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No. 15, May 2003

Dance and Drama Award Scheme - Third Year of Evaluation

Vivien Freakley writes:

The DfES-funded evaluation of the Dance and Drama Award (DADA) scheme has concluded its first phase and a new 3 year contract is about to begin. With the third annual report in its final stages of drafting, it is a good moment for the evaluation team of Dr Jonothan Neelands, Prof. Geoff Lindsay, Vivien Freakley and Sue Band to review the scheme's progress towards its core objective:

To support the continuted growth of the dance and drama sectors by ensuring that the most talented students have access to high quality training which will prepare them for productive careers in the performing arts - DfEE 25/01/2000

The scheme provides scholarships for the most talented dance, drama and stage management students to access vocational training within a small number of private sector providers. In return, the providers have been brought under the accountability frameworks which operate in public sector further and higher education, namely: course acceditation and validation, Ofsted/ALI inspection and QAA review. The aim of the evaluation was to determine the scheme's success in terms of raising standards and improving access.

The evaluation stategy was essentially integravtive and formative, recognising that the scheme was evolving and that there would be a need to integrate perspectives from across the many participating government agencies, providers, students and performing arts employers. At an early stage it became clear that the process of implementing and evaluating the scheme was to be one of collective learning and development amongst stakeholders, participants and evaluators. Regular reporting to steering group meetings opened up discussion and areas for developmental action; reviewing the action led to re-direction of the evaluation focus and so on. Adopting this approach ensured:

  • joint ownership of decision-making
  • better understanding of partner perspectives
  • collective problem-solving
  • an ongoing forum for improving practice

The evaluation team used a multi-method research approach, integrating qualitative and quantitative methods including: documentary research, interviews with provider senior staff, student focus groups, observation of audition processes, interviews with all stakeholders participating in the scheme and some employer/funder stakeholders beyond the scheme. A longitudinal quantitative analysis of student cohorts using student questionnaires enabled the collection of data on demographic trends, pre-entry qualifications, employment expectations and on-course experiences.

The team has been able to report that, after three years, the scheme has met a number of key goals: exceeding expectations in some cases but has only made minimal progress in others.

On the positive side, the scheme has:
  • Brought greater stability to the performing arts training sector and encouraged HEFCE to create the first publicly funded Dance and Drama Conservatoire, bringing some degree of parity with the publicly funded provision for high quality vocational training in Music and the Visual Arts.
  • provided over 4,000 talented young people with the opportunity to access vocational training, with 2,200 students in training at any one time. Over 80% of these recipients report that they would not otherwise have been in a position to access training at this cost level.
  • widened the participation of students from low income families and by removing the requirement for LEA discretionary awards, broadened geographical access.
  • been successful in supporting more boys accessing dance and ballet courses.
  • improved drop out rates and ensured that all students now undertake a nationally recognised and accredited course or vocational and/or academic training.
  • established inspection and other quality assurance processes which the majority of providers find beneficial in assisting them to improve the quality of training and managerial efficiency.
Two areas of ongoing challenges are:

(1) Widening the participation of students with dissabilities and students from diverse ethnic backgrounds and (2) gathering reliable student work destination data and reviewing industrial relevance. These will form the basis of the next phase of the evaluation.

Raising Attainment in the Former Coalfields Areas

Daniel Muijs writes:

This project was commisioned by the DfES and the Coalfields Communities Campaign, and is a joint project involving staff from CEDAR (D. Muijs), Warwick Institute of Education (A. Harris, (project director) and C. Chapman) and a team from the University of Bath (L. Stoll and J. Russ).

The aim of the project was to look at factors leading to school improvement in the former Coalfield areas of England, where many communities still suffer from problems of multiple deprivation and low educaitonal attainment.

The team first undertook an extensive literature review looking at improving and effective schools in socio-economically deprived areas. This was followed by case studies of 8 schools (6 secondary, 2 primary), selected on the basis of sustained improvement in examination results over the last five years.

