In response to our special news story published online last week, Liz Hill unpicks the figures used by CCE to justify its existence
In case you should get the wrong impression, you need to know that I am a passionate advocate for creativity in education. Ken Robinson, author of the 1999 NACCCE report ‘All our futures’ is my guru, and copious research has convinced me that teaching for creativity should be right at the heart of the school curriculum if pupils are to be best prepared for the ever-changing world ahead. The evidence is out there, and both Ofsted and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) have independently confirmed that the Creative Partnerships (CP) programme has been a valuable vehicle for helping schools to embed creativity into their curricula – to the clear benefit of their pupils.
Despite this, the word on the street is that the funding of Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) – the body responsible for delivering CP – will be among the first for the chop, and it’s hardly surprising that CCE is clutching at straws to preserve its flagship activity. However, the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report claiming that CP will benefit society to the tune of £4.4bn (see AP225 and online at http://bit.ly/bjrDxI) could prove to be hokum. How was this startling and impressive sum arrived at? It was an interesting recipe: take a single finding from a 2006 NFER evaluation of CP; ignore the NFER’s warnings about the limitations of its own research methodology; assume that the 2006 findings can be used to predict a tangible improvement in pupil exam attainment four years later; draw the conclusion that those who get a couple of extra GCSEs will go on to higher education and earn bucket loads of extra money; add together all the extra money that these virtual people will make and describe it as a massive ‘benefit’ to society.
Now, whilst I would like to think that the PwC report makes a serious contribution to our understanding of the impact of CP, instead the extrapolation of data on this extraordinarily grand scale smacks of desperate PR. Numeric sleight of hand of this kind does no one any favours. It wrongly implies that the non-financial arguments in favour of supporting CP activities are flimsy and unconvincing, and that only a set of figures – however tenuously arrived at – have the power to persuade decision-makers of CP’s value. Sadly figures of this type build nothing more than houses of straw – and we all know what wolves do to them.
Liz Hill is Consultant Editor of ArtsProfessional.