A school with creativity at the heart of the learning process will benefit by increasing the motivation of staff and pupils, says former head, Dave Weston. In this article and case study, he shows the way to more imaginative approaches to curriculum planning ‘Creativity is the defeat of habit by originality’ Arthur Koestler Many school leaders and teachers realise that is now time to take more control over the curriculum and to include a greater emphasis on creativity in the learning and teaching process.
During the last five years, headteachers have developed the confidence to take innovative and imaginative approaches to curriculum planning and school organisation. This is due to some encouragement from central government in the light of recent perceived improvements in primary literacy and numeracy standards and to the realisation that a wider and more exciting curriculum can lead to greater levels of motivation for all pupils and staff.
Creativity and innovation have now been legitimised by the DfES and primary schools are actively encouraged to develop creative ideas and actions: ‘promoting creativity is a powerful way of engaging pupils with their learning’ Excellence and Enjoyment DfES 2003 (page 31) What is creativity? Creativity is often associated with the ‘creative arts’ but in reality it is certainly not unique to the arts. It can be seen and identified in all aspects of the arts, humanities, sciences, maths and technology. The National Curriculum Handbook (1999) included creativity within the section on thinking skills.
It stated that: ‘Creative thinking skills… enable pupils to generate and extend ideas, to suggest hypotheses, to apply imagination and to look for alternative innovative outcomes. ’ Didn’t we always teach it? Creativity was taught in the 1970s and 1980s, often through topic-based projects, but there was a lack of accountability, detailed planning and thoroughness. Much of this perceived ‘creativity’ disappeared in the 1990s as it did not fit into a strategic box and schools thought that there was not time for it and that such an approach was not valued by central government.
The difficulty in measuring the success of a creative approach to primary learning and teaching gave our education system many problems. As a result headteachers, under the pressures of Ofsted inspection and statistical league tables, became reluctant to take risks with the curriculum. However, more recently this situation has started to change, especially with the development of the creative partnership schemes. The Reggio Emilia approach The success of the Reggio Emilia approach to early years education has influenced theory and practice in the area of creativity in primary education.
In schools in Reggio Emilia there is an innovative staffing structure with each early years centre having an ‘atelierista’ (a specially trained art teacher) who works closely with the classroom teachers. In Italy in the primary sector there is significant teacher autonomy with no national curriculum or associated achievement tests. In Reggio Emilia the teachers become skilled observers and they routinely divide responsibilities, so that one can systematically observe and record conversations between children while the other is teaching the class.
Teachers from several schools sometimes work and learn together and this contributes to the culture of teachers as learners. The learning environment is crucial in the Reggio Emilia approach and classrooms often have courtyards, wall-sized windows and easy access to stimulating outdoor areas. Each classroom has large spaces for group activities and specially designed areas for pupils and staff to interact. Display areas are large and stimulating and reflect the creativity of the children.
Teachers in early years settings in Reggio often refer to the learning environment as a ‘third teacher’ as most centres are small with just two classroom teachers. The curriculum is project-based and there are numerous opportunities for creative thinking and exploration. The teachers work on topics with small groups of pupils while the rest of the class work on self-selected activities. Projects are often open-ended and therefore curriculum planning is flexible and is sometimes teacher-directed and sometimes child-initiated.
This philosophy is inspiring and can be partially transferred to the different framework of the British primary school. Whole-school approach to developing ‘creativity’ For school leaders the first step in developing a creative school is the fostering of a whole-school approach. Creativity is not an add-on and it cannot be imposed by the headteacher. There needs to be discussion, involvement and ownership. The debate should be based around some of the following points: •taking control of the curriculum by the school.
•the creation of a school with creativity at the heart of the learning process •enhancing the motivation for staff and pupils •fostering the professional development of all the staff, both teaching and non-teaching •involving governors and parents in a whole-school approach to creativity and showing how this philosophy supports school improvement and high standards of achievement •getting the pupils involved in school issues (regarding the curriculum and the learning, perhaps through the school council). How does your school measure up?
