NSEAD's Response to the Levelling Up White Paper

The Levelling Up White Paper sets out how the Government will spread opportunity more equally across the UK, but there are huge gaps in policy around support, value and investment in the arts.

The new Levelling Up policy document opines that the United Kingdom 'is an unparalleled success story – a multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-ethnic state with the world’s best broadcaster; a vibrantly creative arts sector’. We applaud the Department for Levelling Up’s description of the UK, however, thereafter the white paper itself, barely recognises the long-standing inequities, and un-level creative industries, training and education. Appreciation and access to the creative arts sector is one thing, but ensuring that they represent the voices, heritage and talent in local communities is another.

Michele Gregson (General Secretary, NSEAD) said: 

'We applaud this description of the creative sector, but if we are to remain a vibrant sector, we want more than just a description from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, we want life-long investment in creative learning and training at a local level. If our creative sector is to remain vibrant and - we emphasise - truly equitable and diverse, the sector needs support, value and investment. 

'The paper proposes that we need a 'Renaissance', and that a '21st Century Medici model ' is the recipe they will use'. But if this truly was the case, we would be reading about the investment in the talent pipeline, about the rebirth of arts, science and culture from cradle to grave, and throughout the policy document. Yes, there is an £2 billion culture recovery fund, but without addressing inequities in the creative arts sector, without ensuring working-class communities become the makers and musicians, the creators, curators and directors, local communities will not even set a foot in the door of any cultural centre or venue. At the Civic Agenda: Art and Design Conference held in Newcastle by CHEAD yesterday, Sarah Munro, Director of BALTIC, said that it would take 360K people from working-class backgrounds to enter the Creative Industries before they are ‘level’; this is more than the total number of creative industry employees in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland combined.

'Yes, equity means reaching new audiences, but it also means ensuring the talent and training pipeline begins with learning in schools, and that this continues with the training of local communities. It also means that school visits to theatres, museums and galleries must be at the very heart of learning. As we come out of the pandemic there is a desperate need to catch up on lost learning - Yes, this does mean SATS, English and Maths, but it also means lost experiences, lost interactions and lost opportunities to learn experientially. Let’s feed the talent pipeline across the UK, across all types of schools and across all socio-economic groups - this would be a true levelling up and lead to a real 21C Renaissance.'

NSEAD also notes that the Paper goes on to identify six factors or capitals, that will help drive levelling up:

  • Physical capital – infrastructure, machines and housing.
  • Human capital – the skills, health and experience of the workforce.
  • Intangible capital – innovation, ideas and patents.
  • Financial capital – resources supporting the financing of companies.
  • Social capital – the strength of communities, relationships and trust.
  • Institutional capital – local leadership, capacity and capability.

If the Department for Levelling Up is truly wishing to implement a 21C Medici model, these six capitals will indeed be needed. But they have neglected the essence of the Medici model - the need for arts and culture at its core. Why omit these central pillars of the Renaissance?

And finally, whilst we support the arms-length creation of the UK National Academy, we ask that teachers remain, as they have been, at the heart of this work. Subject associations, like NSEAD, will continue to play a big part in curriculum development. We believe that teachers are the best creators of Academy’s lessons and the curriculum framework too. These will remain freely available and they will enhance the programme of levelling up.