Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)


10 OCTOBER 2007

  Q140  Chairman: You are now going to go down in history as the last witness to this Committee in its history.

  Jim Knight: A piece of history I will treasure, Chairman.

  Chairman: I know you like starring parts given your past history. Fiona, would you like to carry on with your question?

  Q141  Fiona Mactaggart: Yes. I wanted to press you on this.

  Jim Knight: I thought you might.

  Q142  Fiona Mactaggart: I think that "at times this will devolve into schools", which is a very attractive approach, can be an excuse because where in the schools' budgets is the resource for this? One of the things I was trying to look at was to find in an average primary school the kind of flexibility which can produce the sort of work which Priory School, Our Lady of Peace and some of the schools I have quoted, have had. I do not see where that size of budget is to give the kinds of things that have changed those two schools.

  Jim Knight: To some extent that is why I think it is right that we continue to fund the artists separately, but through DSG we have the funding to host it. There may be some funding to make a contribution but schools, governors and headteachers make their decisions about their budgets. We have increased by 50% in real terms over the last 10 years the amount of money that schools get. In many cases they make the choice to employ more staff but those are choices that they make. If they want to fund more of this sort of activity or fund more trips, those are options that they can pursue.

  Q143  Fiona Mactaggart: So you are saying that schools should choose between staff and this programme?

  Jim Knight: I am saying they have got a range of things they can spend money on. I do not criticise schools for making decisions around employing. It seems an extraordinary expansion to have 100,000 extra teaching assistants over the last 10 years, and they have been hugely important and successful, but it is those crunchy decisions that we delegate to headteachers and their governors that determine how much money they have got for these sorts of activities. That is just part of devolution.

  Q144  Fiona Mactaggart: So, "not in my box, guv".

  Jim Knight: In terms of Creative Partnerships, at the moment in most cases they do not have to pay for the artists and that makes it very attractive for them, more attractive than some of the other things that are pitched at them from various organisations who do really good work but are charging for the time of the professionals who are coming in. From their budgets it is attractive and schools will therefore do it. It may even be attractive if they are paying 25% because it is still a really good deal in terms of the outputs that they get compared to some of the other things that they could spend their money on, but those are decisions that are best made by headteachers.

  Q145  Fiona Mactaggart: They can only be doing it if they have got an infrastructure which enables them to have those relationships.

  Jim Knight: Yes.

  Q146  Fiona Mactaggart: That is what Creative Partnerships provides, and the kind of in-service training which enables teachers to do that themselves in the future in the way that I described from that evidence from St Joseph's School in Slough. I am struck by how much on the cheap your Department gets that infrastructure, I really am. I am wondering if you could perhaps go back from this Committee and look with your Secretary of State at whether you can extend that infrastructure to some more places because you cited the evidence and it is pretty compelling.

  Jim Knight: Naturally we will always look carefully at what this Committee advises us on and you will produce your report and we will take that very seriously. These sessions are very helpful for Ministers because they focus our minds and you have certainly focused mine and I will go back and reflect on it.

  Q147  Fiona Mactaggart: Thank you. Do come to Slough and see what we do in Creative Partnerships.

  Jim Knight: I would love to come to Slough!

  Fiona Mactaggart: We have much to offer.

  Q148  Chairman: Minister, Every Child Matters includes an item and an outcome "enjoy and achieve". Is this not one way of absolutely delivering that outcome for Every Child Matters? From what we have been hearing this morning and the evidence we have been given, the ability to have these artists come in, and although my prejudice will be that there should be more of a balance between my anoraks who know about computers and—

  Jim Knight: Not all computer users wear anoraks.

  Q149  Chairman: Absolutely. This is at the heart of enjoy and achieve. I hope you will go away with this notion that it is core. I celebrate the fact that this is an attempt to change what happens at the core of a school but, again, I do hope you will go back and talk to officials about this notion of getting the best value for money out of the evidence of the experience.

  Jim Knight: I would go further to some extent and say I think the programme delivers on all five of the Every Child Matters outcomes. There is a strong relationship between this sort of work and the sort of work that takes place in SEAL, where we know through the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning programme that we do a lot for children being safe because it informs behaviour and discipline, and this work does the same. There are good examples of it and we have heard about Random Dance in Durham. It is good in terms of health outcomes. Participation is obvious. In relation to economic achievement, equally we have talked about this building on the sorts of skills that employers are after as well as enjoy and achieve. It hits all the right buttons for us.

