ACA announces key issues threatening opportunities for children


Action for Children’s Arts (ACA) campaigns for children across the UK to have access to the arts. Today it has announced current areas of immediate risk, as identified by its members and patrons.

  • As the UK faces its most significant changes and challenges in a generation, ACA considers it is essential that the voices of children should not be excluded from the national conversation. “Listening to Children” will for the first time be the focus for a celebratory event to be organised in association with the National Theatre this year.

The government is squeezing creativity out of our children’s learning”

Rufus Norris, Artistic Director, The Royal National Theatre, writing in The Guardian newspaper

  • The continuing threat of the imposition of the EBacc, if carried through, will lead to reduced arts opportunities for all children, and particularly those in deprived areas.

The government insists that the arts and culture should be available in all schools, and quite rightly so! But by and large it is the private schools that offer this access, and consequently it is too often available only to the elite. This is unfair and unjust. All children should benefit from the richness of the arts in their school lives.”

ACA Patron Sir Tony Robinson

  • Play is an essential part of learning in the Early Years. ACA aligns itself with the many signatories to the letter of concern sent in response to the Ofsted report Bold Beginnings, which threatens to narrow the reception curriculum to focus more heavily on literacy and mathematics, with overly formal teaching and less opportunity for play.

“Early Years are a crucial time within a human life for the development of emotional intelligence. Play, which develops imagination, is being lost in childhood because of the increasing pressure of early school assessment. We must remember it is every child’s right, every day, to have time to create, imagine and play.”

ACA Trustee, and BBC Children’s TV presenters, Chris Jarvis and Pui Fan Lee

  • The continued threat to the future of libraries is of great concern to ACA. All children and families should have access to a range of literature and a place in which to explore it.

“We all of us want the best for our children, for them to grow strong in heart and spirit, body and mind. That so many children do not have the start in life they need to flourish, is society’s fault, our fault. 

We need to give them, their parents and their teachers the tools to do the job. To close a library, to deny children opportunities for reading, for developing a love of literature,  is to exclude children from their culture, their birthright, from fulfilment of their creative potential, and, most importantly, from the knowledge and understanding they will need to comprehend  better the world about them, the lives of others, and themselves. 

Without this empathy, without such knowledge and understanding, where are they? And where are we?”

ACA Patron, Sir Michael Morpurgo

  • ACA notes with concern the reports of charges being introduced in schools for Music GCSE classes. Access to music and music tuition must remain part of the UK school curriculum and not become the preserve of the wealthy.

“It is a tragedy. All our children deserve access to the arts. The UK has traditionally been a world leader in culture – we should be supporting and encouraging the arts instead of jeopardising young people’s choices through these short-sighted cuts”.

ACA Patron, Julian Lloyd Webber

ACA believes that, in the context of current political policy, there is an urgent need to reinforce the importance of the arts as part of a broad and balanced education for all – not just for those who can afford it.


Notes for Editors

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Action for Children’s Arts is a national membership organisation embracing all those who believe that every child deserves access to artistic and creative activity. The charity is dedicated to the promotion, development and celebration of all creative and performing arts, for and with children.

ACA is proud that its membership ranges from individual artists, to National Portfolio Organisations, to parents and teachers – all championing the cause of giving every child access to the arts.

President: David Wood, OBE

Chair: Vicky Ireland, MBE

Patrons: David Almond, Jenny Agutter OBE, Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE, Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, David Bintley CBE, Malorie Blackman OBE, Sir Quentin Blake CBE, Sir Matthew Bourne OBE, Mrs Felicity Dahl, Dame Carol Ann Duffy CBE, Peter Duncan, Michael Foreman, Jamila Gavin, Anna Home OBE, Shirley Hughes CBE, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Terry Jones, Judith Kerr OBE, Julian Lloyd Webber, Joanna McGregor OBE, Michelle Magorian, Roger McGough CBE, Sir Michael Morpurgo, Nick Park CBE, Philip Pullman CBE, Lynne Reid Banks, Sir Ken Robinson, Sir Tony Robinson, Michael Rosen, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Benjamin Zephaniah.

Listening to Children: call for submissions

Are you under 13? Are you concerned about your future? Got ideas you want to share? We want videos, art and poetry from YOU exploring the following ideas:

  • What do like about life in the UK?
  • What would you like to change?
  • What are the important things in your life?
  • What is the role of creativity in your life?

You can answer just one of these questions, or tackle all four! We want to know what you think about what is happening to your country right now. 

Send your creation to with a submissions form attached. You can download the permission form by clicking here. Make sure you get a parent or guardian to sign it first!

Are you a teacher? Get your whole class to take part! Email if you need any ideas or further guidance.

David Wood OBE receives 2017 JM Barrie Award

On 9th November 2017, much-loved children’s playwright David Wood OBE received the 2017 Action for Children’s Arts J.M. Barrie Award, in honour of his lifetime of unforgettable writing for children. The award was presented by six-year-old Sacha Lee-Khan in a ceremony hosted by Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.


Sir Cameron Mackintosh personally welcomed assembled guests, before a ceremony that included speeches from Maureen Lipman CBE and ACA patrons Philip Pullman CBE and Judith Kerr OBE.

