Why the UK Needs to Support Creative Education: the legacy of Policy Action Team 10

22nd January 2018 - Rosi Lister

In 2001 the Policy Action Team 10 report outlined why the arts and creative education projects needed to be embedded across health, education, crime and employment. Now, Rosi Lister reflects on the report’s impact and why those ideas are even more relevant today.

Being a little long in the tooth, I remember the earnest and valuable work undertaken by the Policy Action Team 10 between 1997 and 2006. The 2001 PAT 10 Report, headed up by Kate Hoey MP made 47 recommendations to the then Labour Government’s Social Exclusion Unit about embedding participation in the arts and creative projects across the health, education, crime and employment sectors.

Of the 46 recommendations accepted by Tony Blair’s Government at the time, number 7, 8 and 11 stand out for me, looking back almost eighteen years.

Number 7 accepted that the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) should “encourage schools in the use of creative… activity to raise standards of literacy and numeracy, and through the use of these activities as part of personal, social and health education to build pupils confidence and self-esteem.”

The following year the Arts Council England (ACE) launched its £130m Creative Partnerships programme which was set up in twelve English Government regions and was to run for almost ten years. This was the largest and most ambitious programme ever introduced by ACE to forge long-lasting partnerships between schools, artists and creative & cultural organisations.

Number 8 recognised the early signs of growth in the creative industries and the opportunity this represented to the UK economy. It also recognised the value of diversity and that young people in disadvantaged communities were less likely to enter the creative industries regardless of their talent. This recommendation, therefore, sought a programme that broadened out the University for Industry’s (UFI) existing focus on the five ‘core’ subjects and began nurturing the creative talents of those living in neighbourhoods of high unemployment.

Number 11 encouraged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to create networks where business and arts organisations work together; business supporting the voluntary sector to develop creative talent. This was building on an investment by the private sector into the arts and culture in 1998/99 of £141m. DCMS also asked the growing Creative industries what skills they needed and how these can be “built up through participation in creative projects.”

There are numerous other recommendations referring to the arts working more closely with tourism, working in multi-disciplinary teams on community and regeneration projects, working with local authority youth and health services and many other themes that if you work in the arts and you are of a certain age, you will remember well. But for me, the three recommendations above chime most loudly at the beginning of 2018.

All of these are still relevant issues today. So, if the ideas were identified more than 15 years ago, what has prevented their implementation?

Happy Student In Technology Lesson

The key barrier to mainstreaming the arts as a key vehicle for social inclusion and regeneration (as it was then described) was identified back in 1998 as the lack of robust evidence available to support the impacts claimed.  Established advocates of this socially embedded arts practice such as Francis Mattarasso had published prolifically claiming the social benefits of taking part in artistic and creative activities but reliable impact assessment and data sets were an unrecognised concept in the late 90s in the Arts & Cultural sector. Instead, evaluation methods relied largely on anecdotal accounts and subsequently was not particularly compelling to the Government agencies doling out the cash.

The first recommendation of the 2001 PAT 10 report unsurprisingly then focused on making evaluation a key requirement of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport non-Government organisations (NGO) funding agreements. My own postgrad research focused on this very issue in the early 2000’s when I attempted to provide a realistic way of measuring the socially regenerative impacts of ‘taking part’ in the arts in community settings. My research methods were borrowed from the social sciences and examined what kinds of activity, and indeed what elements of the creative process, influenced behavioural change in social and co-authoring contexts, and how this could be measured.

My findings weren’t a surprise, it was the creative spaces left for reflection and the solving of problems when working alongside creative practitioners, that were the most impactful when people changed their worldview of themselves and their environment.

A decade of Creative Partnerships; bringing artists and creative professionals into the classrooms of the most deprived schools was an opportunity to test the value of nurturing creativity in young people like no other. The Arts Council commissioned independent evaluation after independent evaluation and data was collected in a fever. This was clearly in an effort to influence Government departments about how the curriculum should be delivered. An independent evaluation “The impact of Creative Partnerships on the wellbeing of children and young people” McLellan & Galton, University of Cambridge (2012) concluded that “Creative Partnerships work was seen to positively influence students’ [capabilities] and wellbeing and therefore similar initiatives should be implemented across UK Schools”.

Bored Girl at School

However, six years later, with a new Government at the helm, not only has this clear recommendation not been implemented at any scale, but a systematic eradication of creativity in the classroom has come to pass. What on earth happened I hear you cry? And cry you might because we now have a situation where school art, drama and music teachers are being sacked wholesale and our children and young people have to rely on the resilience of the voluntary sector to rescue and nurture the creative skills of an entire generation; a generation who will need to face challenges unknown to any of us and especially the politicians who felt it necessary to deprive them.

IVE’s Chairman Rashik Parmar is all too aware of the challenges ahead for our young people, because, as Technical Executive and Distinguished Engineer for IBM Europe, his thousands of staff are all beavering away creatively innovating our jobs away through artificial intelligence and virtual reality. He speaks with passion about the need for a new way of learning in our schools and colleges, a way that focuses on live challenges and that is grounded in creativity. Employers tell us it is the ‘soft skills’ that are now the most valuable in employees, not their formal qualifications which they understand will soon be irrelevant. Cynically, I think about my teacher training days when I read the seminal educational text by Illich, De-Schooling Society and think that nothing is new.

All this angst set against a backdrop of Theresa May’s new Industrial Strategy; ‘Building a Britain fit for the future’ that has the word innovate on virtually every page. It talks about the five foundations of productivity: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business Environment and Places.

But how can any of these things be achieved without creativity?

Maybe, this is a case of mistaken identity? Outside the creative sector does the term innovative read the same as creative? Is it a nuance that has been lost in translation? Potentially, but at IVE our understanding is that creativity and innovation are 2 steps in the same process. Creativity has to be the precursor to innovation and therefore you cannot innovate without first being creative.

This confusion is becoming a major issue when we talk of creativity in the curriculum (or the lack of it). Every politician recognises the need for innovative entrepreneurs, but growing those people starts with creative pupils. Should we, for the purpose of achieving change through stealth, begin to refer to a curriculum for innovation? Does that not shortchange the power of participation in creation? Yes, it is about innovation and building resilience in an unknown future but it is also about the wellbeing and social mobility that was at the heart of the PAT 10 recommendations. It is also about ensuring there is a healthy pipeline of diverse talent feeding the creative industries that are growing exponentially and becoming, along with engineering and digital an undeniable priority for those charged with supporting the UK economy in a post-Brexit Britain.

Creative Partnerships was an extraordinary opportunity to learn how rich the power of creativity is in the classroom, but I cannot help feeling that without such a similarly well-resourced driver for change taking its place, that our young people will be disadvantaged in future employment and wellbeing as a result of Government educational policy.

creatIVE education

At IVE we have built new programmes that will, funds permitting, support young people in their creative endeavours – whether that be aspiring to work within the creative industries or bringing creativity to the world outside. We are offering a menu of highly effective creativity consultancy and training for existing private sector business; from energy management to town planning. These commercially driven pieces of work allow us to plough the profits into supporting our charitable work with young people and we see this as a very virtuous circle that sees businesses benefit in the end from skilled-up and work ready employees. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Perhaps those in influential places might take notice of our example and see that Theresa May’s five foundations of productivity cannot succeed without a healthy, happy and creative workforce.

By Rosi Lister – CEO at IVE

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