Barking and Dagenham Cultural Education Partnership: the story so far

In Autumn 2012, Barking and Dagenham was invited to be one of the first three pilot Cultural Education Partnerships in the country, following the recommendations of the Henley Review into Cultural Education in England.

2 March 2015

(Jane Hargreaves is Divisional Director Education, Youth and Childcare for Barking and Dagenham.)

As Education lead for the borough I was delighted to be asked to coordinate, shape and develop our partnership, working alongside national and local cultural organisations and of course schools. As Darren Henley wrote in his review, ‘Schools remain the single most important place where children learn about cultural education.’ Barking and Dagenham is a place where the family of schools is strong and signed up to shared endeavours to support the best possible outcomes for children and young people. The rationale underpinning local cultural partnerships – that the outcomes and experiences for young people afforded by cultural partners and schools aligning activities and resources and working together should be greater than the sum of the individual parts is one that sits well alongside our approach to improving education outcomes across the board.

Key issues for our emerging local cultural education partnership steering group were:

  • arriving at a manageable set of priorities;
  • evidencing impact – how do we know if we are making a difference?
  • capturing and connecting the range of potential partners working with children and young people.

By early 2013 we had settled on three priority areas and as I write two years on – they are still our three main areas of focus:

1. responding collaboratively and creatively to The First World War Centenary;
2. establishing a cultural entitlement/cultural portfolio – recognising achievement and recording in an online personal space (possibly aligning to the borough’s access and connect cards and developing and increasing the use of Arts Mark and Arts Awards to recognise achievement);
3. strengthening and clarifying pathways into the Creative Industries for students in Barking and Dagenham.

There have been some changes and adjustments but we have now settled on a steering group meeting four times a year, with an annual partnership conference to check progress, take soundings and review priorities for the coming year.

Some milestones to date

  • Role of cultural lead governor established;
  • All governing bodies asked to consider and adapt local statement of cultural entitlement;
  • First annual Cultural Education Partnership Conference July 2014 – with representation from LBBD schools (headteachers, teachers and governors), national cultural organisations (ACE, HLF, English Heritage, BFI, A New Direction), local cultural organisations including Creative People and Places, Elected Members and Council officers;
  • The emergence of a core of headteacher cultural leads, who are central to embedding the strategy and partnerships across schools and cultural organisations;
  • 21 Arts Award advisers trained to enable national Arts Award to be quickly developed;
  • Contact links, participation maps, calendar and twice yearly CEP newsletter established.

Planned for 2015

  • Continue to develop the role of lead governor for culture, including training and development opportunities;
  • Increased number of Arts Awards and schools achieving Arts Mark;
  • Develop use of local leisure cards to capture and acknowledge cultural achievements;
  • Establish annual cycle of events with Autumn focus on First World War Commemoration and annual Summer festival hosted by schools. For 2015 link to LBBD 50th Anniversary celebrations;
  • Further strengthen partnership working with Creative People and Places.

Where are we now and what next?

We are fortunate to have been able to create this partnership with the good support of cultural organisations and the particular support and expertise from Arts Council England (ACE) and A New Direction. We are working towards a model which will become increasingly self-sustaining, with the steering group at the core, hubs which gather around the priorities supported by the wider partnership group.

The steering group is currently reviewing its priorities for the next two years and at the moment we are considering giving a higher profile to our work to enable the growth and recognition of cultural education leaders and support for them to lead through partnership and collaboration.

The second and third priorities are likely to remain similar to previous years:

  • Accreditation and celebration of cultural and creative achievement and challenge;
  • Clarifying and strengthening pathways into the creative and cultural sector.

    * Images courtesy of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham