Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)


10 OCTOBER 2007

  Q120  Stephen Williams: Chairman, I should just say on the record that the headteachers of both the nursery school and the primary school that I visited were huge enthusiasts of this and were convinced it had made a difference to the children's education. If I can just put one last question to Jim. How does the Department view this creativity programme against all your other educational initiatives? Bristol has had them all: Excellence in Cities, Education Action Zones and so on. Where does Creative Partnerships fit in the hierarchy of different initiatives that your Department has put forward?

  Jim Knight: Despite what some people regard as our enthusiasm for league tables, I am not aware of a league table of different programmes and how much we love them. It is blipping larger on our radar than it has done, partly because of this recognition that on the softer skills side there is more to be done. One of the reasons why we are now on five hours of PE as something we are moving towards and we want to do more on creativity is to continue to build that offer to play our part in the school system creating young people who are properly equipped for their future in the real world.

  Q121  Stephen Williams: Does the Department for Children, Schools and Families actually evaluate this?

  Jim Knight: We have the evaluations collectively that you have been quoting.

  Q122  Fiona Mactaggart: I think I could tell you that you have got a hierarchy, a league table. You spend, in your big Department with a £50 billion budget, about the price of a secondary school on this programme. What do you feel about that?

  Jim Knight: As I said before, it is difficult for us to quantify the exact amount of money that is spent across the whole of our budgets because there will be elements of the dedicated schools grant that are being spent on supporting this programme which we do not measure. We are not going to go out and impose yet another bit of bureaucracy on schools to tell us exactly how much of their budget they spend on hosting the practitioners and so on. It is set against our wider priorities. We spend £92 million on music. You could argue that we should take some away from music to give to this, but those are the decisions that Ministers make, as you know. I am happy that we have got a really good partnership going with DCMS, that we are delivering what is an effective programme, and it would be lovely to do it in more places but we have to weigh that up and our various Secretaries of State have to weigh that up against the various other things that we do.

  Q123  Fiona Mactaggart: It is a lovely partnership where a Department with a budget of £1.7 billion is spending £35 million and a Department with a budget of £50 billion is spending £2.5 million. I would quite like it if I was sitting in your seat but I would be a little less happy if I was in Margaret's.

  Jim Knight: Margaret can answer for herself. It is important to bear in mind that this is also support for the practitioners themselves. We do get good outputs from it and it is excellent value for money as far as we are concerned.

  Q124  Fiona Mactaggart: Absolutely it is. You are at the beginning of your new spending round and you have very clearly emphasised that we are not going to see it everywhere, Huddersfield is probably not going to get it I heard, although I am sure the Chairman might have something to say about that, but is it going to get better?

  Jim Knight: I am not in a position to be able to give you an authoritative answer on that right now because those decisions have not been made.

  Q125  Fiona Mactaggart: Would you like it to?

  Jim Knight: I would like to continue to see more practitioners coming into our schools. If that is delivered through Creative Partnerships that is great, but I would love to see a growth in professional creative arts practitioners coming in and working with teachers developing their CPD and working with the pupils developing their creativity.

  Q126  Fiona Mactaggart: You imply by that answer that it might be able to be achieved in other ways and I think that is interesting. One of the things that I did in looking at the evidence that the Committee was given was to single out schools and institutions in Slough, which is a CP area. I was really struck by the kind of language that they used. I will give you some examples: "Some departments have increased their own skills to the point where they can independently use creative methods of teaching and learning, though others have not yet reached this stage and would welcome the opportunity for our connection with CP to continue. I cannot stress enough the positive impacts Creative Partnerships have had on our school. Attendance and punctuality have improved and our pupils move on to secondary school with self-confidence. If creativity is to be fully established as a sustainable strand of the curriculum it still needs the protection of the Creative Partnerships infrastructure". Those are just some examples which I picked because they came from my patch but actually the stuff which came from the institutions was all like that. It was very clear that this infrastructure enabled them to do something better, more adventurously than they could do without it. Faced with that pretty compelling evidence, and I think it is backed up by the BMRB survey, by the views of headteachers, the NFER, could you say that there is a chance that this programme might get some more resources from your Department?

