

Note also that the Crafts Council's and Craft Innovation conference, Make:Shift takes place from 10 – 11 November 2016 at Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester for an action-packed two days exploring innovation through craft.

EBacc consultation

The Government is inviting views on how to achieve its goal that at least 90% of pupils in mainstream secondary schools will enter the EBacc. Pupils achieve the EBacc if they secure a good pass in GCSEs in English, mathematics, sciences, history or geography, and a language. The attainment measure will become the default option for most pupils.

The Crafts Council has expressed concern that a greater focus on EBacc entrants will result in a reduced priority for creative subjects, acknowledged to be a part of a broad and balanced curriculum. 

Culture White Paper

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is preparing a White Paper for publication in the spring. In our response, the Crafts Council has made the case for strengthening the position of craft, highlighting:

  • the unique cultural ecology in the UK of public investment, private philanthropy and commercial activity
  • how makers help generate a sense of place, identity, community and belonging
  • how craft makes a significant contribution to supply chains in particular places
  • the robust R&D case for public investment in the arts and culture, which in turn drives commercial value
  • the tremendous popularity of craft
  • how craft education is now at serious risk, and
  • how craft plays an important role in cultural diplomacy.

Our response also acknowledges the statements of support made by the Chancellor, George Osborne in his Comprehensive Spending Review announcement and other recent speeches for the value of investment in the arts.

The Prime Minister has also expressed support for arts and culture in a recent speech on life chances, saying, “Britain is blessed with some of the most awe-inspiring cultural treasures on the planet ... culture should never be a privilege; it is a birth right that belongs to us all.” A new Life Chances Strategy is to address cultural disenfranchisement.

But the Creative Industries Federation has drawn attention to how the leading position is in jeopardy.  A new emphasis on creative thinking among foreign competitors has underlined a growing threat to Britain’s worldwide standing in the arts. While schools are being urged to concentrate on maths and science, much of the rest of the developed world is embarking on an “arts race” for soft diplomatic power and creative status.

New research

There’s a wealth of new research on:

The economic contribution and employment in the creative industries across the world, in the EU and in the UK

A new Sport England survey is to sit alongside Taking Part. It will collect data on people's leisure activities, including culture, but will not breakdown figures into different art forms such as craft.

And also on statistics - the Independent Review of UK Economic Statistics Interim report looks at future needs and the effectiveness of current data. We highlighted the importance of gathering data on microbusinesses, particularly those under the VAT threshold, in our response and were pleased to see the recommendation that ONS needs to become more agile in the provision of statistics that properly reflect the changing structure and characteristics of the economy.

The impact of cultural spillovers

A report from a European consortium including Arts Council England on cultural and creative spillovers in Europe shows how culture-led regeneration has a positive impact, cross-fertilisation occurs between commercial and non-commercial sectors  and that spillovers play a role in boosting uptake of new technology.

Look out in the spring for a new Crafts Council report on innovation and craft spillovers.

The relationship between art and health

  • Researchers from the University Hospital Erlangen and Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg have found that producing art can cause neural and psychological changes in our brains. They found that the participants who produced art showed increased brain activity in the areas associated with self-awareness and memory processing and showed signs of becoming better able to adapt to stress and adversity.
  • Advice and resources to help arts and health professionals conduct evaluations is now available through Arts for Health, a research programme to evaluate the long-term relationship between arts participation and physical/psychological health.


New announcements

  • Maria Eagle, MP for Garston and Halewood and Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, have been appointed as Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State and Minister for Culture, Media and Sport.
  • Guidance on GCE AS and A level subject content for design and technology has now been published for teaching in schools from 2017.
  • The RSA has launched a Charter for the Self-employed. It contains eight practical policy ideas to improve the living standards of people who work for themselves, including introducing automated saving schemes and establishing a new form of pension auto-enrolment.
  • Northern Ireland’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is consulting on ten-year strategy for the arts that will show how arts play a role in the ‘cohesive community’ agenda.

Note also that Make:Shift returns from 10 – 11 November 2016 at Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester for an action-packed two days exploring innovation through craft. Building on the success of 2014’s sell-out conference, Make:Shift will look at craft innovation in robotics, smart materials, bio design, wearables and more. We’ll investigate its impact on sustainability, healthcare and wellbeing and social innovation.

Join a wealth of makers, researchers, technologists, scientists, engineers and manufacturers to share ideas and inspiration about the future of making.