So how far has your school got in developing a creative approach to learning and teaching? Ask yourself: •Have you discussed the freedoms of developing a curriculum appropriate for your school? •Does your school development and improvement plan take account of creativity in learning and teaching styles? •Is creativity a part of your staff development programme? •Is the governing body committed to promoting creativity throughout the school? Is there a nominated governor involved in this approach? •How involved are the pupils in discussing the curriculum and in a creative approach to learning and teaching?
•Does your school carefully plan visits to galleries and projects involving artists and craftspeople? •Are creative successes evaluated in the SEF? •Does your school celebrate and promote creativity to a wider audience? Celebrating creativity Creativity should be celebrated and the school should consider looking for outside accreditation through the ‘Artsmark’ scheme. Creative successes should be carefully evaluated, highlighted in the SEF and showcased to parents and the community.
Staff should be empowered to design activities within the curriculum which are exciting, motivating and relevant to their school and pupils. Once these seeds are sown, creativity will flourish. Case study: making our school a more creative environment At the primary school where I was headteacher, we recognised that the curriculum had become unbalanced and that we were spending too much of the ‘timetabled’ day on English and maths. Staff kept saying that too little time was being devoted to the arts and humanities. This imbalance was having an effect on the motivation of some pupils, especially in Years 5 and 6 and on the job satisfaction of the staff.
Like every school, we were very anxious to maintain high standards in English and maths and to ensure that our KS2 SATs results were good. However, we decided that we were fairly secure in the core curriculum and that the time had come to reclaim the curriculum. Therefore we reviewed our whole-school curriculum plan and looked at all the ways we could make our school a more creative and exciting environment. The aspects of school life we reviewed were as follows: •encouraging a more flexible approach to the timetable
•developing the school grounds to link in with the outdoor curriculum. We decided that the school grounds were under-used as a learning environment. Therefore each curriculum coordinator was given the opportunity to have a part of the grounds as an outdoor curriculum area to support ‘real learning’ in that area. Staff came up with lots of imaginative ideas such as: •Music – developing an outdoor music trail with differing instruments hanging from trees and fences. •Geography – developing an orienteering trail around the edge of the field.
•Art – developing an outdoor sculpture area with a clay model from every pupil. •Languages – playground signs and rules in differing languages. •Science – developing an environmental area with a pond, seating in the shape of different animals and insects. •Design and technology – one of the most successful ‘creative’ projects was the development of a courtyard on the theme of ‘containers’. Each of our 11 classes chose a different type of container (Reception chose old wellington boots while Year 6 chose a large tractor tyre) and in the summer they were decorated and planted up.
•Supporting the Foundation Stage curriculum with exciting outdoor areas and incorporating some of the Reggio Emilia approaches to early learning. The school decided it was important to give the early years staff the confidence to develop an exciting integrated curriculum based on the needs of young pupils rather than on the formalised curriculum. •Bringing in artists and craft workers to give pupils to work with adults with different skills. Each year we decided to bring artists into the school so every pupil had the opportunity to work with a ‘real’ artist at some time during their primary school career.
This was an expensive approach but worthwhile as often the skills of the artists inspired school staff to try new ideas and therefore provided a professional development aspect to their work. •Celebrating the different languages in our school. As our school was very keen on teaching MFL to all the KS2 pupils we decided to celebrate all the languages of our school by designing a mural which showed pupils from all the countries involved saying hello in their home language.
Our pupils decided that on the mural the pupils from the different countries should have hats showing the flag of their country. The large mural was painted by the pupils with the support of a professional artist and is now proudly on display by the entrance to the school office. •Developing the confidence and role of the art coordinator. •Enhancing the motivation of some pupils and giving greater ownership of the learning process to the staff. •Getting involved in the ‘Creative Partnerships’ scheme to get access to support and resources.
