toggle menu

our publications

our publications

OUR PUBLICATIONS > Evaluation of Sacred Spaces programme

OUR PUBLICATIONS > Evaluation of Sacred Spaces programme

CCE Research

Evaluation of Sacred Spaces programme

January 16, 2012

Author: Sanah Sheikh and Shama Sarwar

Institution: The Office for Public Management (OPM)

Full reference: Sheikh, S., Sarwar, S. (2012) Evaluation of Sacred Spaces Programme (Newcastle: Creativity, Culture and Education)

Summary of key findings

The Office for Public Management (OPM) were commissioned to conduct an evaluation of Sacred Spaces, a pilot programme run by Curriculum Enhancement for the Common Era (CE4CE) and funded by Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE). The programme *aimed to deliver creative and cultural learning in supplementary school settings*.

The programme was delivered in four supplementary school settings in London and Leicester, and consisted of four different elements:

1. Training for educators from each setting.
2. Artist-led learning modules including workshops and site visits.
3. An inter-faith celebratory event.
4. The Bronze Arts Award.

Evidencing impact – young people:

The evaluation model hypothesised that three elements of the programme – creative and cultural learning in the classroom, cultural and creative visits to other sites and an inter-faith celebration event – would, through a series of change mechanisms, result in the following outcomes:

1. Increased enjoyment of supplementary school provision:
Strong evidence was observed here, and this was partly due to the different learning environment the young people had been exposed to.

2. Increased confidence and raised aspirations around craft and arts based skills:
Strong evidence again, with young people from across all sites feeling that the arts-based learning had been most responsible for helping them develop their creative skills. Involving parents and others also provided the young people with opportunities to showcase their learning.

3. Increased ability to express ideas around faith and heritage:
There is mixed evidence about the extent to which the Scared Spaces programme has resulted in the participants developing an increased ability to express ideas around faith and heritage. On the one hand, young people at some sites felt that they had learnt a lot about their own faith. On the other hand, young people at one site felt that they had not in fact learnt very much about their own faith and that their project had focused more on learning about other faiths.

4. Increased appreciation of commonalities between faith groups:
There is some evidence for this with some young people reporting that they had learnt a lot about the rituals, traditions and history of different faiths and about the similarities and differences between religions.

5. Increased demonstration of creative learning habits:
Good evidence, with many young people able to demonstrate a capacity for inquiry and critical thought.

Evidencing impact – educators:

The evaluation model hypothesised that four elements of the programme – creative and cultural learning in the classroom, cultural and creative visits to other sites, an inter-faith celebration event and training provided by CE4CE – would, through a series of change mechanisms, result in the following outcomes:

1. Understanding of and ability to articulate the benefits of on-going use of creative and cultural learning:
Strong evidence was observed, with one educator commenting that, ‘The course has really opened my eyes to understanding exactly how much the children benefit from this and how important it is to get them to do new things’.

2. Increased expertise around how to implement creative and cultural learning:
Mixed evidence: Those educators that had some experience of using creative approaches or a background in the arts were better able to identify specific ways in which they would try and implement creative and cultural learning in their supplementary school.

3. Increased willingness to support inter-faith understanding in their teaching:
Some evidence found, with some educators reporting that now they had participated in the project they felt more confident about talking about other faiths in their sessions with the young people.

Summary and conclusions

  • In general the evidence indicates that the Sacred Spaces project has had a very positive impact on the young people from the supplementary school settings.
  • In particular, the project was very successful in fostering increased enjoyment of their supplementary school provision.
  • The project also successfully helped the young people across all sites develop new and existing creative skills.

Success factors and barriers

A number of factors have contributed to the success of the programme as a whole:

  • The positive learning environment created by the artists.
  • The use of creative media.
  • The site visits.
  • Collaborative working.
  • Buy-in and involvement of parents.
  • Artists using different learning frameworks to help them maintain the focus on the project’s outcomes

A number of factors that may have limited the success of the Sacred Spaces programme.

  • The inclusion of the Arts Award wasn’t properly integrated into the delivery of the project.
  • More project planning time would have been beneficial for artists, educators and site leads, particularly recruiting the sites earlier on in the project.
  • Young people from the different sites should have had the opportunity to meet each other and interact more over the course of the project.
  • Some artists felt that there could have been better communication between themselves and the educators or site leads.

Researchers note that many of these are a reflection of the ambitious nature of the project which sought to achieve a lot in a very short time frame


  • Ensure project design includes more opportunities for young people from different sites to interact and learn from each other.
  • Provide a consistent and better structure for embedding learning amongst educators.
  • Involve parents and other relevant stakeholders to maximise young people’s engagement and commitment.
  • Identify opportunities for roll out with organisations that have existing experience and knowledge of the arts.

Research Questions & Methodology

OPM adopted a theory of change approach to this evaluation which is widely used in theory based evaluations of policy programmes.

Fieldwork included structured observations of reflection sessions with educators and young people, an educators’ training session at two sites, and interviews with artists and educators.

The data collected from all three groups of stakeholders (young people, artists and educators) was subjected to thematic analysis to assess both extent and type of impact, and identify “how” impact has been created. The researchers used the theory of change model as a broad framework for analysis as it includes the hypotheses and change mechanisms that this evaluation has tested.

Read the report.