Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)


10 OCTOBER 2007

  Q100  Mr Chaytor: Is there not a danger from the parents' point of view or the pupils' point of view of mixed messages here because until recently the absolutely dominant message was that education is a preparation for the workplace and vocational skills are increasingly important, but now we have this great dollop of injection of trips to the Royal Opera House and more street theatre? As it stands I am not quite clear that provides a coherent message as to the purpose of education or the nature of creativity to the pupils or to their parents. Where do parents encourage their sons and daughters to go, to become more creative or to knuckle down and get their five A-Cs and their engineering Diploma?

  Margaret Hodge: I think we would both argue that they are two sides of the same coin.

  Jim Knight: Absolutely. What we are doing on learning outside the classroom, as an example, would be to say it is important for its own sake. If you talk to most people about their memories of school often the sharpest memories are of things they did outside the classroom and some of the trips they went on and those were great learning experiences. In terms of parents, they are interested in what the ultimate outcome is and how education sets them up for life. The story around what employers are telling us they need, and indeed universities, is just the raw results are not enough if they have not got the whole person. Things like learning outside the classroom has a lot of creativity in it, but then the wider creativity piece is important in creating that whole person who is ready for both the world of work and to go on on their educational journey.

  Q101  Mr Chaytor: The fact that the Arts Council is the lead agency here, does that colour the definition of creativity? Where is the role of the Design Council? What is the involvement of the CBI or local Chambers of Commerce? Is there not a definition of creativity that is based around approaches to industrial design and manufacturing?

  Margaret Hodge: I think the plus of having the Arts Council is you are getting into the system, into the core—Creative Partnerships go into the core—people who would not have touched it before. You are getting creative professionals working with teachers, changing the way they work, as well as working with children. The evidence so far, and I agree we have got to get tougher and more rigorous evidence over time, shows that the Arts Council running it means they are able to access people they have not accessed before, they are accessing younger people, and all those creative professionals are getting themselves something out of the experience of working in schools and working with teachers. I think that is the plus. Should the Design Council also have a say in that? We have got a programme, and I am trying to think what the hell it is called, I cannot think, around Building Schools for the Future, where CABE[4]—

  Q102 Chairman: Joinedupdesignforschools? No, that is the Sorrell Foundation.

  Margaret Hodge: What is it called? I cannot remember.

  Jim Knight: CABE are involved in it.

  Margaret Hodge: What they do is take a school that is getting a new building, Schools for the Future, and get the children to get engaged in the design there in a really very, very creative way. This is not the only creativity programme but it is an important one and quite a lot of money goes into it.

  Q103  Chairman: Paul Collard, when he was in front of us on Monday, was suggesting that if you are really looking for the hairy anoraks who are going to start Google in the next five, 10 or 20 years, you do need exposure to that kind of creativity, people who do whizzy things on computers and think outside the normal parameters. Even in terms of the arts, most of the jobs in the arts and the creative industries are behind the camera, not strutting about on the stage. Is a partnership wide enough, broad enough?

  Margaret Hodge: That of itself is not enough because I do not think it is answering all those issues. I think this is a hugely important and positive part but, for example, I think the Diploma is vital, the apprenticeships are really important, and you will see they will be much more about design. I am doing another bit of work which will produce a Green Paper, I hope before Christmas, around the creative economy where one of the big areas of study, and where I am working with colleagues in DCSF, is to look specifically around the skills required for much of that new media creative design and we are looking at can we do some more around Academies, for example, post-16. If you are taking me into that arena a little bit, it is very interesting there that if you look at the creative economy the skills and the competences are often post-graduate ones and how that fits in with the thrust of education policy is a circle I am trying to square.

  Jim Knight: Things like the Artsmark, the specialist status in the arts, those are all important drivers as well. My constituency, like yours, Chairman, is not in that Creative Partnerships area and yet the creativity I see in schools using some of those initiatives, using their delegated money, creating partnerships, I can think of a secondary school I visited on Portland where there was a partnership with the media school at Bournemouth University and Apple Computers doing some really whizzy things that are massively creative using flash animation and so on that was fantastic.

  Q104  Mr Chaytor: Can I move on to the question of evaluation and measurement of success really. From the school's point of view is there not a problem here because the headteacher knows that the reputation of their school depends on that position in the league tables, but as yet the success of creativity in the curriculum does not really appear anywhere in the league tables. Does the Department recognise this? Is there going to be some further move to broadening the way in which schools' achievements are publicly evaluated?