We found a number of external changes that led to school improvement:
  • In some cases, changes in the external environment had led to a larger intake of students from a middle class background, changing the social mix of the school and raising aspirations and pupil performance.
  • Schools had made strong efforts to regain parental confidence and access funds through securing specialist status and taking part in government initiatives such as EAZs. Schools took a multi-agency approach to improvement and were selective in their attention to government initiatives.
Internal conditions leading to school improvement included:
  • High quality leadership by the head was a factor in all schools studied. Leadership values were primarily moral (dedicated to pupil and staff welfare). Heads were not autocratic, but worked by building leadership teams. Heads' leadership values and visions were primarily moral (ie, dedicated to the welfare of staff and pupils, with the latter at the centre) rather than primarily instrumental (for economic reasons) or non-educative (for custodial reasons).
  • Addressing sometimes low expectations among the community and some staff was seen as a key issue. This was done by creating a culture of achievement, where clear expectations were set for pupils and staff, and a common vision was promoted. A strategy often used was setting up award ceremonies and reward schemes for students.
  • A distinctive feature of schools that are improving was how far they work together as a learning community. This was achieved through heads providing teachers with time and opportunities to work collaboratively. Links with the community were developed by integrating parents into the life of the school through social, sporting and charitable events.
Three key strategies were used to raise attainment in these schools:
  • Improving literacy and numeracy through additional support and time for these subjects. The national literacy and numeracy strategies were seen as an important aid to this in the primaries.
  • Focusing on teaching and learning. Across all the schools in the study there was a relentless attention to improving the quality of teaching and learning. It was evident that teachers had engaged in professional development activities aimed at extending their teaching repertoires. Training days were used to explore different teaching and learning issues and to engage teachers in dialogue about teaching.
  • Assisting motivation to achieve targets within a number of the schools by establishing selective or special groups.

Overall these findings show that while schools were severley constrained by the socio-economic conditions they found themselves in, they were nevertheless able to engage in successful school improvement.

Artists' Working Lives

Sheila Galloway writes:

Researh conducted for Arts Council England by CEDAR in collaboration with the Warwick Institute for Employment Research is published in 'A Balancing Act: Artists' Labour Markets and the Tax and Benefit Systems' (Galloway, Lindley, Davies and Scheibl, 2002). The Arts Council recognises 'the centrality of the individual artist, creator or maker' within its strategic priorities and seeks to develop an infrastructure and environment to support new work, experimentation and risk. In 2000 the then Arts Council of England and the ten Regional Arts Boards developed a national framework plan for individual artists addressing key development areas: advocacy, professional development, resources and production. The Arts Council and Regional Arts Boards joined in 2002 into a single development organisation for the arts and the Warwick research contributes to the evidence base for its work with individual artists.

The Warwick study built on existing work in this area and had two parallel components. The first was a statistical analysis by IER of national data-sets to determine what can be learned about artists' work and to indicate the important gaps in our knowledge. Secondly, qualitative research undertaken by Sheila Galloway, and IER staff captured individual artists' perceptions through six group interviews at five locations. These focused in turn on performing artists, authors and writers, musicians, visual artists and craftmakers, producers, directors and managers, and designers.

The research conformed previous studies in highlighting uncertainty as the central ingredient of artists' working lives. However many willingly choose freelance work despite its pitfalls: it enables the artist to work for several organisations and to retain control over creative work, portfolio careers can be stimulating and some artists felt that they should be challenging the status quo rather than seeking security. Multiple-job-holding is common and the report discusses different types of 'second job'.

However hurdles face many who work in this sector. People often need financial support from parents or partners in initial training and establishing a career. Particular pressures face those with families. Self-employment and the prevalence of micro-enterprises operate against training and professional development. Sponsors do not always appreciate the hidden costs of artistic practice, and many artists receive poor recompence for their work.

To date, the tax and benefit systems have been unable to respond adequately to the sporadic pattern of artists' work and income. Participants did not seek unrealistic 'hand-outs', but they did think that adjustments to these systems could make a difference to their ability to produce exciting work and sustain a career, while earning a livelihood and meeting family commitments. Although the cultural sector is now recognised as a major contributor to social and economic development, they said that creative work and the artists who produce it are still not valued in the public policy arena.

Arts Council England is also publishing two related reports 'Artists in Figures: A Statistical Portrait of Cultural Occupations' (Davies and Lindley, 2003) and 'Artists, Taxes and Benefits: an International Review' (McAndrew, 2002).

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