Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 89-99)


10 OCTOBER 2007

  Q89 Chairman: Good morning, Ministers. Can I welcome Margaret Hodge and Jim Knight. Margaret, it is nice to see you, not only because we have been friends for many years but you have been in front of this Committee in different guises many times, so it is nice to have you back again.

  Margaret Hodge: Thank you. It is good to be back.

  Q90  Chairman: Jim, as ever, it is good to see you again.

  Jim Knight: Always a pleasure.

  Q91  Chairman: As you see, we are a rather smaller committee because of the wicked Government taking PPSs away from us and two of our Opposition Members becoming frontbench spokespersons on different things. We are a little smaller than normal but quality has been maintained, if not improved. We are going to get started. The Committee is very interested in this whole notion of creativity in schools. I hope you have looked particularly at our Sustainable Schools inquiry report which got into this territory quite a bit in terms of what was a sustainable school relevant for the 21st Century. This has been particularly one of Fiona's passions. We are very keen to get this finished, along with a short final report on Special Educational Needs (SEN) before the finish of this Parliament. These are our two little projects to tidy up the process before this Select Committee for Education and Skills disappears. We are something of an anachronism.

  Jim Knight: Evolves.

  Q92  Chairman: Evolves. Could I open up by saying when we had the other representatives who actually run these programmes in front of us on Monday, what seemed to be a bit of a concern and a worry was how you define creativity in schools and what is the content. Some of the stuff that was coming out from the Arts Council particularly was that it was very arts biased rather than a broader kind of concept of creativity. Do you think that is a criticism, Minister?

  Margaret Hodge: Shall I start off on that one? I picked up this brief a couple of months ago and when I looked at the definition that has been used I think there is an issue about supporting the development of creativity in the modern world because it is so important right across pupils' development, their contribution to the economy and all that, and that is creative thinking, lateral thinking, team working and those sorts of things. That is really important. I also think the creative arts play an absolutely crucial part in the curriculum. They support the development of creative thinking but they have an intrinsic value on their own, they just uplift us all and I am certainly finding that as I go round and see things, listen to things and watch things. They are part of enhancing life's experience. The other thing I would say is in my bit of the world now, Chairman, the creative industry is about 8% of the economy, it employs about two million people, it has grown at double the rate of other sectors in the economy, so there is an important area there in terms of education and skills in preparing people to move into this part of the world. When you talk about creativity, there is creativity in the broadest sense and you can teach English creatively, you can teach maths creatively and get those things going there, but what this specific programme does is support creativity in the broadest sense, gives people access to the creative arts, which I think is really important, and because it is based on creative professionals coming into schools and supporting the core curriculum, so it is not just the extended school stuff it is the core curriculum, that has a really important impact on the quality, on approaches to teaching and CPD[3] for the whole of the teaching staff. I think there is a broad plus from what is a pretty small investment.

  Q93 Chairman: Minister, we are on-side, we like this programme in principle. The Arts Council, which I very much support—I have a daughter who works for it and it is a very good organisation—does have a kind of mindset that is different from, say, the mindset of Professor Stephen Heppell, of David Puttnam's Futurelab, of John Sorrell's joinedupdesignforschools. Do you see what I mean about a different kind of mindset? When we pushed the witnesses on Monday I wondered whether there was enough of that kind of creativity coming in as well.

  Margaret Hodge: You mean that they are used to funding organisations rather than seeing themselves as having an impact on the education sector?

  Q94  Chairman: Three things. Firstly, funding arts organisations, secondly of a particular type and, thirdly, importing people in, professional actors, musicians or whatever, rather than this job of imbuing the school with the capacity to do the creativity themselves.

  Margaret Hodge: If I am honest, I think if you had talked to the Arts Council of England 10 years ago, 15 years ago, your concerns might be right, did they see their role beyond funding excellence in the arts, but I think they have completely changed now. They fund, I think it is, 1,500 organisations regularly and they fund the big nationals.

  Q95  Chairman: But this is different because they are doing it themselves. They said, "This is unusual for us, we are usually commissioning" but here they are doing it.

  Margaret Hodge: Oh, I see, is that a difference. I think they would see the future of the Creative Partnerships launching off. They have started them off and when I have talked to them about where do we go next with this they see it as a sort of non-statutory organisation. Let me just say this because it is really important. The Arts Council in all that it funds encourages interaction between those organisations and schools. This week I have seen two things: the St Luke's Hall where the London Symphony Orchestra do a huge amount of work with children in schools and the London Philharmonic Orchestra—it just happens to be two orchestral things—who celebrated their 75th anniversary on Sunday and they are doing fantastic work there for children in Lambeth schools. Is it new for the Arts Council? It is new to have a specific programme that is just about children and teachers in schools, but is education part of their ethos as they think about funding their organisations? I think that is well embedded into it now. Over 90% of the regularly funded organisations that the Arts Council funds now do educational work.

  Q96  Chairman: Jim, are you happy with the balance? You do not put very much money into this as a Department, do you? It is a reverse of the norm, the big Department with the big budget is putting the smaller amount of money in. If you put some more money in you could probably get the programme broadened a bit.

