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Policy Brief July 2017

This month –

  1. the government’s response to its EBacc consultation
  2. the new T Levels

The policy brief will take a break now until September.

Government related news

The government has confirmed it will introduce legislation early in the autumn to include those aspects of the earlier Finance Bill that did not become law before the general election was called. This will include the power to give museums and galleries tax relief on permanent, temporary and touring exhibitions which will be backdated to the beginning of 2017/18.

And the government department responsible for culture and the creative industries has renamed itself the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (still known as DCMS).

Education policy debate

Government response to its 2015 consultation on implementing the English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

The government sets out its view and summarises points made in response to the consultation. In response to question 7 about issues schools need to consider when planning for increasing the number of pupils taking the EBacc, 71% of responses made reference to how schools will be able to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum. This included points about preserving the place of arts, technology and creative subjects in the wider curriculum. This was also the issue parents most commonly raised. Some responses to the consultation questioned whether the changes proposed in the consultation document would result in a reduction in the number of pupils taking qualifications in other (non-EBacc) subjects, particularly arts subjects, design and technology and technical qualifications.

The government’s response to these points is that Art & Design continues to be one of the most popular GCSE subjects. The response makes no mention of the decline in participation in Design & Technology GCSE. (See our report Studying Craft 16 which reveals a 41% decline in such students between 2007/08 and 2014/15.)

Lively debate on the EBacc highlights how it is driving up achievement in what the government calls ‘core academic subjects’. This is set against the apparent downgrading of, for example, those arts subjects that are excluded from the EBacc pillars. The Government’s view is that they “have considered suggestions to include additional subjects or pillars within the EBacc but have decided that this could reduce pupil choice at GCSE to the point where no other subjects can be studied.”

On 3 July the House of Lords debated the absence of a government response to the January 2016 EBacc consultation. In response to points about the decline in the number of students taking Design & Technology GCSE, Lord Nash, for the Government, alleged that some pupils were taking the subject because it was easier, rather than that they were suited to it. 

The House of Lords also debated on 6 July proposals from the Conservative Party election manifesto to establish a curriculum fund for Britain’s leading cultural and scientific institutions. Debate focused on the need for the fund in the context of cuts to arts subjects in schools and by local authorities to museums.

T Levels

The new T Levels, announced by the government earlier this year to strengthen the status of technical qualifications, are to include a ‘Creative and Design’ option. The future challenges in the operation of the new route are analysed in a Higher Education Policy Institute briefing.

European and international collaboration

Nearly 500 European cultural organisations have signed the British Council statement on Our Shared European Future, seeking to safeguard the interests of the education, culture, science and research sectors across Europe after Brexit. The statement makes recommendations for European leaders as the UK negotiates Brexit, including on residency rights for EU nationals, ease of movement in the education, culture and science sectors, continuation of programmes such as Erasmus + and Horizon 2020, engaging young people in Brexit policy making and continuing to co-operate on intellectual property and professional qualification recognition.

Arts Council England’s new report The World Stage examines international opportunities for UK arts and culture. The research highlights how global exchange and collaboration enriches how art is made and experienced. Arts Council supported organisations earned £57.5 million from international activity last year and reached more countries and overseas audiences. 65% of arts and culture organisations reported taking part in international activity.

The role and assessment of arts organisations

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPGAHW) Inquiry into practice and research in the arts in health and social care shows how arts-based approaches can help people to stay well, recover faster, manage long-term conditions and experience a better quality of life. With some excellent infographics, the findings also show how arts interventions can save money and help staff in their work, for example, an arts-on-prescription project has shown a 37% drop in GP consultation rates and a 27% reduction in hospital admissions.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation highlights the valuable civic role that arts organisations play, or could play, in a new report describing that leadership. The report is a call to action, posing questions on how to approach the issues and exploring how art can contribute to significant social problems. The organisation is now consulting through the autumn on how best to support capacity building and policy development in this area. The Crafts Council will be engaging in the debate.

Creative Freelancers draws on evidence from freelancers and organisations to demonstrate who these workers are and what they do for the fastest growing sector of the British economy. The Creative Industries Federation report, on which the Crafts Council advised, focuses on self-employed workers, including sole traders (typical of the craft sector). A lack of understanding by policy-makers means freelancers have been ignored or poorly served. The report highlights practical issues, from tax returns to affordable workspace, where government could act to make a difference.

The international network for contemporary performing, IETM, uses online resources and real-world examples in a new guide, Look, I'm priceless! Handbook on how to assess your artistic organisation, designed to help artistic organisations focus on achieving their assessment objectives.