Conservatives scrap arts premium for schools promised in 2019 UK general election manifesto

Arts education policy amounting to £270m was missing from autumn budget announcement last week

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The Conservative Party's manifesto for the 2019 general election pledged extra funding to secondary schools to support creative activities, but the policy has since been dropped Photo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi talk with pupils at the Westbury-on-Trym Church of England Academy in Bristol. Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

The Conservative Party's manifesto for the 2019 general election pledged extra funding to secondary schools to support creative activities, but the policy has since been dropped Photo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi talk with pupils at the Westbury-on-Trym Church of England Academy in Bristol. Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

The UK government under Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson has shelved plans for an “arts premium” funding package for secondary schools, breaking a pledge made in the party’s election manifesto in 2019.

The premium would have amounted to around £270m in funding according to the website Arts Professional. But there was no mention of the policy in the autumn budget announced last week by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. The Art Newspaper understands that there are no current plans to introduce the arts premium initiative.

Caroline Norbury, the chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, an advocacy organisation, says it is “very disappointing” that the arts premium election manifesto commitment is not being fulfilled by the government.

“Creative skills, ideas and industries have been highlighted as priorities in the government’s own plan for growth and it is imperative that the strategic importance of creative, arts and design education is also recognised. Failure to do so will not only impact the UK’s ability to innovate and grow, but also limit opportunities for a diverse talent pipeline,” she adds, stressing that she will be writing to the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, to voice her organisation’s concerns.

The Conservatives campaigned in the 2019 general election on a series of education pledges, stating: “We will invest in arts, music and sport. Over the last nine years we have made real improvements in maths, English and science, and given more children access to a rich academic curriculum. We retain our commitment to the core subjects and also want young people to learn creative skills and widen their horizons, so we will offer an ‘arts premium’ to secondary schools to fund enriching activities for all pupils.”

A Department for Education spokesperson says nonetheless that it is investing around £115m a year in cultural education over the next three years, through projects such as Music Education Hubs and the Music and Dance Scheme. The department will also publish a refreshed national plan for music education in collaboration with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in early 2022.

“We are also providing schools with a cash increase of £1,500 per pupil by 2024/25 compared to 2019/20, as well as a total of almost £5bn for education recovery, which will make sure schools are able to deliver a broad and ambitious curriculum and enrichment activities, including in the arts,” the spokesperson adds.

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