London Schools Research: Cultural Engagement

First published on Wed, October 24, 2012.

This report from A New Direction investigates cultural education in London schools, with a particular focus on the ways in which schools engage with cultural organisations. Although the report is broadly positive, it indicates that because the numbers of disadvantaged children are higher in London than across the country as a whole, London schools face particular challenges when it comes to ensuring that all children engage with providers of creative and cultural experiences.

Key Findings:

• In London, 18% of schools have an Artsmark Award. The Artsmark is a national programme that enables schools, further education colleges and youth justice settings to celebrate and strengthen a quality arts offer. Currently, over half of those schools which responded to the survey are spending 12% or more of their curriculum time on arts and cultural learning, the benchmark which participating schools have to meet in order to be eligible to win an Artsmark Award.

• Schools are reasonably committed to cultural education at a strategic level: most schools in say their school development plans refer to cultural education. However, a substantial minority (29%) do not.

• Schools are reasonably pro-active in their cultural engagement practices. Many say they seek out cultural opportunities (53% say they do this ‘to a great extent’, with a further 34% ‘to some extent’), involve their parents and families in their school’s cultural activities (52% ‘to a great extent’), and ensure their arts teachers have opportunities to develop their creative practice with cultural providers (41%‘to a great extent’).

• Provision and uptake of cultural engagement is patchy, particularly in parts of outer London. Inner London schools indicate that they are more pro-active in seeking out opportunities, and feel the cultural sector initiates engagement with them more so than do outer London schools.

• Schools are particularly engaged with music, theatre, and museums and galleries. However, 45% report no relationship at all with creative industries such as graphics, digital arts, media or broadcasting; nor does their cultural engagement activity focus on film or the built environment.

The report recommends that cultural institutions: tailor their offer and approach to schools, strengthen the ways in which this offer is communicated, help schools identify ways to engage parents, and help schools to identify and access funding. Meanwhile, schools should: take a proactive approach to finding out about new cultural opportunities, share resources and contacts with other schools, and keep cultural engagement on the agenda by incorporating it into school development plans.

The full report can be read here.

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