Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-175)


10 OCTOBER 2007

  Q160  Mr Chaytor: Are there specific examples you can give us of the way in which a more creative approach could be deployed, or ways in which particular forms of learning could develop in Key Stage 3 that would maintain motivation and develop self-esteem?

  Jim Knight: The one example that I have seen, which actually was a younger age group—these were Key Stage 2 students but you could see it working at Key Stage 3 as well—was in Wolverhampton where a class were using hand-held devices to create animations of their science experiments. Now, that embeds scientific knowledge, but it is fantastically creative at the same time—and was, incidentally, good in terms of their IT skills. That sort of delivery across a range of things and using skills that are developed in one part of the curriculum to embed knowledge in another part of the curriculum is the sort of thing that we are now creating the space to do from September of next year.

  Q161  Chairman: Minister, when I said you did not show your normal passion on this subject, is it because, when we took evidence on sustainable schools, what we were finding was that we had people who would come and say that, you know, the day of the class of 25 students with a teacher at the whiteboard was gone; for students to learn in the future there were going to be totally new, innovative ways of teaching and learning in the 21st Century? Even when we went out, it was quite difficult to find examples of that. You have read that report. Do you find the same difficulty? Is that why you are a little reluctant to jump aboard the creativity bandwagon?

  Jim Knight: I would like to think I am fully signed up and on board the bandwagon, if you like, but I do think that as we develop personalisation, as we try and learn from what Christine Gilbert reported at the beginning of the year and try and deliver something that is more involving of pupils, more engaging with them and that allows each one to fulfil their potential, there is a lot to be done around CPD and the pedagogy that goes along with that. To some extent we see, with technology in a similar way, that it is quite a big ask of teachers for them, to some extent, to give up some of their control, because most young people know more about how to use the bits of kit than they do, and they have got to start to learn a bit more from the pupils about how to use it and the potential of it, while still hanging on to their core business around knowledge and releasing creativity. Being able to let go and free up young people, working together and individually, to really have that spark will be part of personalisation or will be part of the new secondary curriculum.

  Q162  Mr Chaytor: Finally, Minister, following the press reports earlier this week, will you personally be adopting a creative approach to the review of grammar school ballot elections?

  Jim Knight: What a creative way of—

  Q163  Chairman: That is a classic Chaytor-ism—but we still want an answer!

  Jim Knight: I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify where we are at with this. We are unambiguous in saying that we do not want to impose a solution on anyone; that it is entirely, and should properly remain, the business of parents locally to decide, where they have got selection, whether or not they want that to continue. As the Committee knows, we had a report and, to some extent, we commissioned the report on the back of what the Committee asked us to do, around the balloting process. That said that it was expensive, because of the requirement around drawing up the electoral roll, effectively, for the ballot—it was a very expensive process—and raised some questions for us about whether or not we should look at that and whether or not the subsequent parts were fair for parents. That is something that we are looking at. I do not have a timetable on it. I made a couple of comments during party conference at Bournemouth in some meetings on this and the acute interest that everyone takes in anything to do with grammar schools has then created the story. That is just simply where we are at.

  Q164  Mr Carswell: On the question of the future of the creative partnerships scheme (I may have missed something), in terms of deciding whether or not there is enough money to fund this system and the scheme in future, is it you who decides or someone in the Treasury?

  Jim Knight: The Treasury have allocated settlements to both Departments. It is now up to the two Departments together.

  Q165  Mr Carswell: So it is you?

  Jim Knight: Yes, it is myself and Margaret, the two Secretaries of State.

  Q166  Mr Carswell: Changing tack slightly, have you heard of Bishops Park College in Clacton in my constituency?

  Jim Knight: Is this the one that is relatively new in build terms?

  Q167  Mr Carswell: Correct.

  Jim Knight: And that the County Council, because it is their decision, have got to make some decisions around its future?

  Q168  Mr Carswell: Some may say that. Would you say that you are familiar with it?

  Jim Knight: If the detail was in my mind it is very firmly buried.

  Q169  Mr Carswell: It would be unfair for me to ask you a question.

  Jim Knight: All I know, Douglas, around it is that as a Department we will have provided the money for its building, and a very fine building I am sure it is too, but issues of school organisation are very much the responsibility of the local authority, and in this case Essex County Council.