  Jim Knight: Naturally there is a chance. The decision has not been made and, given that the decision has not been made, it could go in either direction. Naturally there is a chance. I cannot make a commitment and I cannot even raise expectations in any direction on that.

  Q127  Fiona Mactaggart: You cannot get much lower expectations than the price of a secondary school for the programme, can you?

  Jim Knight: A secondary school is a fantastic thing.

  Fiona Mactaggart: They are fantastic but one secondary school for the country is a bit wet.

  Q128  Chairman: You do not sound very passionate about it. I have got to know both of you very well and I know when you really are passionate about something. I am surprised because, given your background, I thought you would be passionate and say, "I'm going to be in there. I may not win but I will be fighting my corner because I think this programme works and I would like to see it have a bigger budget and rolled out in different ways". I get more passion out of Margaret on this particular one. I wonder what is holding you back on it.

  Jim Knight: The honest answer to that, Chairman, is that I have taken on the responsibility for this policy area relatively recently, since July, and for most of that time schools have not been in term, they have been on holidays. We do not have Creative Partnerships in my own area, so I have not been and seen it for myself. Possibly informed by my own personal experience I can reflect that more easily. I can say absolutely that I see the evidence and I see the testimony from people about how well it works. That suggests to me that in particular the way it has been targeted has worked because in those areas of need they perhaps need that infrastructure more than they might need it in some other areas. In my area there are quite a few professional practitioners who live and work there who do have a good relationship with the schools, sometimes in their own time, and it is fantastic. I can get very passionate about the importance of the arts and creativity more widely in schools and getting practitioners in working with young people, and I do think this programme is very important and I want to see it continue.

  Q129  Fiona Mactaggart: There was some quite interesting research which was given to the Committee which I would recommend to you which was conducted by Anne Bamford, a UNESCO scholar, looking at creativity programmes internationally. One of the things that highlights is that in those countries which have high ambitions and perhaps have plans for a more creative curriculum, unless they have the kind of networking driver and continuous professional development that something like the CPD has provided, those high ambitions very often fail. So you can put in money, as I think they did in Mongolia as we were told by Paul Collard, but actually get out little because you have not got the structure that delivers it. What has been striking in reviewing the evidence that has been presented to us is that Creative Partnerships is actually bridging that gap that the UNESCO research highlights. If that is the case then should we not be giving other parts of the country the opportunity to experience it?

  Margaret Hodge: I would love to. I will give you one example, and I am sure you have had loads here, but this was a really powerful one that I had not seen but it was given to me, which was Random Dance working in—

  Q130  Chairman: It must not include Switzerland or orchestras!

  Margaret Hodge: No, Random Dance in Durham. There were four schools that took part. I think this is Creative Partnerships at its best. It was an investigative approach to science learning through the medium of dance and costume design. They considered form, movement, vocabulary and function, and as well as creating and performing alongside this professional group, Random Dance, and Northern Symphonia in Durham Cathedral, the young people met a heart specialist, somebody called Philip Kilner, a surgeon, Soya Babu Narayan, a composer, John Taverner, and a designer, Shelley Fox. The outcome of that was they had a performance in Durham Cathedral, they had new approaches to science learning, it raised the aspirations among the young people who took part in it and it was an understanding of their own voice in performance being as important as that of the professionals. That encapsulates what Jim and I both view as great. You can talk about it in creativity, bringing professionals into the room in other areas of the curriculum is—

  Q131  Chairman: Minister, we agree with you.

  Margaret Hodge: Brilliant.

  Q132  Chairman: This is music to our ears, but the question that the four of us have been asking you this morning is here we are seeing quite a good programme and, if it is a good programme and you have targeted it on certain pilot areas because resources are short, one of the things that one expects from that kind of pilot is you come up with some kind of model, learning from the experience of the pilot, that you can apply to other schools which could do it on a smaller resource, perhaps a resource they find themselves or perhaps a smaller resource coming from your two Departments and you can franchise it out. What does not seem to be coming out at the moment is this is a good programme but what is the spin-off for the other schools and how is it delivered. That really seems to be the big, black hole in the whole programme.