The J.M. Barrie Award is awarded annually by Action for Children’s Arts to a children’s arts practitioner whose work, in the view of ACA trustees, will stand the test of time. Previous recipients have included: Sir Quentin Blake CBE (2008) Roger McGough CBE (2009) Shirley Hughes CBE (2010) Lyndie Wright (2011) Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE (2012) Lynne Reid Banks (2013) Bernard Cribbins OBE (2014) Dame Jacqueline Wilson (2015) and Michael Morpurgo OBE (2016).

2017 is a marvellous year to celebrate David Wood’s life and achievements, as it is his 50th year of writing plays for children. He is an actor, playwright, composer, author, writer, director, producer and magician, who directs most of his own plays and writes the music for his songs. We think J.M. Barrie would be delighted to know that David has received an honour in his name; an honour that celebrates a lifetime of work dedicated to children, which will stand the test of time. He is indeed, a true and worthy recipient.

Action for Children’s Arts also presented a range of awards for excellence in Children’s Arts including an Outstanding Contribution Award to TV composer Liz Kitchen and five Members’ Awards to Daphna Attias of Peut-Être Theatre; Hollie Coxon and Anthony Hope – The Sunderland Empire Theatre Creative Learning Team; Jude Merrill – outgoing artistic director of Travelling Light Theatre; Kate Prince from ZooNation and Gillian Rennie from Seven Stories.

Vicky Ireland MBE Acting Chair of ACA said, “Children are the future. The arts practitioners who specialise in entertaining and inspiring them and triggering their imaginations deserve – Action for Children’s Arts believes – public recognition. This is the 13th year of the J M Barrie Awards. We are proud to honour David Wood OBE, Liz Kitchen and our Members’ Award winners. They are all brightly-shining beacons in the vibrant world of children’s arts.”

Listening to Children – phase two

Earlier this year, we asked children from four Youth Theatre groups to tell us why they loved the arts as part of our Listening to Children project. We were delighted to devise this video, which was sent with a letter to MPs across the country.

On 20 November we will launch Listening to Children – phase two at the National Theatre. As part of this, we want to hear from children across the country – those who have access to the arts, and more importantly those who don’t. We are calling on you to help us reach those children. If you would like to be a partner organisation on this project, please email our Development Officer Mimi Doulton at:

Twitter celebrates children’s book illustrations

ACA Trustee James Mayhew was the brains behind a new global Twitter trend: #favekidsbookart

On Monday 7 August, Twitter was filled with people’s favourite children’s book illustrations. It was a wonderful celebration of the (often) unsung heroes who bring our favourite stories to life, and ACA was delighted to see so many of its patrons mentioned. To sum up the day, illustrator and Trustee James Mayhew said: “I think #favekidsbookart was huge triumph – fabulous images trending from 9am to 6pm, new artists discovered, old faves shared. Brilliant.”

See our favourite moments from the day here:



Baroness Benjamin mentions ACA in the House of Lords

We were delighted to have a mention from ACA patron Baroness Floella Benjamin in her opening speech at the House of Lords. This was in relation to the Select Committee for Communications’ report: Skills for Theatre – developing the pipeline of talent. Due to the unexpected early-closing of Parliament, the report did not fully explore children and early-years. ACA hopes that the Select Committee will return to this project and explore the issue further.

You can now read the full report here:…/l…/ldcomuni/170/170.pdf

David Wood OBE to receive the JM Barrie Award 2017

This afternoon, the 20th June we held our Annual General Meeting at the House of Lords. At the close of the meeting, Vicky Ireland MBE announced that our Chair, David Wood OBE will be stepping down after nearly twenty years of outstanding service. We are so grateful to David for all his hard work representing ACA and are thrilled that he has accepted a new role as President of the charity.

Furthermore, we are pleased to announce that David will be the 2017 recipient of the JM Barrie Award! This award has previously honoured prestigious recipients such as Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE and Sir Quentin Blake CBE. It is our immense pleasure to present this award to David, whose tireless work in children’s arts has inspired and influenced so many across generations.

Write to your MP

ACA has been busy writing to all 650 MPs asking them to sign our pledge for the arts created by children and young people. We have been delighted to have a cross-party response.

We have already received signatures from the following MPs:

  • Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen (Labour)
  • Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West (Labour)
  • Sarah Champion, MP for Rotheram (Labour)
  • Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North (Labour)
  • David Drew, MP for Stroud (Labour)
  • Mark Field, MP for Cities of London and Westminster (Conservative)
  • Vicky Ford, MP for Chelmsford (Conservative)
  • Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli (Labour)
  • Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon (Conservative)
  • Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood (Labour)
  • Christine Jardine, MP for Edinburgh West (Liberal Democrat)
  • Jeremy Lefroy, MP for Stafford (Conservative)
  • Chris Leslie, MP for Nottingham East (Labour)
  • Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham (Conservative)
  • Laura Pidcock, MP for North West Durham (Labour)
  • David Simpson, MP for Upper Ban (DUP)
  • Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds Northwest (Labour)
  • Nick Thomas-Symonds, MP for Torfaen (Labour)
  • Derek Twigg, MP for Halton (Labour)
  • Giles Watling, MP for Clacton (Conservative)

If your MP is not on this list, please do write to them on our behalf as the message is always more powerful from a constituent. Our letter can be downloaded by clicking here. If you need help finding your MP’s contact details, please email or get in touch via social media.


Information for Press:

Action for Children’s Arts is a national membership organisation embracing all professionals working in children’s arts and all those who share our beliefs. It is dedicated to the promotion, development and celebration of all creative and performing arts for and with children.

Further information: