ACE will lead public bodies in the renewal of England’s strategy for cultural education

Stronger relationships between the cultural sector and the formal education system will become a Government priority as a result of recommendations made by Darren Henley in his Review of Cultural Education in England. Various strategies are proposed to strengthen on-the-ground relationships between teachers and cultural practitioners. Schools would nominate a member of their senior management team to act as a Cultural Education Champion, with this position being mirrored in cultural organisations by the appointment of a trustee with similar responsibilities; each school would be ‘adopted’ by a cultural organisation; and schools would articulate explicit learning objectives to cultural organisations, to ensure that their programmes and activities properly fulfil school’s requirements. Henley recommends that Ofsted develops a clear definition of excellent learning outcomes for cultural organisations and schools, and calls on the Government to commission Ofsted to write a guide to working with schools.

The development of professional training for culture practitioners who also work in education is suggested as a way of giving greater recognition to this area of the work. Arts Council England (ACE) has already commissioned Creative & Cultural Skills to create a suite of accredited vocational qualifications for those working with young people and aims to “professionalise the sector and provide a kitemark which schools, parents and young people can recognise.”

Among other proposals put forward by Henley, and endorsed by the DCMS, is the establishment of a new National Youth Dance Company: he reports that the lack of a centrally funded permanent youth company seems ‘illogical and unfair’ when funding is currently made for equivalent organisations in theatre and music, and ACE is preparing a tender to host a company that “combines the development of high levels of contemporary and ballet technique, with creative performance opportunities directed by world-leading choreographer,” aiming to establish the company by 2013 “subject to appropriate funding arrangements.” This move comes at a time when Youth Dance England, the national body responsible for dance provision for young people in and out of schools, is having its regular funding withdrawn; and Kenneth Tharp, the ex-associate Artistic Director of the former National Youth Dance Company points out: “the Government’s assertion that this is the first such company is a re-writing of history.” A National Youth Dance Company ran for 18 years under the direction of John Chesworth, until the company closed in 2003 when its £15k funding was cut by ACE in 2003.

A National Cultural Education Plan setting out the Government’s ambitions for cultural education will now be drawn up, and a group of cultural bodies – made up of ACE, the British Film Institute, English Heritage, the Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund – called the Cultural Education Partnership Group (CEPG), will be formed to help implement the Plan. Led by ACE, the CEPG will develop an over-arching cultural education strategy in line with the Government’s ambitions, with a view to taking full responsibility for funding cultural education. ACE intends the group to align priorities and funding streams to areas where the greatest impact can be made, for example in areas of low cultural engagement.

The implementation of the Plan will be through a structure similar to that of the recently established Local Music Education Hubs, but covering a wide range of cultural activity. ACE’s ‘Bridge’ organisations, which were set up to connect schools and communities with its National Portfolio network, will be at the heart of the Hub infrastructure. The development of a single destination website bringing together all cultural education resources is suggested by Henley, but rejected by ACE, which responds that resources would be better spent on ‘on the ground’ cultural education activity. The Cultural Learning Alliance warns that the Plan will need to “robustly address the ways that Music Hubs, Bridge Organisations, Local Authorities, schools, Ofsted and practitioners will work together effectively.”