Arts premium for schools absent from Budget 2021

Harriet Clifford
Wednesday, October 27, 2021

No mention was made of the additional funding promised for arts in secondary schools, which appears to have been dropped by the government.

Claudia Nass

The £90m 'arts premium' previously promised by the Conservative government was omitted from chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget set out in the House of Commons today (27 October).

This additional funding for arts subjects in secondary schools was promised by the government in its 2019 manifesto, and in the 2020 budget, but it appears that this has now been dropped.

In a written response to a question from Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson last month, former schools minister Nick Gibb said: ‘Due to the focus on new priorities as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the arts premium is now subject to this year’s Spending Review.’

The spending review culminated today and was delivered alongside the budget, which saw Sunak promise an extra £4.7bn for schools in England by 2024-2025 and an increase for every child of £1,500.

This increase has been criticised by school leaders, however, with NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman saying: ‘The increase in per pupil spending announced by the government takes us back to 2010 levels. This is no proud boast, as it represents a failure to invest in children’s futures for over a decade.’

An additional £2bn was also pledged by the chancellor for education ‘recovery’ from Covid, but this falls short of the £13-£15bn recommended by the government’s ‘catch-up’ tsar Sir Kevan Collins, who resigned in June. 

In the 2019 Tory manifesto, the government committed to investing 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.’

In its response to the budget, the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) said: ‘We are very disappointed that the chancellor made no mention of the arts premium which was subject to this spending review. It is also important that funding reaches the creative subjects.’

Others have also spoken out about the omission this afternoon, and Public Campaign for the Arts continues to petition for the funding, now with more than 22,700 signatories backing the campaign.

MT has contacted the Treasury for comment. 

The budget and spending review documents can be read in full here