Observatory skills research team update: April 2010

This post is the first in a new series of weekly Observatory research updates; there will be one post from a different research team each week. We’re doing this in response to feedback we received in our recent website user survey. Please do get in touch with any feedback.

April was a very busy month for the Observatory’s Skills Team as we completed existing work and started new projects. This post rounds up recently published research and current projects.

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Interactive maps – beyond election results

Media coverage of yesterday’s general elections has included many interactive online maps. Voters have been able to explore the election votes in different ways, seeing who won what where, and how close the contests were.

Here at the Observatory, we use InstantAtlas software to produce this kind of map. We’ve produced a map of yesterday’s election results as an example, but in fact we have many other maps available covering a wide range of topics. For example, Jobseeker’s Allowance claims by ward or the results of the place survey, which asked residents how they felt about their local government.

Looking at these kinds of data geographically can often be illuminating; maps can often reveal patterns that the raw data alone wouldn’t reveal. At the Observatory, the spatial dimension is something we’re always considering – maps aren’t just for election time!

Local Economic Assessments: resource guide for the West Midlands

It became compulsory for Strategic Local Authorities to produce Local Economic Assessments (LEAs) on 1st April 2010. LEAs are intended to bring together economic intelligence to inform a range of local and regional strategies.

One of these is the new Regional Integrated Strategy for the West Midlands.

The West Midlands Joint Strategy and Investment Board steering the regional strategy has agreed with Chief Executives that LEA input will be on a sub-regional basis.

The LEA summaries will be structured around a series of questions relating to regional issues set out in a sub-regional framework document (doc, 578kb) drafted by Advantage West Midlands and the West Midlands Leaders Board.

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West Midlanders more likely to rate their last arts experience as ‘high quality’

A detailed review (pdf, 3.5mb) of the arts-related Taking Part Survey (2008/09) results published by Arts Council England has found that arts attendees in the West Midlands are more likely to describe their last arts experience as ‘high quality’ compared to other regions.

When statistical differences are taken into account, the proportion of residents reporting high quality arts experiences in the West Midlands (66%) was higher than proportions in four other regions.

In line with national trends, compared to the previous year, the proportion of West Midlands residents participating in at least one annual arts activity took a statistically significant drop from 47.2% to 42.7%. Also, there was no (statistical) change in the proportion of residents attending at least one art event per year (62.1%) compared to the previous year (64.7%).

Given the evidence (documented in our quarterly recession monitoring papers) that certain sections of the arts sector saw audiences decrease during the 2008/09 economic downturn, it can be speculated that the fall in participation rates may be related to consumer patterns during the recession.

Download the report: Arts engagement in England 2008/2009 (pdf, 3.46mb)

Photo by Gabriela Camerotti

New ‘two million’ sports participation indicator developed to measure Olympic legacy

Two footballersA new sports participation indicator (pdf, 313kb) has been developed to measure progress towards the government target of getting two million more adults physically active in England by 2012/13 (as part of the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games).

The two million indicator (pdf, 313kb), measured through the Active People Survey, gives the percentage of adults (aged 16+) that do three or more sessions (lasting 30 minutes or more) of moderate intensity activity per week.

The indicator differs from the three other Active People participation variables (KPI 1, NI 8, 1 Million) as it incorporates everyday activities such as gardening.

Each region will play a part in the achievement of the target. Broadly speaking, and if all regions play an equal role, a quota of 220,000 more West Midlanders will need to fulfil the ‘two million’ criteria by 2013 (compared to 2008).

The positive regional results of Active People Survey 3 (2008/09) bodes well for achieving this new target. Compared to the previous year’s results, the West Midlands saw a statistically significant increase in levels of participation in sport and active recreation for all participation indicators (KPI 1, NI 8 , 1 Million). Using KPI 1 as an example, the increase in participation seen in the region equated to an increase of 49,000 residents.

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Photo by GregDaly