Select Committee on Education and Skills Eleventh Report

Conclusions and recommendations

Creativity in practice

1.  Most 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. (Paragraph 17)

2.  A closer relationship between Creative Partnerships and bodies such as the Design Council and the Royal Societies would ensure that creativity in all professional domains could be used to stimulate creativity in schools, and would firmly embed the notion of creativity as a process rather than a preserve of 'the arts'. Additionally, consideration should be 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. (Paragraph 18)

Impact of creative initiatives

3.  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. (Paragraph 21)

4.  We note that 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. (Paragraph 22)

5.  Developing new methods of assessing incremental progress is an urgent priority, but currently no-one appears to be taking this forward. Existing measures of progress, which focus on the attainment of Key Stages, are unlikely to capture small but steady improvements, or progress in areas such as self-confidence, team-working, and risk-taking. The Department for Children, Schools and Families should lead and own this work, in order to ensure that it values the assessments that are made as a consequence. The useful expertise from the special schooling sector in developing assessment methodologies of this kind should be capitalised upon. (Paragraph 28)

6.  One area which should be better developed is the systematic collection of students' own views and experiences of creative learning programmes. In our recent report on Citizenship Education, we were strongly supportive of moves to increase the student voice in schools; closer relationships between Creative Partnerships and school councils could contribute to both of these ends. (Paragraph 29)

7.  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. (Paragraph 32)

8.  There are clearly many who believe that the National Curriculum, particularly at the primary level, is still too narrowly prescriptive and constrains the development of a more creative approach. Nevertheless, our evidence demonstrates that there are schools and settings providing inspiring, creative learning while fulfilling National Curriculum requirements. This is an issue we urge our successor Committee to investigate further—in particular, to establish whether the solution simply lies in giving schools greater confidence and encouragement to adapt the curriculum to their needs, or whether more fundamental changes to structure and content are required. (Paragraph 35)

Training teachers and creative practitioners

9.  We agree with Creative Partnerships that 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 encouraged—for example, through the introduction of short, structured sabbaticals for teachers. (Paragraph 39)

Creative partnerships and wider children's services policy

10.  It is regrettable that a more systematic and co-ordinated approach has not been taken in respect of creative partnerships work in extended schools. Given the importance the Government clearly now attaches to involving parents in their children's learning, and to providing opportunities for parents in difficult circumstances to develop their skills and confidence, this is a significant missed opportunity. (Paragraph 42)

11.  More generally, we are not convinced that there is a coherent view on creativity's place in wider policy of children's services at the national level. The obvious links between creativity and other priorities such as Every Child Matters and the personalisation agenda, as well as with extended schools, are under-developed: currently, the appearance is one of creative partnerships as a rather separate entity, which nevertheless shares common ends with many of these other programmes of reform. (Paragraph 43)

12.  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. (Paragraph 44)

Role of Ofsted

13.  We agree with the Government that Ofsted should be required to look for evidence of creative approaches and opportunities during its subject studies, and not solely when a school refers to creativity on its Self Evaluation Form. As has happened with other new curricular developments such as Citizenship, we would also urge Ofsted to carry out regular thematic reviews on creativity, which would prove useful for assessing progress over time at the national level. (Paragraph 46)

Roles of DCSF and DCMS

14.  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 Department for Children, Schools and Families. As we have previously suggested, we also feel that the DCSF could do more in terms of offering non-financial support—for 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. (Paragraph 49)

15.  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. (Paragraph 51)

16.  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. If creativity is at the heart of every successful school, it is essential that all schools have access to the necessary resources—such as external co-ordination, creative professionals and continuing professional development for teachers—to enable it to become established through the school system. (Paragraph 52)

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