Creative Skills & Futures Network Meeting – February 2023

Back to top

Creative Skills & Futures Network Meeting – February 2023

On Wednesday 8 February 2023, our Creative Skills & Futures Network meeting welcomed Alastair Jones from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to discuss the Cultural Education Plan (CEP) for England, which is currently in development.

Chaired by Dr Paul Thompson, Vice-Chancellor, Royal College of Art, the meeting was an exclusive opportunity for Creative UK members across industry and education to hear more about the Cultural Education Plan itself and, crucially, input directly into the development of this key piece of work through our usual collaborative discussion and feedback.

Stacey Arnold, Policy & Public Affairs Manager, kicked the meeting off with updates from Creative UK in the creative skills and futures space.

Creative UK submitted our fiscal asks for the spring budget, which includes a section on the importance of creative education and skills in meeting the creative sector’s workforce and skills shortages. It includes the defunding of BTECs, reform of apprenticeships and the Levy, and introducing the Arts Premium promised in the Conservative manifesto (read here).

We have have been developing the key pillars of our election manifesto pledges, which are likely to focus on Maximising Investment, Enhancing Global Competitiveness and Growing Homegrown British Talent. The latter is where we will focus on strengthening the education and skills pipeline that will deliver the highly-skilled workforce of the future.

In March, Lara Carmona will be taking up the position of Director of Policy and Engagement, bringing a refresh and reinvigoration of our priorities around access to finance and creative skills and jobs.

Lee Hornsby, Lead Development & Partnerships Manager, Creative UK, summarised the live developments around the defunding of Level 3 Applied General Qualifications – including AS and A Levels, applied general qualifications such as BTECs and the newer T-Level qualifications –  new technical qualifications that have 300 hours plus work placements requirement built in across all subject areas.

Lee outlined a number of concerns around the developments. In July 2021, the Department for Education confirmed plans to simplify the post-16 qualifications landscape and move towards a two-route model of A levels and T levels where most young people pursue one of these qualifications at the age of 16. As a result, there is a concern that funding for a number of key, creative non A-Level and T-Level qualifications are at risk of being defunded in just a couple of years’ time. Particularly where those qualifications are deemed to ‘overlap’ with those qualifications. If those qualifications are taken off the table, there is some concern that for many learners, a creative A-Level or T-Level may not be quite right for them in terms of their ability, the way they learn, how they’re assessed and a myriad of other reasons.

There is an additional concern around providers being able to successfully secure the work placement requirements of the T-Levels, particularly in rural areas or where our creative and cultural industries aren’t as prevalent. Ultimately, will removing some of these post-16 non-A Level or T Level options deter young people from following their creative career aspirations and progressing onto either higher education or employment?

Alastair Jones, Deputy Director for the Creative Industries, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, proceeded to discuss the context and scope for Cultural Education Plan.

Announced in March 2022 in the Schools White Paper, the CEP is a joint venture between DCMS and DfE, which aims to articulate and highlight the importance of high-quality cultural education in schools, promote the social value of cultural and creative education, outline and support career progression pathways, address skills gaps and tackle disparities in opportunity and outcome.

A lot has changed since the Henley Review of Cultural Education was published in 2011, and there are a number of things that DCMS want to address through the CEP, including widening disparities in some regions. The DCMS articulated the CEP’s broad objectives, which includes fuelling more partnerships that bring educational providers and industry together.

Over the last 10 months, DCMS have been working closely with other departments and Arms Length Body (ALBs) such as the Arts Council, BFI, Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, to build the evidence base. Baroness Deborah Bull will be chairing the expert advisory panel and they will announce rest of panels shortly. DCMS would like to be further ahead than they are currently in terms of delivery. As the Schools White Paper sets out, the ambition is to publish the CEP in 2023.

DCMS recognise the criticism that campaigns by the centre of Government in the past have been very damaging to industry’s efforts to encourage the new workforce to come through (for example, the ‘Fatima Retraining in Cyber’ campaign), and want to give the CEP the significance and the effort it deserves.

The Minister for Creative Industries, Julia Lopez, launched the Creative Careers Programme alongside Screen Skills and dozens of other industry partners – representatives will go to secondary schools and talk about creative careers. From an economic point of view as well as a broader wellbeing point of view, DCMS understand that these are serious careers that need support.

Alastair explained that the Government’s interest in the creative industries is at its highest for a while, with the Chancellor’s speech at Bloomberg identifying the creative industries as one of the five high-growth sectors. The Sector Vision report will be released very soon, and the report’s ambition is to be a living policy framework: how can Government and the creative industries work together to support the latter.

In terms of next steps, Alastair described the need for a wider process of stakeholder engagement and consultation beyond DCMS, DfE and the ALBs, reflecting numerous viewpoints and harnessing the expertise and best practice that is out there.

If you have specific examples of projects, programmes and other information that you would like to share with colleagues at DCMS and DfE, please send them to Stacey Arnold ( or Lee Hornsby ( for collation.