This new report Durham Commission on Creativity and Education is a joint research collaboration between Durham University and Arts Council England, convened to look at the role creativity and creative thinking should play in the education of young people.
The Commission was chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota, patron of NSEAD and chair of Arts Council England.
The Report presents a vision for creative education, allied with strong subject-based learning. It identifies creativity as a critical element of any education system that seeks to future proof prosperity and maximise opportunities for children and young people.
We welcome the commitment to social justice, and the recognition that the most disadvantaged are the least likely to benefit from access to creative education - including study of the arts. We agree that creative learning is essential to the well being, prosperity and personal development of children and young people.
'The evidence shows that teaching for creativity confers personal, economic and social advantage. As a matter of social justice and national interest it should be available to all young people, not only to those who can afford it.'
The Commission has considered creativity and creative thinking in relation to three themes that underpin an individual’s life:
• Identity and community
The report has set out 10 recommendations which include:
1. A national network of Creativity Collaboratives should be established, in which schools collaborate in establishing and sustaining the conditions required for nurturing creativity in the classroom, across the curriculum.
2. Government, Ofqual and the awarding bodies should work together over the next 2-3 years to consider the role of examinations and how scholarship and craftsmanship are recognised and rewarded in assessment frameworks.
3. Schools that have successfully established and sustained conditions in which creativity is nurtured should be recognised and encouraged. Such success should be recognised in the Ofsted inspection process. Ofsted should share good practice case studies of teaching for creativity in a range of subjects and across phases.
Ofsted should also continue to refine its inspection framework to further reduce incentives to ‘teach to the mark’ and make clearer that it is looking for teaching for scholarship and craftsmanship, not merely exam-passing.
4. The DfE should support English schools’ participation in PISA 2021 evaluation of creative thinking in order to influence and shape future use of the framework.
5. Higher education institutions, in conjunction with the DfE, should work with the Creativity Collaboratives to develop research-informed practice to evaluate creativity, looking at how creativity and creative thinking can be identified across disciplines, and how its impact can be measured.
6. The education system should support young people to engage creatively and critically with the digital technology that is now a significant part of their everyday lives.
7. Arts and culture should be an essential part of the education of every child. To achieve this:
• DfE should establish a funded National Plan for Cultural Education which ensures all children access cultural opportunities in school alongside the new Plans for Music Education and Sport.
• DfE should require schools to offer a full national curriculum at all key stages but in particular at KS3 until the end of year 9. This should include the arts as a substantive part of the curriculum, not as an add-on.
• The Artsmark scheme should be reviewed by Arts Council England to ensure the value of creativity, arts and culture in schools is recognised.
8. The purpose and place of creativity and teaching for creativity should be recognised and encouraged in the early years (0-4). To achieve this:
• The DfE should integrate creativity into the Early Learning Goals within the Early Years Foundation Stage, to be operational from 2021.
• The DfE should establish and fund effective training and CPD for the pre-school workforce, reviewing current Continuing Professional Development opportunities, qualifications and entry routes to the sector by 2021.
• The BBC, other media and broadcasting organisations and the DfE, should further develop quality early years content that encourages young children’s creativity alongside literacy and language development.
9. The Commission believes that in-school opportunities to develop creativity should be complemented by diverse routes to take part in creative activities outside of school hours.
10. Young people should be better prepared for the changing world of work. They need the creative capacities that employers seek and which will enable them to be resilient and adaptable, to pursue portfolio careers and engage in lifelong learning. Qualification frameworks should reflect the value of creativity for the current and future workforce.
Through the Commission's research and evidence gathering, the Report has identified the reduction of arts provision at Key Stage 3 as a significant problem in schools. 'We’ve long heard from our teaching colleagues that this has had an enormous impact on their ability to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum, and we hope that this focus from Durham will spur schools, Ofsted and the DFE to work jointly to address this damaging practice.'
The Commission has also identified: 'The erosion of these subjects [arts] from the curriculum post-primary education is damaging for young people.’
The report firmly identifies the introduction of the Ebacc as responsible for the reduction in the status of the arts in English schools. This validates the long expressed views of our membership, and we applaud the Commission for this unambiguous position.
They conclude the arts: ‘have a distinct contribution to make towards nurturing creativity and has serious concerns about the decline in the provision and uptake of arts subjects in schools’.
We welcome the clear statement that creative learning should be a feature across the curriculum, and furthermore that the arts require knowledge, understanding as well as facility and technique - creativity is only really possible when we are able to immerse ourselves and become expert in a field of knowledge.
The report states: 'Indeed the development of creativity in any subject requires deep subject knowledge and understanding as well as the development of skills that enable the application of this knowledge and understanding.'
However, we would like to see further discussion of the importance of subject-specific learning. We believe that both deep learning and creativity will be compromised if that is lost.
This report invites us to reimagine the education system, that allows space for the skills and knowledge that might be required for the future. We agree that a future thinking education system should foreground the interdisciplinary and collaborative skills characterised by creativity. We would emphasise however the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum where specialist learning is preserved. The benefits of learning for creativity will only be seen when allied with deep, practice specific knowledge and understanding.
Subjects should not sit within siloed curriculum boxes - but if we fail to retain their distinct identity, pedagogy and content, we believe that any measures to boost creativity will have minimum impact, and clearly the Commission agree.
The report sets out a clear and compelling case for creativity to be taught through system leadership and collaboration, with a suggested delivery model clearly informed by the work of Bridge organisations and a number of DFE led initiatives. The report rightly points out that resources and well managed infrastructure will be essential to fund such a model.
It is encouraging to see the Commission calls for collaboration across multi-agencies. We would add to the list the strong body of Subject Associations, who are well placed to support their members in schools with this important work.
NSEAD supports the ambition of this report and will continue to work to ensure that children and young people throughout the UK are able to access the very highest quality art, craft & design education, allied with a coherent, clearly defined approach to creative learning. We note that the definitions of creativity set out in the Commission are already provoking debate regarding the complexities and nuances of creativity and the extent to which they are addressed in this report.
And finally, we ask can the Commission’s ten recommendations heal the damage to art, creativity and culture in schools? We urge policy makers to take heed and take action.
Download the full report here