Introduction 1. The HMIE report Emerging Good Practice in Promoting Creativity published in March 2006 gathered evidence from inspections of pre-school centres, primary and secondary schools and community learning and development to: •identify and analyse emerging good practice in promoting creativity, and •provide advice on a range of issues related to creativity including learning and teaching, assessment, and current practice in evaluating success in promoting creativity. 2.
The Scottish Executive Education Department has agreed to supplement the HMIE report by providing a brief overview of some key national policy developments and other initiatives across the UK promoting creativity in education. The aim is to help educators and policy makers by highlighting some important advice and other support to encourage good practice. The paper is not however a comprehensive review. The bibliography is intended to assist those who wish to explore further the issues discussed. Creativity, Culture and Education (Developments in England) 3.
Although focusing on England, the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education’s (NACCCE) report All Our Futures: Creativity Culture and Education has proved influential on subsequent efforts to promote creativity in education elsewhere in the UK. 4. The NACCCE was established in 1998 to make recommendations to the then Secretary of State for Education and Employment and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport “on the creative and cultural development of young people through formal and informal education: to take stock of current provision and to make proposals for principles, policies and practice.
” The Committee was chaired by Professor Ken Robinson and its report was published in 1999. 5. The report emphasised that all children and young people can benefit from developing their creative abilities and this should be seen as a general function of education. Creativity can be developed in all areas of the school curriculum: including the sciences as well as the expressive arts. As discussed later in this paper, the NACCE’s definition of creativity was adopted as part of subsequent initiatives in Northern Ireland and Scotland. (A summary of the report’s general advice on teaching for creativity is contained in the annex to this paper.)
The NACCE’s report was welcomed by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and Department for Culture Media and Sport. Although the Government did not implement all of the report’s recommendations with regard to the National Curriculum in England, many elements were taken forward. For instance, the report led directly or indirectly to important initiatives such as Creative Partnerships and Artsmark. 6. Creative Partnerships is a government-funded national initiative operating in 36 of the most disadvantaged areas in England and designed to build sustainable relationships between schools, creative individuals and organisations.
It aims to transform: •the aspirations and achievements of young people •the approaches and attitudes of teachers and schools •the practices of creative practitioners and organisations who wish to work in schools. 7. Starting with the needs of schools and young people, creative practitioners work across and beyond the curriculum, animating the classroom and finding new ways for teachers to teach and young people to learn. Through the development of projects of varying scales, creative practitioners, teachers and young people work together as equal partners to place creativity at the heart of learning.
8. Artsmark is a recognition scheme for schools’ arts provision run by Arts Council for England and supported by DCMS. The scheme encourages schools to increase the range of arts that are provided to children in schools and raises the profile of arts education. (Further information on Creative Partnerships and Artsmark can be accessed through the links provided in the bibliography. ) 9. The educational debate has moved forward considerably since the NACCCE report was published and there is now a much wider acceptance that a broad and enriching curriculum goes hand in hand with high standards.
Since September 2000, schools have been working with a more flexible National Curriculum with greater emphasis on the need for creative and cultural education. There are explicit references to the importance of creative and cultural education in the aims for the curriculum and there are explicit references to creativity – encouraging pupils to use their imagination and look for innovative outcomes. The Schools White Paper, “Schools: Achieving Success”, launched in September 2001 raised the status of creativity and the arts by pledging to provide a range of additional opportunities for creativity and curriculum enrichment.
10. DfES also hosted the Creativity and Cultural Enrichment Working Group (CACE) from May 2001 to Oct 2003. This working group was set up in response to the NACCCE report as a cross-agency reference group with a clear focus on creativity and cultural enrichment. The idea was to share information across various agencies and departments, to provide updates on key policy initiatives and projects and act as a source of new ideas. 11.
CACE has now been superseded by subsequent work such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s (QCA) initiative ‘Creativity: Find it, Promote it’ and Creative Partnerships which have built up the knowledge base of creativity in education and helped spread good practice. QCA promotes creativity as an integral part of all National Curriculum subjects and identified the characteristics of creative thinking and behaviour including: •Questioning and challenging conventions and assumptions •Making inventive connections and associating things that are not usually related •Envisaging what might be: imagining — seeing things in the mind’s eye.