  Jim Knight: Certainly I would recognise that when you look across an evaluation that is based solely on test scores there is some statistically significant output but it is not totally unambiguous. I do take very seriously the outcome of one of the pieces of evaluation around the way it is valued by headteachers. I think 95% of headteachers were saying it created more confident young people and 73% saying they achieved more. The vast majority of headteachers understand if they are going to do well in the achievement and attainment tests they have got to have engaged pupils. That does not mean just sitting them down in dry lessons drilling them with sums and writing and reading, it means them having an enriched educational experience and creating an ethos and a culture in their school that is not only safe but also exciting. That is the value of this.

  Q105  Mr Chaytor: You are saying creativity is a means to an end, a means of boosting your test scores, but what I am interested in is whether there is a deeper change of approach which is starting to recognise a broader range of arrangements from individual schools, not just the test scores. Is there that sort of changing approach to the curriculum?

  Jim Knight: Certainly I am interested in whether or not there is a way of measuring, a way of assessing softer skills, including creativity, so that we can have the drivers on those, but there is the difficulty that when you try and make them measurable you take the creativity out to some extent. What Ofsted are doing is important, that as part of the self-evaluation form they are now looking at creativity that they see when they do an inspection. Using some of those drivers might be a better way than trying to build things into attainment tables or some of those other harder edged drivers that we have.

  Q106  Mr Chaytor: Finally, could I just ask about CPD? We have a model here where a group of outside experts parachutes into a school but what are the implications for the professional development of teachers in the school or non-teaching assistants, and particularly in the earlier years where CPD opportunities are not as widely available as they are for later years of schooling maybe? What about professional development of early years staff? Do you recognise that there is an issue here and are there any plans to strengthen the entry qualification, the initial training qualifications, as well as the CPD?

  Jim Knight: Specifically in respect of early years we have got the new early years framework starting from September of next year and that builds on what we have got at the moment. Building into that are some quite strong creativity outputs that we want and those skills in place amongst the professionals who are working at that stage. As with any CPD, getting strong engagement with professional practitioners, as well as sharpening our pedagogy and ensuring that your educational specialism is right, is really important. The role of Creative Partnerships and those sorts of programmes is important as we drive forward with a new framework from September of next year.

  Q107  Mr Chaytor: Is there a need to increase the creativity component in initial teacher training?

  Jim Knight: Again, it depends on your definition of creativity. It is important that TDA and the training providers ensure that teachers understand the value of creativity across the whole curriculum and are ensuring that they are teaching in a creative way but the learners have a creative experience. Whether that needs to be strengthened further I am not so sure because we are very happy with the new generation of teachers that are coming in and they are of the highest quality that we have seen. We are seeing that creativity coming through with teachers at the moment.

  Q108  Mr Carswell: Despite the beginning of a cultural shift towards a more creative curriculum, in reality schools are more influenced by testing regimes and a standards agenda. Should the centre not let go? Does creativity not mean that the centre needs to let a thousand flowers bloom and not try to use targets and standards to prescribe what should be taught?

  Margaret Hodge: I do not agree with that at all. It does not mean that because you are trying to drive up standards and achieve greater outcomes you should not want to measure that in some way. Clearly that is always a complex thing to do. What is so interesting about this Creative Partnerships programme is all the headteachers to whom we have talked in the BMRB survey believe that this interaction between creative professionals outside and then in the classroom has helped them develop a much more creative way in the way they teach. This then helps them drive up standards. I think what you have to look at is how can you enhance the creative capacity of your teachers, and this is one method that we have chanced on which appears to be really, really successful, so we want to value it and extend it. By loosening away and saying, "We will not measure you in any way" is not how you are going to improve creativity, you have got to take positive steps like the Creative Partnerships to try and enhance the quality of teaching in schools.

  Q109  Mr Carswell: However else you can define creativity, is it not the case that the one thing creativity cannot be is something defined by central government. If government cannot define it how can you leave it to government to measure it and to gauge it?

