Dan Jarvis visits OCA Head Office
On Friday 11 November, Armistice Day, Dan Jarvis paid us a visit. Dan is the constituency MP for the area which includes our Barnsley Head Office, having been elected in March this year. It always promised to be an interesting meeting as Dan is a politician who has ‘done something‘ before entering politics. In the event, the meeting proved to be even more interesting than expected for two reasons.
The day before, the House of Commons Select Committee report on the Government reform of Higher Education was published. For those who are unfamiliar with Select Committees, they are cross-party groups of MPs which examine the work of Government Departments – both the policy led by ministers and its implementation by their civil servants. Dan was a member of the Committee. And it had some harsh things to say about the speed with which the new fee regime for higher education had been developed, in particular ‘It is vital that a new fee regime does not start without key aspects of the wider reform package in place‘. Something that struck a chord, as the current guidance on the system of loans which will be available for part-time study from next year is confined to one rather vague leaflet.
The second reason for the level of interest, was that Dan had only recently been made shadow minister for culture. We talked about the role of the arts in our society, with Jane and I drawing on the work of two of our students in particular. The first, Julie Senior, whose work Labelled like Luggage we have previously featured on WeAreOCA. Her work deals with her mother’s experience of evacuation during the Second World War and it seemed particularly appropriate to consider it again on Armistice Day. The second student’s work is currently in for assessment and so we will return to it later in the year, but it also dealt with understanding the lives of members of her family. We talked about how art helps people make sense of life and how it can create threads, threads which link us together – potentially creating a better society. It is difficult to put a monetary value on the contribution of the arts to building a society in which there is a sense of interdependency and cohesion. However not to attempt that valuation runs the risk that the arts are simply marginalised. Dan clearly believes that this is a debate we need to return to.
Finally we looked at the role of regional arts funding and how this impacts on students’ ability to contextualise their learning. This was in the light of compelling evidence that public spending on the arts in London far outweighs regional spending.
Quite an afternoon.