Author: Sanah Sheikh
Institution: Office for Public Management
Full Reference: Sheikh, S. (2013) Evaluation of CCE/NCB Arts and Cultural Activities Project with Looked After Children. Creativity, Culture and Education.
The Office for Policy Management (OPM) were commissioned by CCE to evaluate the impact of a programme of arts and cultural activities funded by CCE on three groups of looked after children. The project had been proposed by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) who also managed the project. The activities were delivered by three cultural organisations located in different parts of the UK:
• Customs House, based in South Shields, Tyne and Wear
• Pie Factory Music, based in Ramsgate, Kent
• Whitewood and Fleming, based in Ulverston, Cumbria
OPM adopted a theory of change approach to this evaluation to build a clear understanding of how the programme worked, its intended outcomes and the extent to which its inputs, outputs and activities contribute towards these outcomes. The model hypothesised that four elements of the project – skilled artists, positive arts activities, involvement of foster carers and siblings in activities, and looked after children and foster carer focused planning and design – would, through a series of change mechanisms, result in the following outcomes:
• Increased self-efficacy and empowerment
• Increased confidence and self esteem
• Strengthened relationships with carers, social workers, siblings and other looked after children
• The development of new creative, life and social skills (eg leadership, communication and teamwork)
• Increased and regular participation in arts opportunities.
In general the evidence indicates that the arts and cultural activities did have a positive impact on the looked after children that participated at each site. In particular, the project has resulted in a marked improvement in the self-efficacy and empowerment of many of the children involved. Similarly, the project has also resulted in an increase in the confidence and self-esteem of many of the children, particularly at Whitewood and Fleming. On the other hand, some of the children continued to demonstrate low self-efficacy, belief and confidence across the three sites.
Some children have also developed close friendships with each other, particularly at Pie Factory Music and Customs House. Children across the three sites have also developed new technical creative skills and demonstrated new life and social skills, including an improvement in communication abilities and behaviour. Follow-up fieldwork three to six months after the project would provide a clearer indication of whether participation in the project has resulted in increased participation in arts opportunities.
This positive impact has largely been a result of the safe space created by the skilled artists, the use of positive arts activities and to the involvement of foster carers in the activities. There were inevitably variations in the extent of the impact across sites and between children.
The evaluation details those factors which contributed to the success of the project, identifies the challenges faced which varied significantly across sites, and makes a number of recommendations as to the design and delivery of similar projects aimed at looked after children.
For these reasons, the evaluation is an invaluable resource for those planning to deliver similar programmes for looked after children in the future.