Since the establishment of the National Curriculum in 1988 and the National Literacy and Numeracy strategies in 1998 and 1999 respectively, concerns have been expressed that creativity and innovative approaches to teaching may have been unintentionally constrained. Creative Partnerships was introduced by the Government, partly in response to these concerns, first as a two-year pilot scheme in 2002 in 16 local areas, and then more widely from 2004. The scheme funds creative professionals to go into schools and work in partnership with teachers and students, offers continuing professional development to school staff, and also provides guidance on creativity in relation to wider school improvement.
The majority of Creative Partnerships' funding comes from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, supplemented by a smaller contribution from the Department for Children, Schools and Families. This report focuses predominantly, but not exclusively, on Creative Partnerships as a scheme. It is important to note that some schools not involved in Creative Partnerships run similar programmes independently of the scheme, and have done so for many years.
What is creativity?
Policy-makers now appear agreed on a definition of creativity which goes beyond the expressive and aesthetic arts, and agree that in educational terms creativity should extend right across the curriculum. In practice, while there are clearly examples of Creative Partnerships-funded work involving those from sectors other than the creative and expressive arts, such as industry, science and design, we nevertheless consider this to be an area in need of further development. Consideration should be also given by the Government to whether the patronage of the Arts Council, with its very particular remit, is still appropriate given Creative Partnerships' wider ambitions, and whether the current make-up of the Creative Partnerships board adequately reflects the full range of professions to which creativity is key.
Our evidence suggests a very high level of support for more creative approaches to teaching among school staff and creative practitioners, most of whom are clearly convinced that a wide range of positive effects follow from involvement in such programmes, particularly in terms of developing 'softer' skills such as team-working and self-confidence. This evidence should not be ignored, but needs to be more systematically collected and analysed more rigorously. The evidence linking creative programmes and better attainment remains tentative at best, but this does not concern us unduly: we believe that creativity has value in its own right and that improved attainment, while to be welcomed, should be viewed as an additional benefit rather than the main purpose of the programme. The evidence on the impact of creative initiatives operating outside of the Creative Partnerships framework does not appear to have been collated or analysed systematically: this is a gap in knowledge that should be remedied.
Continuing professional development is of fundamental importance to embedding more creative approaches to teaching and learning, and should be seen as the core of the operation. We also encourage Creative Partnerships to consider ways in which mentoring of teachers by creative professionals, and of creative professionals by teachers, could be further encouragedfor example, through the introduction of short, structured sabbaticals for teachers.
Embedding creativity - beyond the 'added-extra' approach
Extending creative approaches beyond a particular activity and firmly embedding them in the wider curriculum remains a key challenge for schools and also for Creative Partnerships as an organisation. The National Foundation for Educational Research is due to publish research identifying the factors which are associated with creativity becoming firmly embedded. Their findings need to be widely disseminated, in a form accessible to school staff. Ofsted should also continue to focus on the extent to which the lessons from creative activities have been embedded into other school domains.
The DCSF gives the impression that these issues concerning creativity are peripheral to their core responsibilities in education and children's services. We believe that the best education has creativity at its very heart. We recommend that the DCSF reviews policies such as Every Child Matters and personalised learning to ensure that creativity is established as a core principle in learning and development.
We welcome the confirmation that reductions in Creative Partnerships funding are not foreseen over the next Comprehensive Spending Review period. However, the imbalance in levels of funding for the project between the two Departments does little to allay perceptions that creativity is a second-order priority for the DCSF. We also feel that the DCSF could do more in terms of offering non-financial supportfor example, by developing a system in which improvements in soft skills can be assessed and valued equally alongside more quantifiable achievements in terms of SAT scores.
A sustainable model for the future
We accept that funding levels may never be such that all schools can access individual, tailored support, and that funding for Creative Partnerships as a supporting organisation may be time-limited. However, we do not believe completely devolved funding would be appropriate at the moment, when much still remains to be done to embed creative teaching and learning.
A priority now for Creative Partnerships and its two sponsoring Government departments in planning for the future should be to produce replicable models or templates, which can then be used and adapted to initiate work in other schools. This would act as a means of ensuring that all schools could benefit from the investment made in Creative Partnerships, even if they have not participated directly to date. At its best, when Creative Partnerships starts with a school development plan and builds a strong relationship between teachers and creative practitioners it can significantly expand the capacity and ambition of a school to teach creatively. If creativity is at the heart of every successful school, it is essential that all schools have access to the necessary resourcessuch as external co-ordination, creative professionals and continuing professional development for teachersto enable it to become established through the school system.