•Trying alternatives and fresh approaches, keeping options open •Reflecting critically on ideas, actions and outcomes QCA advises that, with minimal changes to their planning and practice, teachers can promote pupils’ creativity. 12. QCA’s ‘Creativity: Find it Promote it’, and ‘Arts Alive’ websites shows how to maximise the impact of creativity and the arts in the curriculum, identifies best practice and provides case study examples for teachers containing practical suggestions in promoting creativity and the arts across the curriculum 13.
OFSTED — the inspectorate for children and learners in England — carried out a survey identifying good practice in the promotion of creativity in schools (Expect the Unexpected: Developing Creativity in Primary and Secondary Schools published in 2003). They found that there was generally high quality in creative work. Any barriers that existed could be overcome if teachers are committed to the promotion of creativity, possess good subject knowledge and a sufficiently broad range of pedagogical skills to foster creativity in all pupils, whatever their ability. The active support of senior management is also important.
OFSTED emphasised that “the creativity observed in pupils is not associated with a radical new pedagogy…but a willingness to observe, listen and work closely with children to help them develop their ideas in a purposeful way. ” The report can be accessed here. 14. The latest development in England is an independent review on Nurturing Creativity in Young People jointly commissioned by DCMS and DfES to inform the basis of the Government’s future policy on creativity. The review was led by Paul Roberts, Director of Strategy from IdeA (Improvement and Development Agency). The review team published their report in July 2006.
This provides a framework for creativity starting with Early Years, developing through mainstream education and leading to pathways into the Creative Industries. The report also set out what more the Government can do to nurture young people’s creativity. Particular issues discussed include the role of partnerships between schools and the creative and cultural sector, the development of a new Creative Portfolio to celebrate each young person’s creative achievements and creating spaces for creative activity through the Building Schools for the Future the school estate redevelopment programme.
The Government will publish a response to the creativity review report and an action plan in Autumn 2006. Unlocking Creativity (Developments in Northern Ireland) 15. Following his work with the NACCE, Professor Ken Robinson chaired a Creativity in Education Working Group in Northern Ireland. The Working Group was a cross-cutting initiative by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL); the Department for Education (DE); the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment (DHFETE) (now known as the Department for Employment and Learning – DEL).
The aim was to develop a “co-ordinated strategy for the development to the full of the creative and cultural resources of the people of Northern Ireland. ” The result of this work was the consultation report Unlocking Creativity: A Strategy for Development published in 2000. 16. The report adopts the definition of creativity contained in the NACCE report – Imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value. Creative processes have four characteristics. First, they always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively.
Second, this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieve an objective. Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective. 17. Unlocking Creativity: A Strategy for Development made three key recommendations for education: •Develop continuity and progression in creative and cultural education throughout learning, teaching and youthwork. •The development of methods and principles of assessment and examination that recognise and value the aims and outcomes of creative and cultural education.
•Ensure that all professional vocational and academic qualifications positively promote the importance of creative and cultural education. 18. The results of the consultation were published in a second report, Unlocking Creativity: Making It Happen, published in 2001. The vast majority of responses supported the proposals made in the consultation document and Unlocking Creativity: Making It Happen set a wide range of objectives for future work. The key objectives for education related to a review of the curriculum being taken forward by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).
The report highlighted CCEA’s proposals to include a creative component at all Key Stages. It set a wider objective of signposting clear steps towards accredited programmes of learning for people of all ages interested and inspired by creativity and sought to encourage collaboration between various agencies and departments to ensure that creativity is fully recognised in the development of assessment methods and the curriculum. The report also highlighted the establishment of a Creativity Seed Fund which invested ? 2.
8m over three years to encourage projects that would either promote creativity in education or strengthen Northern Ireland as a competitive presence in the creative industries. The Education and Training Inspectorate produced a set of quality indicators for the Creativity Seed Fund. The indicators cover outcomes and standards, ethos, assessment and review and management arrangements. 19. A third report, Unlocking Creativity: A Creative Region, was published in 2004 and set out a series of medium term strategic measures to maintain the momentum on developing creativity across education, culture and employment.
