Part 3: the three Ps

Concluding a three-part series relating to creativity is a third post exploring the nature of Performativity, a policy technology evolving in England linked to the production of ‘appropriate’ data in the education system.

An inherent conflict currently exists in England between the creativity agenda and the concept of ‘performativity’. This is leading to uncertainty for teachers in terms of their pedagogical practices in the area of expressive arts and design.

Roberts-Holmes (2015) has argued that “the current narrowing of early years assessment, along with increased inspection and surveillance, operates as a policy technology leading to an intensification of ‘school readiness’ pressures upon the earliest stage of education”. This encourages a “a functional ‘datafication’ of early years pedagogy so that early years teacher’s work is increasingly constrained by performativity demands to produce ‘appropriate’ data”.

The focus on the testing of numeracy and literacy since the election of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat Government in 2010 has resulted in these areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage being valued over and above expressive arts and design, with many schools therefore finding it challenging to devote time to the development of creativity. This is reinforced by the EYFS profile exemplification (2014) which requires documentation to evidence only one “specific aspect of learning in order to retain an accurate focus” to the exclusion of other curriculum subjects. Arguably, it is the present focus on attainment in literacy and numeracy, effectively valuing conformity over individuality, and the lack of testing in expressive arts and design which undervalues creativity.

For as long as policy remains focused on the achievement of national standards for the early learning goals, where the learning and development of expressive arts and design is subject to a process of ‘exemplification’, it will remain a challenge for practitioners to employ a ‘pedagogy of possibility’. By this, we understand that as pedagogical practices become subject to the pressures of ‘datafication’, the willingness and ability of the practitioner to permit learner agency in its widest sense and to ‘stand back’ diminishes and practices become less conducive to free thinking.

Roberts-Holmes, G. (2015). The ‘datafication’ of early years pedagogy: ‘if the teaching is good, the data should be good and if there’s bad teaching, there is bad data’, Journal of Education Policy, 30(3), 302-315.



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