'Galling' £111m arts premium plan is 'too little too late' - Barton

The Conservatives’ promise to fund an arts premium is “slightly galling” and “too little too late”, a union boss has warned.

In their election manifesto, the Tories pledged up to £111 million-a-year to fund “enriching activities for all pupils” at secondary schools across England.

This smacks of a belated and inadequate effort to repair this damage

The proposal is one of just a handful of new schools policies put forward by the party yesterday, including a £34 million investment in PE teaching and a £250 million-a-year fund to improve “wraparound” childcare.

The arts premium pledge comes after leaders described a decline in the number of pupils entering non-EBacc subjects as “bleak” and “worrying”, and follows calls for the performance measure to be reformed or scrapped.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, said the arts premium pledge was “welcome” but “slightly galling that it comes after arts subjects have been hammered over the past few years by a combination of cuts to school budgets and school performance measures which prioritise traditional academic over creative subjects”.

“The ‘arts premium’ smacks of a belated and inadequate effort to repair this damage. It is too little too late.”

A spokesperson for the Bacc for the Future campaign, which wants to see the EBacc scrapped, said the Tories’ pledge would not solve the crisis in arts education.

“For many students, the classroom is the only place where they are able to access creative subjects – but for that to happen the EBacc, a failing policy, must be reformed or dropped altogether.”

Under the Conservatives’ flexible childcare fund, up to £260 million a year will be handed to schools and childcare providers to “open up more options” for wraparound childcare – which takes place before and after school and in school holidays.

The Tories have also pledged a one-off £250 million capital boost to help schools provide this “wraparound” childcare provision.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the Tories’ pledge on wraparound childcare was “modest both in comparison to current spending on the childcare system (£5.4 billion) and relative to the giveaways promised by Labour and the Liberal Democrats (which the parties cost at £4.3 billion and £9.9 billion in today’s prices, respectively)”.

“This offer could benefit parents of school-age children by increasing their childcare options, but it’s less clear whether it will have a big effect on parents’ working patterns or children’s development,” said IfS research economist Christine Farquharson.

Labour has also pledged arts funding in the form of an arts pupil premium for primary schools, initially worth £160 million a year.