Creative and Cultural Education

  • Awarded to: Professor Anna Craft
  • Funding Awarded to Exeter: £ 14,894
  • Dates: 1 November 2009 - 31 March 2010
  • Sponsor(s): Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency

This study, commissioned by the QCDA to inform guidance to schools, explored the ways in which 12 case study schools in England spanning primary and secondary in England were implementing creative and cultural education. The University of Exeter research team gathered data between January and March 2010.  Visits of between a half day and a full day were made to each school by a member of the team of five, to learn from students, staff, partners and others about ways in which each school was developing creative and cultural education.  Qualitative data was gathered using interview, observation and focus group methods and presented to two members of the research team as full site notes, referring to fieldnotes, photos, audio recordings and documentary data as appropriate.  Thematic analysis of the data was undertaken and triangulated between the two researchers and the wider research team.  From this process, five broad approaches emerged as guiding how these schools are nurturing creative and cultural education:

  • Student Leaders - highlighting student leadership for personalisation
  • Creative Partnership – maximising collaboration and expertise
  • Innovative Curriculum – exploring flexible means of organising curriculum
  • Creative Pedagogy – developing imaginative, compelling teaching
  • Profiling Independence – emphasising student voice and participation

The research report to QCDA drew out these themes.

In addition the research involved a survey of schools. This online survey sampled primary and secondary schools in the South of England in February 2010.  Available online, it was open for three weeks. There were 29 questions, including background information, with a shorter questionnaire built in for secondary pupils. It was completed by 94 people: 71 secondary pupils, 12 senior management staff (two primary) and 11 teachers (two primary).  Headline findings (which should be read in light of the very small sample):

  • Staff and students understood creativity differently although nearly half of the student respondents did not know what it meant.  Of those giving a response, both groups regarded risk and expression as inherent in creativity; staff connecting it with novelty, imagination, problem solving and different approaches with students highlighting Art, fun.   In visits to schools, however pupils additionally highlighted ownership and choice as key to creativity and pupils of all ages gave examples of creativity in formal and informal learning.
  • By contrast with creativity staff and students shared understanding of culture although more than half of the student responses did not know what it meant.  Of those offering a response, ‘way of life’ was a common description for students; staff emphasising community, society, country, collective values.
  • Putting ‘creative and cultural education’ together, pupils had difficulty in explaining what this was.  Staff generally described a community within their own school which is imaginative and innovative, actively developing current and future society.
  • There was evidence that in around a third of schools surveyed, creative partners contribute to the development of creative and cultural education.  In around a third of schools teaching assistants also contribute.  In over 10% of schools other pupils contribute. Yet only 57% of teachers were recorded as contributing to this aspect of provision suggesting it may still be seen as a specialist area.
  • Creative and cultural education was seen as relevant across the curriculum with mathematics offering least scope and PSHE and Art and Design offering the most.
  • Outside of the formal curriculum, pupils and teachers identified school clubs and school visits offering the majority of opportunities to develop creative and cultural education.  Creative partnerships were also seen by just under half of staff as offering significant opportunities although only 12% of pupils perceived this, raising questions about how students define or recognise creative partnership activity.
  • Just under half of those who responded reported giving equal emphasis to creativity and cultural education.  Over half reported giving greater emphasis to creativity.  A tiny minority (6%) reported giving greatest emphasis to cultural education. This may reflect some possible confusion in how to define or identify the broader concept of cultural education.
  • Staff and student perceptions of the level of opportunity experienced in creative and cultural education in their schools were very similar.  Just under half of the teachers and students surveyed reported plenty to overwhelming opportunities to develop creative and cultural education at school.  However just over a third of each perceived only a moderate degree and around 25% saw either very little or no opportunity
  • The majority of staff responding to the survey reported that developing creative and cultural education poses challenges with only 6% reporting no challenge.  However although 88% of teachers felt very positive about teaching creative and cultural education, 6% of staff reported feeling confidence in creative and cultural education however nearly half felt either mildly or not at all confident in developing this aspect of provision; by contrast nearly 70% of pupils meanwhile felt either quite confident, very confident or extremely confident. 
  • Key elements highlighted as significant aspects of learning in creative and cultural education were choice, fun, excitement, risk-taking (54% of all respondents citing each of these) followed closely by project work, open-eneded tasks and ‘having a go’ (50% of all respondents citing each of these). 
  • Confidence was identified as the most important aspect of achievement developed through creative and cultural education with 57% of all respondents naming this.  Adaptability, divergent thinking, self-esteem and flexibility were each seen by 46% of respondents as important aspects of achievement also.
  • The survey revealed very little measurement of achievement in creative and cultural education with such measurement as happens occurring primarily through self-assessment (43% of respondents), peer assessment (39%) and less than a third reporting productions/performances, and informal means.