Creativity in schools

I once worked in a school where we were a “Creative Partnerships Change School”.

This group, funded by the government, had the aim of getting arts and creativity into schools. I presume it didn’t mean Art, Music, Drama and Dance lessons, but through the curriculum. The reason I presume this is that we had a load of artists desperate to grab a share of the money share their talents and experiences for the benefit of our pupils.

The thing is, kids study Art because it’s worthwhile. Art teachers teach techniques, the History of Art give feedback and create better artists or kids with better understanding of Art. Music teachers induct kids into the language of music. Dance teachers show kids how to dance.

Ken Robinson, who had that awful and misleading video shown 53 times in each school and educational event – it was mandatory for two or three years wasn’t it – was lauded as pretty much the God of Creative Partnerships.

The projects I saw were:

* a dancer came to school to dance round litter in the playground to raise awareness of it. I saw kids laugh. This took two days of a senior manager’s time with their creative partner to organise and plan.

* a group of 6 teachers had artist partners to learn how they can teach better from things that artists already do that might benefit teachers. Yes, I don’t know either. I know this cost £25000, and I am pretty sure no teacher benefitted. I know no kids did

* a load of opt-in sessions on creativity. Ten to fifteen kids (the ones who were basically mates with the teachers who had been told by the head to make this work) turned up to these. I went to one. It was fun, but apart from that pointless. We took some pictures with mobile phones and had fun.

* An INSET session for the whole school that was one of the most patronising experiences of my life. It wasn’t pointless in the end, but was close to it. Most INSET sessions are patronising I suppose.

* The Headteacher went on a Creativity study trip to the US, and met Sir Ken. No kids were involved.

* The Headteacher hosted a load of the great and the good at school to speak to Sir Ken virtually in a conference. No kids were involved.

There were other things that happened as well. Looking back, they can be summarised as three effects:

1) the school got a badge to put on its lettering

2) the school wasted a lot of time when kids could have been learning, including developing knowledge and skills in order to be creative.

3) a lot of ‘artists’ got paid between £200 and £500 a day for between 1 and 20 days over three years.

You can’t crowbar “creativity” into schools because no-one agrees on what it is.  Even those who agree what it is can’t agree how to teach it. However, subjects with value are generally already in the curriculum, and we see creativity within and outside all subjects all the time. Creativity though – it’s an outcome of education, not a method. Thank God the Creative Partnerships (and later “A New Direction”) gravy train has also gone.

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