Arts professionals can come across as being somewhat evangelical when they extol the virtues of the arts. Many of us believe the arts have the power to change lives, empower communities and stimulate economies as well as supporting improvements in learning, health and social cohesion all this alongside the power they have to delight, entertain, provoke and enlighten. The problem is that these beliefs dont always appear to be shared by those who havent directly and personally experienced this impact. How heartening it is, then, to read the response of Ofsteds inspectors not famed for being an emotional, touchy-feely bunch to the Creative Partnerships programme. Their comments on the scheme could hardly be more glowing and, coming as they do in the middle of the Whitehall horse-trading that is the Comprehensive Spending Review, the report cant hurt the case for the arts that is currently being made to the Chancellor.
Perhaps what is most telling about the inspectors response is that the children who seemed to get the most out of their interaction with artists and their involvement in creative projects were the ones who were previously unconvinced by approaches to learning. They cite childrens and teachers positive responses to the fresh and unorthodox approach creative practitioners adopted in the classroom. Paradoxically, of course, this unorthodoxy is the very thing that has, in the past, served to undermine public attitudes towards the arts, and made it difficult for artists to be taken seriously by their colleagues in the worlds of education, health and criminal justice. The stamp of approval by Ofsted, an independent body perhaps best known for its very public savaging of schools that fail to make the grade, will surely carry more weight in the non-arts world than arts practitioners talking-up the value of their own work. With bodies like Ofsted endorsing Creative Partnerships and the impact of creative practitioners, its just possible that someone might start to listen.
Liz Hill and Brian Whitehead