  Margaret Hodge: I hope it is not a hole because I hope that the work we have just started on trying to develop the cultural offer in schools --- I do not know how long it has taken us to develop the sports offer, we started talking about that five, six, seven years ago, but we have learnt from that how we develop the sports offer and we are learning from the impact of Creative Partnerships and I hope that will build in with our other initiatives around music, Cultural Hubs, the stuff that museums are doing, all that into a much broader cultural offer with culture being a part of the core work supporting both students and the CPD of their teachers. I do not take that negative view.

  Q133  Chairman: Minister, we all take away the message that if you are enthusiastic about this you can learn from the experience and do the franchising job, the spin-off job. The other thing is here we have got extended schools and when we had the evidence on Monday there was this enormous opportunity of the extended school to fill it with creativity but there is no budget for it, so even at the pilot level there is nothing happening in the extended schools.

  Margaret Hodge: Well, there is. For example, there is some money going into film clubs.

  Q134  Chairman: That is not what Paul Collard told us.

  Margaret Hodge: You talked to the Arts Council England people on Monday, did you not?

  Chairman: Yes, and they said there was no money for it.

  Q135  Fiona Mactaggart: What they said was that it is separate from the Creative Partnerships money and Creative Partnerships has no money for it.

  Margaret Hodge: Okay. For example, the film clubs are now getting into a number of schools.

  Q136  Chairman: Minister, we know there are things going on but what we are saying is there is no knock-on of this very important programme to be able to fill that space with creativity that comes from this programme.

  Margaret Hodge: Two things. The first is there is because we are developing the cultural offer. The second thing to say is extended schools are important but the thing to hang on to and remember about this particular programme is that it is in the core and we want to keep that. Extended schools is what happens around the core, important as it is, we want that to be enriching and fulfilling, but we want this in the core because of the importance of creativity as a skill and because of the impact it has on teaching and teachers.

  Q137  Chairman: But you are not willing to put more money into the core?

  Margaret Hodge: We have got to be creative.

  Jim Knight: You also need to think about what the funding model is. We have a funding model in DCSF which is about maximising delegation down to schools for them to be able to buy stuff in. This programme works on a different basis and more on the basis that DCMS, in my limited understanding of how the Department works, tends to fund things through the Arts Council and so on, but funding the artists directly and then the promoter will buy them in if there is a cost. I think it is right that practitioners should be funded through this programme. If we wanted to expand the amount of activity it is a question of whether or not you then ask schools to make some contribution if we were to expand it into areas where they do not have the same level of need.

  Chairman: This is why Fiona and I have been pushing you, Minister. If this is a good model you should have developed by now a kind of franchisable spin-off that you apply to a range of schools and say, "You may have to find your own resources to do this but the content of the programme, the core element of the programme, is good".

  Fiona Mactaggart: It is quite clear that within the present CP programme—

  Chairman: I just wanted to let Margaret go.

  Fiona Mactaggart: I wanted to add to your question.

  Chairman: To Margaret?

  Fiona Mactaggart: Yes.

  Chairman: Very quickly because we promised her 10 o'clock.

  Q138  Fiona Mactaggart: In terms of the CP programme schools, like Priory School in my constituency, for example, are adding their own resources to the CP resources in order to mix a model of what you call the way that they do it and the way that the Department does it. If you just expect schools to do it on their own without having that framework they will say they would not do it in the same way, they would not have those relationships that have been created by CP. Do you not think that is something that you should be offering into places which do not get it at the moment, Margaret?

  Margaret Hodge: I think that we have got to learn from that as we develop the cultural offer. I am with you 100% on its importance and on its impact. We are saying money is tight, so as we work through creatively looking at a strong cultural offer in our schools and sports institutions we have got to understand there has to be an infrastructure to support activity.

  Q139  Chairman: Margaret, it has been lovely to have you here. I know that you have fitted us in and you have got to go but Jim is staying with us a little longer. Thank you very much.

  Margaret Hodge: Thank you very much.

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