The report again highlighted CCEA’s work on Curriculum Review. The Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 will give effect to the revised curriculum, which will be introduced on a phased basis from September 2007. 20. The revised curriculum will be more flexible, offer greater scope for creativity to meet the changing needs of pupils, society and the economy and have a greater emphasis on developing skills. One of the Thinking Skills to be developed across the curriculum is Being Creative, where children should be able to use creative approaches, to be imaginative, to take risks, to question and explore possibilities.
The revised curriculum will also provide more flexibility for teachers to tailor what they teach to meet the needs of their pupils and therefore encourage more creative approaches. Assessment will be formative, as well as summative, with pupils assessed in their progress in the skills and areas of learning and pointed towards areas for future development. This Assessment for Learning (AfL) is already being piloted. One of the most important means of promoting creativity in the revised curriculum will be through Education for Employability.
Pupils will look at enterprise and creativity in the modern workplace, what it takes to be an entrepreneur and they will have opportunities to demonstrate enterprise and creativity. The pilot work for this aspect of the curriculum has involved school pupils working with local businesses and artists to develop creative solutions to business issues. 21. CCEA is also developing exemplar material and other support materials to illustrate how opportunities can be developed in all curriculum areas to promote creativity.
Draft versions of the support materials have been made available to pilot schools and CCEA plans to distribute them to all schools as soon as feasible in the 2006/07 year. 22. Unlocking Creativity: A Creative Region noted CCEA’s work on auditing examination specifications in order to promote creativity in the learning and assessment associated with qualifications. This audit has now been completed and enabled areas in teaching and learning to be identified that would support a more creative approach.
The results will be taken into account as specifications are revised for re-accreditation. Re-accredited specifications will be available for first teaching from September 2008 (GCE A-Level) and 2009 (GCSE). CCEA is also working with the English and Welsh regulatory bodies to review accreditation criteria and this will take account of thinking skills, such as creativity. The Department of Education is also considering an incentive and accreditation scheme for teachers, principals and schools with a view to embedding creativity across the curriculum.
A pilot has been arranged to test an Artmark Toolkit involving five schools and, following evaluation, will be rolled out to all schools in September 2006. 23. An important feature of Northern Ireland’s work on creativity is the emphasis on harnessing new developments in ICT. Many of the education projects funded through the Creativity Seed Fund included developing ICT skills and linking these to creativity by, for instance, producing material for radio, making documentary films or creating digital content.
Unlocking Creativity: A Creative Region seeks to embed the concept of the use of ICT to enhance young people’s creativity across the curriculum. The EmPowering Schools strategy has since been published, which incorporates the development of creativity and innovation in the use of ICT. 24. Unlocking Creativity: A Creative Region included Creative Youth Partnerships (CYP), a 3 year pilot from April 2004 to March 2007 involving the Arts Council NI, the Department of Education, the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Education and Library Boards.
Through a collaborative approach, CYP aims to increase participation among young people in arts activities, develop arts infrastructure in NI and develop the contribution of artists and the arts to the learning and development of young people in schools and the youth sector. A key aspect of CYP is local partnerships to develop creative projects using a variety of art forms. The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) is evaluating CYP and its Interim Report (September 2005, full report due October 2006) highlights the developmental nature of the evaluation of a creativity initiative.
The Report pointed to some areas for development but found the project to have many strengths. Developments in Wales 25. Wales, like England and Northern Ireland, has a statutory National Curriculum. Creative skills are one of the seven common requirements in the Welsh National Curriculum. Teachers should provide opportunities, where appropriate, for pupils to develop and apply the seven common requirements through their study of all National Curriculum subjects. (The other common requirements include mathematical skills, Information Technology and problem solving skills.
