Rishi Sunak – keep your promise to fund arts activities in secondary schools
Secondary schools are missing millions of pounds of Government funding for arts programmes and activities.
The Arts Premium was a Conservative manifesto pledge “to fund enriching activities for all pupils”. 1 Rishi Sunak promised “£25,000 per year on average for each secondary school to invest in arts activities” in his March 2020 Budget.2
Teachers were told that the funding would arrive in September 2021. When it didn’t, the schools minister said “the Arts Premium is now subject to this year’s Spending Review”.3
But in his Spending Review, Rishi Sunak made no mention of the Arts Premium he had promised.4
We urge Rishi Sunak and the Government to keep their manifesto promise to deliver an Arts Premium of at least £90 million a year to secondary schools, distributing this much-needed funding as soon as possible.
In recent years, young people have had to deal with extreme global events in challenging circumstances. The pandemic had a severe and enduring impact on mental health and educational inequality5 , and the cost-of-living crisis has also hit hard, with increasing numbers of young people at risk of being pulled into poverty. Especially now, EVERY child must have the opportunity to express and develop their creativity at school.
✓ To support mental health and recovery
The crisis in mental health grew significantly during the pandemic and hit children and young people hardest of all.6 The arts have a vital role to play in the nation’s ongoing recovery. After participating in arts activities, 82% of people report greater wellbeing.7
✓ To support learning and development
Engaging with arts activities has been shown to increase cognitive abilities and attainment, including in other subjects such as English and maths. Participants become more employable, more likely to volunteer and more likely to vote.8 These benefits must be made available to everybody, not just the privileged few.
✓ To support equal opportunities
Creative talent is everywhere, but the opportunity to discover and develop it is not. Expanding access to creative activities would improve life chances across the country, and the talent pipeline into our globally-successful creative industries, which contributed £116bn to the nation’s economy in 20199 and employed 2.1 million people.10
Rishi Sunak committed funding to the arts premium as part of the 2020 Budget. The Budget Report said:
“The funding will help schools to provide high quality arts programmes and extracurricular activities for pupils, including those delivered in partnership with arts organisations, as well as supporting teachers to deliver engaging and creative lessons in the arts.”
The 2019 Conservative manifesto said:
“We will invest in arts, music and sport … 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.”
The Government has not confirmed the status of the Arts Premium.
On 7th June 2021, in response to questioning by Nicholas Trench, Earl of Clancarty on the Arts Premium, Baroness Berridge (then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System) replied that:
“…the Government have had to make some difficult fiscal decisions on the arts premium. As noble Lords are aware, we have no money for free schools this year. That, along with the arts premium, will be in the spending review in the autumn.”
On 25th October, in response to questioning by Baroness Prashar on the Arts Premium, Baroness Barran (Lords Minister for Education) said:
“The noble Baroness will understand that I cannot prejudge the announcements from the Chancellor on Wednesday.”
Rishi Sunak made no announcement on the Arts Premium in his speech the following Wednesday.
On 1 November the Art Newspaper reported that they understood the Arts Premium to have been scrapped by the Government.
Absolutely! On February 1 2023 we made a representation to the Treasury in partnership with the Cultural Learning Alliance.
The 2019 Conservative manifesto indicated that secondary schools would receive £110 million per year for three years.
In the 2020 Budget this was reduced to £90 million per year for three years.
For the average secondary school, this was £25,000 per year or £75,000 in total.
No. The news that schools would not receive the funding in September 2021 was confirmed on 6 September 2021 in a written reply by schools minister Nick Gibb MP to a question from Dame Diana Johnston MP.
The Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Deborah Annetts, said:
“That no official statement was made on the premium, despite it being a manifesto and budget commitment, is sadly another example of the disregard shown by the Department for Education towards creative subjects in recent years.”
The Spending Review, led by the Chancellor and HM Treasury, sets spending plans and limits for Government departments and public services. Rishi Sunak completed a three-year Spending Review on 27 October 2021. Click here to read our report on what it means for the arts.
- Conservative Manifesto 2019, p13
- Budget Speech 2020
- Written reply, Nick Gibb MP
- Budget Speech 2021
- Inequalities in education, skills, and incomes in the UK: The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, IFS
- Royal College of Psychiatrists
- Leadbetter & O’Connor, 2013
- The Value of Arts and Culture to People and Society, p8
- DCMS Economic Estimates 2019
- DCMS Sectors Economic Estimates 2019: Employment