Colleges challenged to push students’ creative boundaries in arts, drama, music and media

A new report and DVD showcases the best arts and media provision in colleges, placing an emphasis on creativity and innovation to equip today’s students with the skills to succeed.

Published by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), the Identifying good practice: a survey of college provision in arts and media report highlights the key features enabling post-16 students to reach high standards in the arts and media, identified from a sample of 22 colleges where provision in these areas was rated good or outstanding at their last inspection. The survey focuses on creative teaching and learning, the development of technical and craft skills, developing students as practitioners and inter-disciplinary work.

To accompany this report, Ofsted has produced a documentary film on DVD giving students, teachers and college managers the chance to voice their views on what makes their arts courses a success. The 40 minute film also details the report’s key findings with film clips highlighting some of the best examples of college course activities in art and textiles, music, the performing arts and media.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert said:

'Giving students the opportunity to be creative and to innovate when working on projects relating to their future careers is really important. It’s encouraging to see these examples of teachers, curriculum leaders and managers inspiring and motivating their students.'

'The DVD highlights the effective teaching and learning at the heart of the best arts and media courses. Those interested in achieving success in media and arts course provision should learn from the examples of good practice included in this report.'

The report found high standards in students' practical work in art, design, music, dance, and textiles. This was facilitated by good and sometimes outstanding teaching. Students gained from an emphasis on individual creativity which encouraged them to work beyond their comfort zones. Innovation was also highly prized as many teachers stressed the importance of the creative process.

The opportunity to see arts and media professionals at work was keenly valued by students. Many were stimulated by the chance to see teachers carry out their own work in arts studios while the use of artists-in-residence brought a fresh sense of perspective to the subject area. In other examples, students were inspired by the Beatles and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, staging large-scale performance events based on the rock and pop legends’ work. These projects were powerful motivators for students, helping them to develop their budgeting, production and performance skills in a realistic working environment.

Students gained confidence from regular opportunities to exhibit their work in public. In fashion shows, film, and music events, students were able to demonstrate their project management abilities as they gained the work skills vital for entry into a competitive arts and media job market. College links with employers and arts industries also helped students to further develop their personal and work skills.

Curriculum leaders, supported by senior managers, played an important role in setting high expectations for teachers and students. The high quality, personalised support which students received from teachers and tutors was also a key feature in the best provision.

Ofsted has made a number of recommendations to further improve the learning experience for students, including:

The Department for Innovation Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Learning and Skills Council should ensure that there is sufficient and appropriate work-based learning and apprenticeship provision to meet students’ and employers’ needs.

Colleges should make sure students make sufficient use of professional, first-hand research and experience to develop their ideas and approaches.

Colleges should ensure all teachers are clearly focused on what students are learning, through setting clear learning objectives and regular checking of learning.

Related links

Notes for Editors

1. The reports, Identifying good practice: a survey of college provision in arts and media can be found on the Ofsted website,

2. A team of six Her Majesty’s Inspectors visited 22 colleges where provision in arts, media and publishing had been judged to be good or outstanding at their most recent inspection. The inspections took place between October 2007 and April 2008.

3. From Friday 20 February you can watch extracts of the accompanying film at: Advance copies of the DVD are available from the Ofsted press office on 08456 404040. From the end of February copies will be available, while stocks last, from Ofsted by telephoning 07002 637 833 and by email on The DVD will also be distributed with the February edition of Talisman, the Ofsted newspaper for the learning and skills sector.

The DVD contains interviews with students, teachers and managers and examples of work from exhibitions and performances. Inspectors returned to five of the colleges to record these views and experiences and examples of best practice are highlighted in the text of the report with hyperlinks to extracts of the film. Filming in these five colleges took place between June and November 2008.

4. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects registered childcare and children's social care, including adoption and fostering agencies, residential schools, family centres and homes for children. It also inspects all state maintained schools, non-association independent schools, pupil referral units, further education, initial teacher education, and publicly funded adult skills and employment-based training, the Children and Family Courts Advisory Service (Cafcass), and the overall level of services for children in local authority areas (through annual performance assessments and joint area reviews).

5. The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 08456 404040 between 8am – 6pm Monday – Friday. During evenings and weekends we can be reached on 07919 057359.