  Mr Carswell: No further questions, thank you.

  Q170  Fiona Mactaggart: You were talking about this programme in the context of your personalisation agenda, and saying that that might require different ways of teaching that actually gave more responsibility to children, and that perhaps creative partnerships—bringing in another professional rather than the teacher—might make that kind of teaching more possible. Do you think?

  Jim Knight: It might do. What I was driving at, and Christine was quite explicit about it, was that involving pupils more in their learning and the decisions around their learning was part of what personalisation is about, and that involves letting go, to some extent. So there is that bit that I was talking about. It may be that the sort of involvement that we get from creative practitioners, in CPD terms across the curriculum, will help that; will help our professional teachers to tap into their own creativity in their pedagogy so that they can deliver ever more creative lessons and stimulate more creative learning on behalf of the pupils.

  Q171  Fiona Mactaggart: One of the areas of criticism of the programme suggested that it implies that creativity is the unique preserve of the arts. Does the Department run any programmes in any other field which sponsor professionals to go into the classroom and work collaboratively with teachers?

  Jim Knight: Playing for Success does it differently, in that you are taking pupils into sporting environments—mostly Premiership football but Lord's Cricket Ground and a number of other sports, even a bowling club in one case—but that is working alongside professionals or working in a professional environment to stimulate and engage people; engage them with their learning as well as engaging them in sport. So that would be one, I guess, similar example where we have a discrete programme that is delivering for us. However, there may be others and I am very happy to write if we have other examples that we can offer you.

  Q172  Fiona Mactaggart: One thing that many people say about education is that what matters is what is assessed—what is counted.

  Jim Knight: Yes.

  Q173  Fiona Mactaggart: One of the difficulties that I think we encounter in this programme, where a lot of the assessment of it is that it helps with things like risk taking, team work—those creative skills—is that at the moment we do not have very effective tools to assess those kinds of things. All of us around here accept that the business world today really wants those qualities in its workforce. Is the Department doing any work on how you can assess those kinds of outcomes?

  Jim Knight: It is certainly something that we think about. When you look at things like the extended project at A level that we are introducing, and some aspects of the Diploma design, they are trying to create outputs that are assessable—if that is a word—but there is a sort of pre-condition that you have to be a fairly creative thinker to do really well at them; it is not just down to hard work and cramming facts; you have got to be able to think creatively and work creatively to do some of those projects. The more we can work that through the better. As I said before, what I would be reluctant to do, unless someone showed me good evidence otherwise, is to say to assessment people: "Find ways of measuring things that are not easily measurable", because I think you stifle the creativity right from the word go. There may be outputs at the end in the same way, I guess, as a music grading exam; if you can play a certain piece then that implies you have a whole range of other skills and that you have been through a process of learning that you can easily assess in other ways, but just the mastery of that piece of music is sufficient for us to be able to imply that you have these other skills.

  Q174  Chairman: Minister, is the bit of reluctance that we are picking up on this that as Schools Minister you see your responsibility as changing the culture of schools in a positive direction? Stepping back from any particular programme, some of the evidence we have got is from people saying: "Look, this is quite a well-resourced programme but we have been doing creativity of our own in a different way for a long time". Is this not the time to kind of step back and discuss it between Departments and say: "If our real aim is to change the culture of schools so they are more creative environments, what are the elements and do they add up to a sum that will change the culture?" Is that not where we are?

  Jim Knight: Yes, I think designing an enhanced cultural offer, if you like, requires us to do that. Margaret talked about what we are doing in sport and five hours of PE, and that is part of trying to create the culture around more activity amongst young people. Five hours of PE is very important and will be great but that is not the only thing that will create more activity amongst young people. Similarly, we can do things around levers that we have got on the curriculum, and perhaps we can do more on the infrastructure that we offer through creative partnerships. However, creating a culture of more creativity across the whole curriculum is wider than all of those things.

  Q175  Chairman: I think that is a good note on which to finish. Minister, thank you for being our final witness. We look forward to seeing you in the future, in a different—

  Jim Knight: I look forward to a continued relationship with the evolved Committee.

  Chairman: Thank you.

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