Education has proved to be a hot topic on a-n Research since the index of visual arts cultural policy and strategy documents launched late last year.

A search through the archive might begin by investigating what now seem like the halcyon days of New Labour and initiatives such as Creative Partnerships and Find Your Talent.

You could read Ofsted’s report on the impact of Creative Partnerships, then look through Creative Partnerships’ own evaluation on how the project impacted the cultural and creative economy, learning about the outcomes from the perspective of teachers and children, and the artists who took their practice into the field.

For a really rounded picture of Creative Partnerships, download the Cambridge University evaluation from 2012 focusing on the programme’s impact on the welbeing for children and young people. Finally, you might read the Henley Review of Cultural Education from the same year and reflect on how idealistic it now sounds, comparing it to current arts education policy and the academisation of schools.

So is the situation now really as bad as we might think? The recent Two Cultures: Do schools have to choose between the Ebacc and the Arts? report, published in 2017, suggests that the introduction of the Ebacc is having no discernible effect on the popularity of arts GCSEs and that the number of students taking creative subjects has in fact risen by 2%.

You might think this is surprising and counter-intuitive. And you’d be right, because it turns out this report has been produced by a government-funded organisation with a vested interest (chief executive, one Toby Young), and the figures fail to present the wider picture of a 15.7% rise in entries for non-arts GCSEs during the same period.

In the intro to Two Cultures on a-n Research, I’ve recommended it is read in conjunction with an Arts Professional article which deconstructs the report and persuasively concludes that arts subjects are indeed declining in relation to other subjects when the figures are analysed in their totality.

Adult arts education

If it’s research into current state of adult arts education that you are looking for, your search journey will take a different route. How industry is lobbying for a more tech and innovation-focused higher education sector is the subject of a number of reports published by Nesta, Creative and Cultural Skills and Creative Skillset, for instance.

Or you might want to know how professional practice is taught in art schools. In a-n’s Research paper, Professional practice in art schools:preparing students for life after graduation, Sarah Rowles unpacks the findings of a Q-Art publication she has coedited with Jo Allen exploring how students are prepared for life after art school.

And if you want to look beyond formal education and are wondering what other models are out there, you can go back to 2011 for another a-n Research paper, Alternative art schools, which considers the background to the alternative art education movement and its current relevance.

There is a wealth of material in a-n Research that is designed to meet the various and changing information needs of artists and arts organisers. Each document includes a short summary, suggesting why it might be useful, what its strengths and flaws are, and the context in which it was commissioned.

Good research is a vital part of good decision making, whatever the context. Whether it’s helping you decide what approach to a particular project would work best, or because you need to justify why your project is needed; or because you want to find out more about a local or specific area to inform your artwork, a-n Research can provide you with both the information and the evidence you need.

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