  Margaret Hodge: Creativity can be defined and has been defined. A lot of the work that has got us to where we are now in terms of the joint work we are doing in schools comes out of the studies that have been done around the importance of creativity. There is a definition which Jim mentioned a little earlier, which is the one that we all use. Again, and this is me being slightly my age, creativity has always effectively been measured in the way that people are assessed in their universities, for example. People have not had a difficulty in measuring that. There are good lessons you can learn in terms of outcomes for those that study: how innovative you are; how lateral thinking you are; what imagination you put in. They are not easy to measure but one can asses them. Maybe "assessment" is a better word than "measurement". If we value it we have to try and look at ways in which we can introduce it in a better way in our teachers and this is one, although not the only one. The other thing we then have to look at is how we better assess. The CPD questions that we got from David Chaytor are really, really important because during the process of a teacher's Continuing Professional Development how can you ensure that they develop these sorts of skills to be able to then impart them and teach children how to learn.

  Q110  Mr Carswell: Changing tack slightly, does not the relatively low pay and relatively low professional status of many of the early years professionals rather undermine your aspiration for fostering creativity amongst the 0-5s?

  Margaret Hodge: Is that really for me, Barry? I can deal with it.

  Q111  Chairman: I just know that we have only got you for another 26 minutes so I am emphasising you. Jim, do come in.

  Margaret Hodge: I would love to answer it, as you know.

  Jim Knight: Where we are, probably thanks to things that were instigated when Margaret was Children's Minister, is we are trying to raise the level of qualification and standard from people working in early years. The early years foundation stage, as I said, that is coming in in September will be part of that attempt. Local authorities will be able to use £250 million of the Transformation Fund to support early years foundation stage training. We definitely want to continue to improve the level of skill and the status for those people. I am confident, for example, when Ofsted produce their annual report shortly that they will continue, as they have done in previous years, to report on how successful it is and what a high standard of nursery and early years provision we have in this country, and we should be very proud of that.

  Q112  Chairman: Can I ask both of you, because of your unique mix of experience, you will remember in an early years study that we as a Committee did a long time ago that the real worry was if you are increasing the number of children coming in, the free nursery places at four and now three, there was going to be a temptation of creep down in that the reception class would get earlier and children would be pushed into formal learning much sooner, reading, writing and all those things, and in a sense the creativity in those very early years pushed out. As I go round schools I see a bit of that and it is a worry, is it not? If you compare it with Denmark where there is no formal learning until seven, very well paid professionals inducting them into creative play, is there not a tension there in early years between that kind of push to get the kids to read and write and do the creative things?

  Margaret Hodge: First of all, creativity is an element in the foundation stage and I am sure it is going over into the new curriculum. It is an element there because people recognise the importance of it. Second, right through all that early stuff it is learning through play, so it is not learning but learning through play that becomes the key philosophy. Chairman, when I was in your chair, if you remember, we took the Committee at that point to Switzerland to look at what they did about early years education and nursery education and what was so interesting was that the only compulsory component in the nursery offer in the Swiss nurseries was around music. Creativity was the only compulsory component. The reason was that music, and I would still love as we develop our music manifesto to push it down the age, develops all sorts of things. You learn about shape, you learn about patterns, you learn to do things together because you do it collectively. It is an incredibly powerful stimulant. In Switzerland creativity was at the heart of it. When I did my very last trip to Denmark the interesting thing then, and this was three or four years back, was whilst they were totally free they felt they had to have a structure to ensure that children realised their full potential. Structure did not mean rote learning, it meant perhaps something like the Swiss did about ensuring that creativity became part of that learning through play. My bit of it now in DCMS, I want to enhance it and strengthen it in that cultural offer that we give to children and, hopefully, if resources ever become available and we can strengthen the work we do around music and dance and all these things I think it is absolutely vital to get that into the little ones in building their creativity so they become better learners.

  Chairman: Jim, we will come back to you on that question.

  Q113  Stephen Williams: I will move on to ask some questions about how effective the programme has been so far. The National Federation for Educational Research (NFER) in their written evidence to the Committee showed that they had evaluated pupils at Key Stages 2, 3 and 4 and found there was a positive correlation for maths and English that was statistically significant but not educationally significant—unfortunately we have not got what parameters they were working to—but no educational or statistical significance for English at Key Stage 3 or for any of these subjects at Key Stages 2 and 4. Does that disappoint you?

