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Education: Creative Partnerships

Volume 711: debated on Monday 8 June 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what contribution is made by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to the Creative Partnerships scheme.

My Lords, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has provided financial support to the Creative Partnerships programme since 2003. The total funding from the department is £16.5 million. This financial year the department is contributing £2 million to the programme.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that Answer and congratulate the Government on the creation of the Creative Partnerships scheme which, through introducing artistic creativity in schools, goes so far to help turn round struggling schools. Why, however, when the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee recognises this as core education, does such a tiny fraction of the finance come from the DCSF?

The DCMS, which shoulders the majority of the cost, has a budget which is 4 per cent of that of the DCSF. To put that into figures, that is £2 billion versus £54.4 billion. Why is the smallest department of state subsidising one of the largest?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her kind opening remarks but, with all due respect, it is in the name. It is the department for media and culture and that is why it makes such a significant contribution. I would reassure her, however, that the DCSF is very committed to promoting arts and culture and creative education in all our schools. That is why through our schools funding and our work with developing the primary curriculum and the new secondary curriculum, we are promoting creative skills development as an integral part of that new curriculum. I share, therefore, the commitment of the noble Baroness to promoting arts and creative education.

My Lords, the Minister has spoken of the responsibilities of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. In the light of the abolition of its sister department, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, can she tell us what has happened to universities? Have they become the responsibility of the Department for Children, Schools and Families? If they have, has there been a ministerial Statement, which I certainly have missed? Have the universities been consulted and what is their view?

My Lords, to reassure the noble Baroness, obviously where there are changes to the machinery of government, the Government ensure that a proper Statement is made as soon as possible and appropriate. Having come from the DIUS, I am aware of the important role that universities play in this country and, in view of the work that my right honourable friend David Lammy has been doing in promoting the highly successful higher education sector in this country, I am sure that will continue in the new setting.

My Lords, interesting and important though that was, perhaps I may revert to the Question on the Order Paper. Is it not the case that with the Creative Partnerships scheme, the schools that commit themselves seriously to the arts see not only an enhancement of confidence and imaginative range on the part of many of their students but a lifting of academic attainment and morale right across the whole school, while the arts institutions that play their part are investing in the development of a new generation of audiences and arts practitioners for whom the arts will be important all their lives? That being so, what plans do the combined departments have to extend the benefits of this scheme to schools and institutions which have not so far had the opportunity to be involved?

My Lords, in the Children’s Plan that the DCSF launched shortly after its inception, following changes to the machinery of government with the creation of the first department focusing on children, we have made it clear that we wish to extend the offer of five hours of high quality cultural experience to all children throughout the country. Through 10 pathfinders, we have a considerable amount of work going on looking at how we can draw on the experience of Creative Partnerships to work in particularly deprived areas to make sure that all children have access during the curriculum and through extra-curricular activities to the kind of high-quality cultural experience he is talking about.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the programme ticks many of the Government’s core education policy boxes and that it is therefore very worth while to subsidise it right across the country? For example, Ofsted said that it benefits academic performance, personal and social education, behaviour and attendance. Given the duty on schools to promote social cohesion, the multicultural nature of many of the activities ticks that box as well.

My Lords, the noble Baroness highlights very important work by Ofsted. An independent survey looking at the role and work of Creative Partnerships has found that, as a result of that work, 91 per cent of head teachers have seen improvements in pupils’ communication skills, 87 per cent have seen improvements in their motivation and 70 per cent have seen an improvement in their behaviour. So the noble Baroness is right: it is extremely important that we continue to invest in work such as that of Creative Partnerships, an independent organisation which is also promoting the Find Your Talent scheme and the 10 pathfinders. However, when you think about promoting a culture of austerity in government, I am curious to know—and I should be very interested to hear more from the opposition parties—how that kind of approach would work with the high-quality investment that we are making in the arts and cultural education. I am troubled by how that would work.

My Lords, the noble Baroness answered my noble friend Lady Shephard at some length but, having listened carefully to my noble friend’s question, I understand that she wanted to know which government department is responsible for universities. I understand that there is doubt about that outside this House as well. Can she very kindly tell us which department is now responsible for universities?

My Lords, can the Minister explain what provision there is for young offenders within the Creative Partnerships scheme?

My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate will be aware, Creative Partnerships was set up as part of the Arts Council, which I believe works extensively with young offenders. I will have to get back to the right reverend Prelate about the detail of how Creative Partnerships connects, and I will make sure that I put a note in the Library as well.