Changes to England’s quarterly survey of arts participation will see new questions added about barriers to engagement.

Photo of women in a dance class

Changes are being made to Taking Part, England’s continuous survey of participation in culture and sport, to support the evolving evidence needs of the sectors.

Outlining the DCMS’s strategy for the next five years, Head of Statistics Mary Gregory said: “We will continue to provide high-quality monitoring data, while also improving evidence of impact and outcomes associated with activities in DCMS sectors.”

As well as changes to some questions, the headline and longitudinal elements of the survey will be separated, with the latter being conducted online for the first time, via four short surveys a year.

The DCMS has said that the majority of questionnaire changes will not prevent year-on-year comparisons being made with existing data. However, there will be some significant changes to questions about sports participation and digital engagement.

New questions will be added to the questionnaire from October about what prevents respondents from participating in culture and sport.

Some questions will soon only be asked every other year, including those about the types of music and arts venues respondents have visited. As well as helping to keep the survey length down, the ‘rotating modules’ will allow one-off questions to be asked.

Now in its 11th year, the Taking Part survey currently conducts face-to-face interviews with around 10,000 adults every year. Half of these interviews collect headline data from randomly selected households, while the other half collect longitudinal data from a panel of the same people year after year.

From 2017/18, face-to-face interviews will be conducted with around 8,000 adults a year to gather headline data.

Members of the current longitudinal panel and all future face-to-face interviewees will be invited to join the online panel and continue to report on their participation every year. The DCMS predicts that, in total, the online longitudinal survey will be completed by around 5,000 people in 2017/18, rising to 8,000 by 2020/21.

The focus of the longitudinal study will be “to understand the causes of changes in participation, and associated impacts and outcomes”.

An online data analysis tool will also be launched in July. This will allow the public to search and download data sets, look at trends for specific measures by cross-tabulating or filtering responses, and explore the longitudinal data through interactive infographics.

Only a few small changes will be made to the wording of questions in the current child survey, which runs annually, although the longitudinal arm of the survey will be moved online along with the adult survey.

The DCMS is looking to develop the child survey in the future. Further details will be released by the end of 2016 about how it plans to collect data about both in-school and out-of-school activities; gather evidence of children’s views and perceptions; and report by demographic and year group.

Find out what the latest Taking Part survey tells us about arts engagement.

A photo of Frances Richens