  Q150  Chairman: I bet you have had the same experience as I have, Minister, when you go into a school and you see a school where people are happy, they are having fun, and if they are happy and having fun they are achieving. I do not want to mention achievement in the sense of standards and all that, and reaching targets, but the fact is you know a happy school when you go in. Those schools are often noisy, there is music, there is exhilaration about the activity. What I and the Committee am keen on is if this pilot is going to be worth the quite substantial amount of money that taxpayers put up; it is the lessons and the derivatives.

  Jim Knight: Yes.

  Q151  Chairman: It has been quite a short time but it is coming to the time when we can learn lessons.

  Jim Knight: Yes.

  Q152  Chairman: I hope you will go away and perhaps collude with Margaret Hodge and go for some more money on it.

  Jim Knight: I think we have heard from Margaret as well on the importance of us working closely together to develop the cultural offer, to expand the cultural offer. We would be very foolish if we did not learn the lessons and particularly the merits of this programme as we build that offer.

  Q153  Mr Chaytor: Is there a distinction to be drawn between what appears to be a growing consensus about the importance of injecting more creativity into the curriculum and the question of whether the particular model of Creative Partnerships is the most effective way of doing that? Specifically, can I ask you do you think that the Ofsted report, the Ofsted Evaluation of Creative Partnerships, provides sufficient justification for continuing with the existing model?

  Jim Knight: I think the Ofsted report taken in conjunction with the other assessment that we have had, as I said earlier, given the difficulty of measuring some of the outputs that we get from Creative Partnerships, the reporting on the views of headteachers that we got through the British Market Research Bureau report, is as significant for me as the Ofsted one.

  Q154  Mr Chaytor: If you ask a headteacher do they want an injection of new cash into their school and more activities financed by somebody from outside, they are not going to turn it down, are they?

  Jim Knight: I was struck by what they said in terms of outputs, what it did for young people and the achievement of young people. It is not just a basic question to headteachers, "Do you want more of it", it is, "What does it achieve for your school" and that is significant.

  Q155  Mr Chaytor: The Ofsted findings were not absolutely over the top; they were fairly modest in the way they described it. Just one or two quotes: "Most creative partnerships programmes were effective in developing in pupils some attributes of creative people." "Creative practitioners were well-trained and most teachers gained in understanding". This is not a great eulogy in favour of what has been done over the last three years, is it?

  Jim Knight: No, and I think most people who work in the school system would suggest that Ofsted are not famous for their eulogies.

  Q156  Mr Chaytor: Ofsted produce reports to describe schools as "outstanding".

  Jim Knight: For sure. I think in a programme that has been running over six years—7,000 projects, a similar amount of different practitioners, many thousands of schools and 800,000 pupils have participated in it—you will get some variability. So an Ofsted assessment of it, I think, inevitably is not going to say: "This is, in every case, absolutely outstanding"; it is going to talk in general terms, in most cases; it is going to qualify its response because with that number of projects you will get variability. It is just inevitable.

  Q157  Mr Chaytor: So from the different evaluations that have taken place so far, what do you identify as the main weaknesses that need to be addressed in any future development of policy on creativity in the curriculum?

  Jim Knight: As ever, I think, we need to ensure that what variability we have is minimised, so that we get everyone up to the standard of the best and that the assessment of the individual projects works that through. Given the sort of discussion that we have had this morning it is important, also (and we have seen some of the CPD effects, not just in the schools that have taken part but more widely) to see how we can maximise the effect in the educational community that is around where these activities are taking place as well.

  Q158  Mr Chaytor: In terms of other changes in the curriculum, and we have touched on 14-19 Diplomas earlier, what about Key Stage 3? Is the Department in the process or has it completed its review of Key Stage 3? Are there plans to inject a greater creative dimension to Key Stage 3?

  Jim Knight: Absolutely. The new secondary curriculum that starts from September of next year provides much greater opportunity for creativity across the curriculum. I guess I would agree, to some extent, with the criticism of the curriculum as it now stands, that because it is so prescriptive it stifles creativity too much. So freeing that up with less prescription means that we can encourage, and in some cases there may be professionals who need to remember their creativity because they have been used to just delivering to the specification for some time now. Part of CPD, to prepare for the new secondary curriculum, will need to address how we can get creativity in their teaching and their pedagogy, regardless of what subject they are teaching.

  Q159  Mr Chaytor: Given the importance of Key Stage 3, because this is the phase at which many children lost their interest in learning—

  Jim Knight: Year Eight and onwards.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 31 October 2007