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  • Ring, Karl Fritsch, 2005. Image courtesy of mima

November 2015 Policy Brief

November policy brief

This month we focus on the Government’s consultation on the target for at least 90% of pupils in mainstream secondary schools to be entered for the English Baccalaureate and on the impact we believe this will have on creative education.

We also look briefly at:

Department for Education consultation on implementing the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). Closing date 29 January 2016

The Government is inviting views on implementing the EBacc.  It’s not a consultation about whether or not we should have an EBacc - it's a consultation about implementation of the Government’s goal that at least 90% of pupils in mainstream secondary schools should be entered for the EBacc.

The Crafts Council is concerned that these proposals may lead to a situation where pupils are discouraged from pursuing art, craft and design subjects in favour of Ebacc subjects, undermining  the creative economy and weakening the wider benefits of a creative education. Other organisations, including the Cultural Learning Alliance, the Bacc for the Future campaign to reform the Ebacc and  the RSA, have also been drawing attention to the consultation.

The Ebacc requires that pupils take up to eight GCSE qualifications across five subject ‘pillars’, that currently exclude any creative subjects. Pupils currently in year 7 will be the first cohort to be entered for EBacc GCSEs in 2020.

The consultation document makes six proposals:

  • the EBacc becomes the default option for all pupils, with schools able to determine the small minority of pupils for whom taking the whole EBacc is not appropriate
  • the proportion of pupils entering the EBacc will become a headline measure of secondary school performance (with a target of at least 90% of pupils in mainstream secondary schools  entered for the EBacc)
  • EBacc entry and attainment will be given a more prominent role in the Ofsted inspection framework
  • EBacc entry and attainment data for mainstream secondary schools with similar characteristics and intakes will also be published by the government
  • information on pupils’ EBacc Average Point Score to be published
  • for special/ist schools and alternative provision, data will be published on the numbers of pupils entering and achieving the EBacc but without expecting them to meet the 90% ambition.

The Crafts Council will be responding to the consultation.

The Government Spending Review

The Chancellor has said that it would be a false economy to cut the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The result of the Spending Review is a reduction in core DCMS administrative costs that will maintain funding in cash terms for museums, galleries and the arts and enable continued free access to national museums and galleries. This good news follows some very organised advocacy from the creative and cultural industries.

Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart challenges David Cameron over funding for creative subjects in schools

Labour Backbencher Fiona Mactaggart asked if the Government would seek to preserve the UK’s leading performance in creative industries by protecting school funding. In reply (column 962), the Prime Minister said the Government wanted to ensure children are learning the basic subjects, then creative subjects can be put in place.

The People Challenge

DCMS has posted the third of its four challenges for debate to inform the content of a forthcoming white paper.  Following posts on place and funding, this challenge invites discussion of ideas on how to make sure cultural activities a normal part of people’s everyday life. We’re developing our response to share soon.

Higher Education Green Paper   

The Higher Education Green Paper, Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, was published on 6 November. The focus is on transforming a sector infrastructure designed for a largely publicly funded system to one that is focused on students and teaching, and promoting competition. The paper introduces:

  • the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 
  • a new Office for Students with powers for quality assessment in England.
  • reform of research funding and the research councils.

Revised design and technology GCSE content

The Government has published new subject content for design and technology GCSE . An improvement on earlier drafts, there is still concern that schools are less likely to favour subjects not in the EBacc pillars.

Arts participation and attendance – those doing craft find life more worthwhile!

DCMS have published their Taking Part Annual Report 2014/15. Some interesting findings:

  • ‘frequent dancing, drama and crafts activity are significant predictors of greater happiness. Those who perform music and do crafts frequently find life more worthwhile.
  • Participation in textile crafts, wood crafts and other crafts (calligraphy, pottery, jewellery making) have remained stable between 2005/06 and 20014/15. 
  • Attendance at craft exhibitions has declined from 15.4% of respondents to 9.8%. (The only art forms for which attendance has increased are live music and dance.) The percentage of survey participants who have ‘bought handmade crafts (pottery, jewellery)’ has declined from 16% to 13.3% between 2005/06 and 20014/15.

Evidence of the impact of arts education on the cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes of school-aged children is ‘weak’

The Education Endowment Foundation commissioned Durham University to examine over 200 pieces of existing academic research ‘to identify the most promising ways in which learning through the arts can support disadvantaged young people to achieve key educational outcomes’. The report concludes that, though there are promising leads, at the moment there isn’t enough robust evidence to be able to demonstrate a causal link between arts education and academic attainment. It finds that the wider attainment gains sometimes claimed for arts education are not as clear-cut as we might like them to be. It also concludes that the current state of the evidence-base linking arts education and attainment is weak.

Making sense of makerspaces

The RSA’s new report attempts to make sense of makerspaces  – why they are emerging, what impact they are having on their users and communities, and what challenges they are likely to face in the future. The report shows how the emergence of makerspaces reflects a nation increasingly enthusiastic about making, embracing a wide range of technologies and objectives in their making and championing new ways of living.

Go craft manifestos!

A year on from the launch of Our Future is in the Making, an education manifesto for craft and making, we’ve surveyed partners and supporters about activity in support of the manifesto. Here’s a snapshot of what you told us, along with an update on what we at the Crafts Council have been doing.


The case for culture

The North East Culture Partnership has launched the Case for Culture, a fifteen year strategy that sets out five clear aspirations to deliver benefits to the region’s people, places and economy.

Supporting student entrepreneurship

Christopher Haley at Nesta blogs on student entrepreneurship. His views echo calls in Our Future is in the Making on the importance of embedding entrepreneurship skills during higher education, as recommended by Lord Young in his recent report Enterprise for All.

Understanding the resilience of and challenges to Local Authority museums

ACE has funded a report on the resilience of local authority funded museums, in an era of austerity. Key messages include the need for development of an entrepreneurial culture and the importance of selecting the right business model and strategy.

Ethical sponsorship for Museums

Some museums and galleries have faced criticism for receiving funding from companies such as Shell and BP. A new Museums Association ethical code now requires scrutiny of the ethics of sponsors.

Creative industries - routes to finance

The creative Industries Federation has launched a guide to assist organisations to make money and build financial resilience, covering everything from venture capital to philanthropy and tax credits to Arts Council funding.

A-Z of Planning and Culture

London Mayor Boris Johnson has published a guide to planning and culture to protect London's cultural assets as the city grows and expands. He has voiced concern about the loss of “artist studios, music venues, pubs, theatres and other cultural spaces” in London. The A-Z sets out a strategic vision, encouraging local plans and proposing creation of special policy areas.

AHRC funding for Arts and Humanities Doctoral Research Students

The Crafts Council is a partner in two Doctoral Training Partnerships which are now inviting applications for studentships awards for the 2016/17 recruitment round:

  • The Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership will be awarding 410 PhD studentships over a five year period to excellent research students in the arts and humanities. The Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR) at Birmingham City University is inviting applications from students whose research interests include, amongst others, Creative Industries, Cultural Policy and Cultural Work. Initial expressions of interest to develop an application with BCMCR and research proposals should be sent to m3c@bcu.ac.uk before 30th November 2015, with a deadline for AHRC funding applications of 12th January 2015.
  • The South West and Wales Doctorial Training Partnership (SWWDTP) is inviting collaborative applications with SWW DTP partners. Where partners’ research priorities/interests cross with a candidate’s project proposal, there may be opportunities for candidates to build a collaborative application. The partnership would welcome applications for studentships related to craft. Enquiries should be made in the first instance to swwdtp-enquiries@bristol.ac.uk . The partnership will then alert the Crafts Council to areas of research interest that students may wish to discuss.