  Jim Knight: I am happy with the balance. I can come on to the funding balance in a minute. My first career was in the arts and at that time there was a lot of discussion about—

  Q97  Chairman: We know that well. We were very disappointed when you could not read a John Clare poem on Thursday morning at Poet's Corner.

  Jim Knight: I was equally disappointed. When I was working in the industry and in receipt indirectly of Arts Council money there was a lot of funding of the arts for arts' sake and John Myerscough was doing a lot of work at the time about the economic importance of the arts and used the arts to stimulate great cities like Birmingham and Glasgow. I am confident that the work that the Arts Council is doing does understand the broadness of creativity. QCA defined creativity for us in the right sort of way as about releasing the imagination in a purposeful way to achieve objectives. Creativity is an absolute strength of our education system. My colleague, Lord Adonis, when he went to Singapore, which in hard terms produces excellent education outputs internationally, found that what they want to learn from this country is creativity and how to build creativity into the curriculum for an education system. I think it would be unreasonable to think that the Arts Council is the sole body responsible for injecting creativity into our education system, that is something that culturally we need to bring through as we initially train teachers, as we continually update their skills, as we create ethos and leadership in schools. Having creativity in the way we teach and the way we learn is absolutely fundamental. It is quite difficult to measure some of the outputs because some of those outputs are at the softer end rather than the hard end that Singapore does so well on, but I do think it is fundamental. In terms of the balance of funding question that you ask, in bold terms the balance of funding is clearly in favour of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport but there are various costs attached to hosting the Creative Partnerships activity which is funded through the dedicated schools grant, so on top of the couple of million that we directly fund there is the indirect funding that comes through. Over six years, I think 7,000 projects have taken place involving many thousands of schools, each of them funded through the money we give them via local authorities.

  Q98  Mr Chaytor: On the surface there might seem to be a disconnect between the Arts Council approach to all this, where every child is going to be renaissance man or woman, and the Department for Children, Schools and Families' approach which has a legacy of focusing on literacy, numeracy, skills and vocation. My question is how do each of you see that divide being bridged by this programme and more generally? Specifically, in terms of the secondary phase of education how does this all link with the development of the 14-19 applied Diplomas?

  Jim Knight: First of all,—

  Q99  Chairman: Jim, would you do rapid fire and then we will come back as much as we can to Margaret Hodge. We have an extra half hour with you and we may come back to some of these things.

  Jim Knight: Fine. The very brief answer is an absolutely fundamental building block for creativity is literacy and numeracy, so there is a relationship in that direction, but, equally, creativity is also fundamental to engaging pupils so that they can then achieve some of those harder skills. Equally, in terms of what employers are asking us for as confident, team working, potential leaders, those sorts of skills, those are very much achieved through creativity across the curriculum. The parallel is immediately there to what we are trying to achieve with Diplomas. We see through some of the outputs and what headteachers tell us about Creative Partnerships, the way that it is engaging young people in their broader education not just simply in the time when they are doing the particular activity with the practitioners, is exactly the same way with Diplomas that we have got three with strong creative elements in: creative and media, ICT and construction of the built environment in the first five. We are seeking a new form of teaching and learning, as we have discussed before, that is more engaging because it relates to the real world and the real world of creativity that so many young people do want to engage with. The link with skills and vocation, therefore, is very, very strong. That is my succinct answer but I could ramble on at length.

  Margaret Hodge: The first one, does it matter and how we get it embedded, I think it matters and there is a growing body of evidence. We have got the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) study, the Ofsted study, a couple of other studies, NFER did a longitudinal study and the Burns Owen Partnership. We have got four studies, none of which have set up a causal relationship but they all demonstrate that the work CPs are doing strengthens self-esteem, helps develop creativity, and those who participate in these sorts of programmes tend to perform better in their other subjects. All those things look good. We had a good settlement so I feel optimistic about the future from our funding. I know there was a question mark over us but we had a good settlement yesterday so I feel optimistic about that. I see that as part of the work that we are doing to try and develop a much broader cultural offer within schools. We have now got the sports offer pretty well developed. We have got a number of initiatives. We have got the Creative Partnerships programme, we have got the Cultural Hubs going in three areas—Bournemouth, Telford and there is a third area where they are going—which is trying to think what would a cultural offer, like a sports offer, look like. We have got the music initiative going. We have got a review that we have just had around dance that Tony Hall from the Royal Opera House did for us. There is a huge amount of work going on and we have got to bring all that together in a more coherent way to embed what we are learning from cultural partnerships, what we are learning from Cultural Hubs, into a more focused, coherent and universal offer for children in schools, like sports. One of the first Diplomas is going to be the creative one and that is a good thing because, again, it allows kids to do well in that and helps us develop the creative economy. We have also got the cultural apprenticeship programme which we hope will be up and running by 2008 when we will have about, I cannot remember, 600 or 700, a lot of young people involved in apprenticeships. It is getting all the bits of the jigsaw together. They are all developing there, we have got to try and make them more coherent.

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