) 26. The Department for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DELLS) has produced a guidance note for teachers highlighting subject areas of the National Curriculum, from science to modern languages, where pupils can be given opportunities to develop and apply their creative skills, in particular the development and expression of ideas and imagination. 27. A review of the National Curriculum in Wales is currently underway for proposed implementation in September 2008.
Findings from an initial consultation in 2004 were that: •there should be a clear focus on the needs of learners and effective learning strategies and approaches; •there is a need to identify and agree on the range of skills that should be acquired and on their development and application in a range of contexts; •there remains a concern regarding perceived overload in some National Curriculum subjects, especially at Key Stage 2 (covering ages 7-11), and the relevance of aspects of the curriculum to the 21st century; and •there is a need to ensure that a revised curriculum interests, engages and motivates all learners.
28. Currently DELLS has submitted proposals to their Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning for approval. Following this, the proposals will be open to public consultation. These will include a draft Skills Framework for children and young people aged 3-19. This framework contains the areas of Developing Thinking, Communication, Number and ICT. Within the Developing Thinking are strands highlighting creative thinking. Creativity in Education (Developments in Scotland ) 29.
In Scotland, a Creativity in Education Advisory Group was established to consider ways in which creativity could be developed as an important feature of the provision that teachers and schools make for young people’s education. The Group was chaired by Richard Coton, Headteacher of Monifieth High School and its members included representatives from Learning and Teaching Scotland, the IDES Network, HMIE and the Scottish Executive Education Department. The Group’s discussion paper, Creativity in Education, was published in 2001. 30.
The definition of creativity in Creativity in Education again reflects that in the NACCE report, All Our Futures, by emphasising imagination, pursuing a purpose, being original and making judgements of value. Creativity in Education, like the NACCE report, stresses the need to encourage experimentation and problem-solving together with reflection and critical appraisal as essential conditions for creativity to flourish in schools. Creativity in Education has a more overt emphasis on the need for schools to foster a personal disposition to be creative in their students.
This involves the development of characteristics such as self-motivation, confidence, curiosity and flexibility. However, the publication notes the valuable contribution of group-working to encouraging creativity in, for instance, allowing pupils to build upon each others’ ideas. Creativity in Education also stresses the need for teachers themselves to be creative in the way they encourage and empower children and young people. Teachers need to judge carefully when to intervene and when to take a “hands-off” approach and to balance planning with improvisation.
31. Creativity in Education was accompanied by case studies providing practical examples of how creativity is being developed across the curriculum. These include the development of a whole school policy on creative learning and teaching (Gylemuir Primary School, Edinburgh); developing creativity in Mathematics (Pollock Children’s Centre, Glasgow/Borgue Primary School, Dumfries and Galloway and Inverclyde Council’s Education Advisory Service) and promoting thinking skills in the context of science education (Monifieth High School, Angus). 32.
Follow-up work undertaken as a result of Creativity in Education included the Creativity Counts project. The aims of this project were: •To gather evidence of creativity in the classroom across all sectors and all areas of the curriculum. •To identify key approaches to learning and teaching, assessment and evaluation. •To identify what schools need to do to foster creativity. 27 schools from across Scotland (19 primary, 7 secondary and 1 special) participated in the project. A report of the findings was published in 2004. This was accompanied by Creativity Counts — Portraits of Practice – a publication of case studies drawn from the project.
33. The main findings were that developing creativity in education produced benefits in terms of pupil motivation, enthusiasm and enjoyment. The pupils became more independent in their learning: “rather than being told; they became more resourceful and reflective. They became good at knowing what worked for them and what did not” (p. 5). However, this freedom to experiment took place within a supporting structure of high expectations and clear outcomes: “They knew what they were expected to achieve and how to go about that” (p.10).
Group working was a strong feature of the projects. This helped to support less confident children and encouraged realistic peer and self-assessment. The pupils responded well to dealing with failure and built confidence in using their imagination and developed a positive attitude to new ideas. 34. Teachers found that they were able to develop a repertoire of teaching skills balancing intervention, “hands-off”, planning and improvisation. They identified four main characteri.