Creative Partnerships

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Is creativity a skill that can be taught? Creative Partnerships are about encouraging pupils to be innovative and to develop the ability to solve problems in all areas of the curriculum, from maths to technology. Despite initial criticisms that it encourages ‘loose discipline’ or undermines the essential skills of numeracy and literacy, new research definitively proves that such partnerships change young lives for the better.

In 1999 a government report entitled All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education discussed the importance of promoting creativity and culture both in and out of school.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the publication, a new report has confirmed that Creative Partnerships, the Government’s flagship creative learning programme which resulted from All Our Futures, is changing the lives of young people and having a real impact on their aspirations, achievements, skills and life chances.

The Creative Partnerships: Changing Young Lives report – published by new organisation Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE), which manages Creative Partnerships nationally – shows how involvement in the programme has improved GCSE results, cut truancy, helped to engage families in education and had a positive impact on the economy.

According to research from the independent National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), which covered 13,000 young people, pupils who have taken part in Creative Partnerships’ programmes have often outperformed others who have not been involved. The NFER research found many of the differences were relatively small but it did conclude that the results of the study suggested that Creative Partnerships is contributing to better attainment. In particular, it found that young people who have attended Creative Partnerships activities made, on average, the equivalent of 2.5 grades better progress in GCSE than similar young people in other schools. The NFER evidence also suggests the Creative Partnerships programmes have been associated with an educationally significant reduction in absence in primary schools.

Figures published by the DCSF show that the total absence rate in primary schools in 2006-07 was just over 5 per cent and that the rate has generally been declining in recent years. Participation in Creative Partnerships was shown to be associated with an educationally significant reduction in total absence in primary schools and this reduction continued over a period of years as Creative Partnerships became more established in these schools.

Total absence rates in schools that had been participating in Creative Partnerships for five years were almost one percentage point lower than in otherwise comparable schools with no history of involvement with Creative Partnerships. Ofsted also monitored the programmes and found significant improvements in writing and speaking in a majority of schools it visited.

The evidence so far seems to back the view that putting a real emphasis on creative and cultural education in schools has broad benefits. However, there is still a long way to go before creativity is seen as fundamental to teaching and learning in schools. And getting all schools to take this route will continue to be difficult when the accountability measures that determine the success or failure of schools continue to emphasise short-term improvements in formal qualifications.

While SATs still dominate the final years of primary school, success and failure will continue to be based on formal tests, which means headteachers will continue to be inclined to place the school’s position in the league tables or its Ofsted rating ahead of promoting creativity. However, the new report suggests that a focus on creativity in schools need not be at the expense of achievement in the basics – in fact, as we have seen, it shows that exam results and attendance improve.

The problem is that there are no formal indicators that reflect pupils’ creativity. One solution to this may be to use the new School Report Cards to include an achievement score in creative and cultural education.

The Changing Young Lives report is a compilation of independent research reports and case studies investigating the impact of Creative Partnerships. It is available for download at  www. creativitycultureeducation.org/research-impact/showcaseresearch.

Taken from School Leadership Today.
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