  Margaret Hodge: (a) It is early days. (b) I think it is hellishly difficult to do a causal relationship. (c) what I would say to you is when I looked at this research in the round from headteachers' views to Ofsted's views to the research of the NFER longitudinal study and through to the Burns Owen Partnership review which looked very much at the other end of the spectrum at what the creative economy felt and the creative professionals felt on it, it was a more powerful case than I had expected to find when I came to this particular agenda. Causal relationships are just hugely difficult to prove.

  Q114  Stephen Williams: Is a causal relationship in core subjects something that is an aim of Creative Partnerships or is it an aim that is harder to measure, like children are more motivated and want to turn up for school because perhaps learning has been made more fun?

  Margaret Hodge: Is it an aim? The answer is yes because creativity, enthusiasm, commitment, self-esteem, all those things help you raise standards. Yes, it is an aim. We want evidence-based policy because we do not want to feel a policy we have developed on an intellectually sound basis does not deliver what we want of it, but it is going to be hellishly difficult to come back to you even in five years' time and say there is an X per cent educational improvement absolutely caused by this.

  Q115  Stephen Williams: Is creativity something that you see as a discrete activity that schools should do every Wednesday afternoon perhaps or something that should be embedded right across the curriculum?

  Margaret Hodge: Of course it has got to be embedded which is why one of the strengths of the Creative Partnerships is the work they do with teachers in schools. Equally, the creative arts and what that releases in terms of creativity is a discrete activity. It is really, really powerful. There has been some really powerful stuff that you see with young people. I will tell you one of the programmes that I am really keen to look at is the Venezuelan classical music programme where they have gone into these tough urban areas and it is not a hugely expensive programme, probably because professionals are paid less in Venezuela. They have gone in and they give the kids a lot, three to four hours a day of classical music, absolutely classical music, and they oversee the practice. These are kids in desperate circumstances with huge disadvantages in their homes. They came over and played in The Proms this year and were a fantastic success. Classical music is now an integral part of raising self-esteem and providing completely new perspectives and horizons for very deprived children. I still think we are not there. If you think about schools, what we tend to think of are kids in more deprived schools still doing bands and things rather than really, really expanding their horizons in that way. It is very exciting. There is very exciting work around visual art, theatre and film being done all over the place, really, really good stuff.

  Q116  Stephen Williams: Chairman, in preparation for this short inquiry I went to visit some schools in Bristol, a nursery school and a primary School in East Bristol. There were no schools in my constituency that were taking part in Creative Partnerships but there were in other parts of the city. How were the schools actually selected?

  Margaret Hodge: It was a 36 area programme based partly on need, partly on cultural infrastructure, partly on whether there are other complementary or contradictory programmes in the area. I would love to say it will become universal but I doubt the resources will be available. What we hope is that some of the work that has come out of Creative Partnerships can cascade out into other areas.

  Q117  Stephen Williams: So for the foreseeable future over the spending round that we are about to start that was announced yesterday you do not think it is going to be something that is going to be funded for every school, it will still be targeted?

  Margaret Hodge: I do not think there is the funding available in either of our budgets to extend it to a universal programme.

  Q118  Fiona Mactaggart: Why not?

  Margaret Hodge: Because it is just not there in a tight fiscal environment.

  Q119  Stephen Williams: When Ofsted looked at this they said the reasons for the selection of schools were "insufficiently clear". The Minister has just set out the basis on which schools were selected but obviously when Ofsted were going round the schools they could not find out why those particular schools had been selected.

  Margaret Hodge: I had not picked up that point. What I should say is that it was not the reasons for selecting the schools, it was the reasons for selecting the areas. Within that, the Creative Partnerships have got to be invited into schools so whether there were some schools within an area that chose not to invite them in, that might be the answer.

  Jim Knight: We are working through the implications of our settlements across the two Departments and the two Secretaries of State will be meeting to discuss the next stage for Creative Partnerships. I am sure, as ever, we will bear in mind Ofsted's comments about the selection of schools but I would agree with Margaret that it would be wrong for us to raise the expectation that it would reach every school in Dorset, or even Huddersfield for that matter, in the next round. There are aspects of the programme that I think do have implications for schools all over the country because we can learn from the really good practice that we are getting out of the investment.

  Margaret Hodge: I do not want to leave you with a negative either. We are working across the two Departments to see how we can extend this cultural offer, building on Cultural Hub, and that is all part of the same agenda; this is how you can embed culture in the way that we have sport in the curriculum and outside school, in extended schools and all that sort of stuff.

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