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How the UK’s children can benefit from a cultural education

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Darren Henley

Managing Director of Classic FM

In 2011 Darren Henley, Managing Director of Classic FM, was asked to carry out an independent review of cultural education across England. As the review is published, he explains why we should create a cultural education system that is the envy of the world.

This time last year, my independent review of music education in England was published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education. The Government’s response to my recommendations from the review has included a new funding mechanism for music education and the country’s first ever National Plan for Music Education.
When that first review was published, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey asked me to undertake another review – this time into the whole of cultural education in England. This was a far more wide-ranging piece of work than my previous review, which concentrated on a single subject.

Review of Cultural Education

This new review is published today. It includes areas such as archaeology, architecture and the built environment, archives, craft, dance, design, digital arts, drama and theatre, film and cinemas, galleries, heritage, libraries, literature, live performance, museums, music, poetry and the visual arts. I looked at cultural education in school and outside school and in both formal and informal settings. I have tried my best to reflect the characteristics that make each part of the cultural education landscape special, while at the same time, drawing together common themes and approaches.
A child visiting a museumI’m really grateful to the large group of people who took part in the consultation that we ran last summer. The 654 written responses from a variety of different individuals and organisations helped to inform my thinking enormously, as did the face-to-face conversations I had with 121 individuals, and the series of roundtable sessions around the country, which had about 250 participants.
My final report includes 24 major recommendations, but it also contains many more ideas and thoughts, as well as a considerable amount of discussion in the supporting text. I would encourage everyone who is interested in this subject to read the full report, as this provides a far greater context to cultural education in England in its entirety than the recommendations alone could ever manage to do.
I believe that all children can and should benefit from a wide-ranging, adventurous and creative cultural education. At its best, a sound cultural education should allow children to gain knowledge through the learning of facts; understanding through the development of their critical faculties and skills through the opportunity to practise specific art forms. Involvement with high quality cultural activities can be habit forming for the rest of a young person’s life.

Growing the talent pool

There is also a benefit for our creative and cultural industries in investing in educating the next generation of cultural practitioners. This will help ensure that the UK maintains its pre-eminence on the international stage in this area, by helping to grow the talent pool of young people moving into the creative and cultural industries.
Over the past few months, I’ve been struck time and time again by the passion for cultural education from those people working in the sector. I believe that the best possible outcome from this review would be the creation of a cultural education system that is truly the envy of the world.
This will be achieved by building on past successes; by gaining a deep understanding of what does and does not work today; by developing a meaningful vision of what the future should hold; by making best use of exciting developments in new technology; and by Government, funders and other public sector, private sector and voluntary organisations working together for the common good.
I’m absolutely certain that we can help a generation of young people to achieve their full potential in this area. There is already so much that we’re doing right in cultural education in England and I hope that everyone with an interest in this area seizes the initiative and commits to building on the firm foundations that already exist.

Read Darren Henley’s Review of Cultural Education
Read Darren Henley’s blog about the 2011 review of Music Education in England.
Photo ©Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

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