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The Arts Council collaboration with Durham University will produce a report in Spring 2019, which will also consider arts in the curriculum and the role of the EBacc.

Dipping a brush in a paint pot

Arts Council England (ACE) and Durham University are to set up a two-year investigation into “what happens when children experience arts and culture”. The ‘Durham Commission’ will culminate in recommendations for education and industrial strategy.

An evidence review and new commissioned research will inform a report, set for spring 2019, which will be used in conjunction with ACE’s 25-year talent plan to shape the national funder’s upcoming ten-year strategy.

“There’s a broad consensus in society about the importance of nurturing creativity in our children. However, there remain questions about the most effective way to do that in our education system,” said Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England.

“In supporting the Durham Commission we hope it will generate new proposals for unlocking that creativity in the next generation.”

Established commission

Due to start in September 2017, ‘The Durham Commission on Creativity and Education’ will consider the place of arts in the curriculum and the role of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), and will reflect on education policy and relevant sections of the Government’s industrial strategy.

In a speech at the No Boundaries conference today, Serota will tell delegates that the Commission “will bring together a full range of voices, opinions and perspectives from the worlds of education, the arts, science and culture.

“It will look at practice and evidence worldwide, examine the record of those ‘pilots’ that have been tried in different parts of the country over the past twenty years and suggest how we might provide an inspiring and creative cultural education for all young people, wherever they live.”

ACE will take an active role on the steering group for the Commission, helping to “guide the strategic direction” and to “identify appropriate commissioners”. These will be drawn from the arts, business, academia and policy, and will work alongside an independent Chair.

The new commission will follow a similarly participatory format to the Warwick Commission on cultural value, which held several public meetings. “The arts sector will certainly be involved through representation amongst the commissioners, submitting evidence, and through the review of existing data and evidence,” a spokesperson told AP.

“The Commission will seek to build on the evidence already available and that will no doubt include the findings of the Warwick Commission.”

The report is also to focus on “support for practitioners within the education and cultural sector”, though whether this will involve new funding strands or training initiatives remains unclear.

“I believe this work will establish firm intellectual and practical foundations for future involvement of Arts Council England with education,” Serota will add.

“Timely intervention”

An ACE spokesperson described the initiative as a “timely intervention” into how to develop a high-quality cultural education for all children and young people across the country, both inside and outside of school.

The news follows consistent pressure on the Government to re-design the EBacc, which is thought to be decreasing student satisfaction and squeezing the arts out of schools. It also follows a promise by cabinet ministers to prioritise the creative industries in the forthcoming industrial strategy.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We believe experience of the arts and culture is essential and, indeed, we play a vital role in artistic and cultural life, both in North East England and nationally. Nearly 290,000 people visit our attractions every year and our Learning Team works with over 21,000 school children in the community.

“We look forward to bringing our world-class research expertise to bear in this important Commission.”

Serota will add: “The Arts Council must continue to listen and talk to those who remain sceptical about the value of the arts.

“But, above all, it must listen to the voices of creative artists, and imaginative producers and directors.”