A recent discussion with a friend of mine, a senior lecturer in Nursing at Edge Hill College, raised the topic of creativity in Schools, or, rather, her perceived lack of it!
Quite by chance, during the same week of our conversation, the notion of creativity was the subject of a linked article in the Times Educational Supplement, written by the Headmaster of a School in a deprived area of Portsmouth (his School received judgements of "outstanding" across all categories in the last two Ofsted reports).
The Headmaster was on a visit to Belgium, where he had been invited to deliver a series of educational lectures. His article referenced how interesting it was, when talking to teachers in Belgium, to hear about the extent of the autonomy present in every school and the trust given to every teacher.
How different from our own country, continues the article, with a criticism of how, in the State Sector, that there is far too much control placed on every School via the many layers of accountability – not least of Ofsted standing over the system in a rather threatening way.
In the opinion of the Headmaster, creativity is considered to be by far the key element of the educational framework in Belgium, resulting in pupils who appear to have far more independence, producing happy and enthusiastic pupils.
What a contrast with the UK system, where, aged 4 and 5, children still arrive at Schools buzzing with excitement: they have so many ideas. But quickly, oh so quickly, the UK education system starts to drive out pupils' creativity and individuality. And our children quickly stop demonstrating their individuality for fear of rejection or humiliation because they are different.
The Headmaster presents creativity as ‘seeing things in new ways’. He feels that we need our children to think differently too. Instead, he believes that, far too often, our core aim seems to be making children agree with us. A "good" pupil, it would appear, is one sitting still and conforming to the perceived norm.
Providing a personal point of view, the Headmaster believes that, in better education systems, it is the job of a Headmaster to create an "ethos" in which creativity is not only allowed to happen but is seen to thrive! Sadly, Headmasters are hindered from so many directions that this is a rarity in the UK. Inevitably, this leads to the stifling of creativity as each school becomes a "clone school" creating similar children up and down the country. Exam robots, even!
The Headmaster concludes his article by answering his own question of: Are we in Britain destroying, or have we destroyed, the creativity in our system? Sadly, the Headmaster’s own answer is a resounding yes.
Of course, creativity and individuality should be allowed to flourish in all Schools. The suffocation of creativity serves only to result in Schools becoming examination factories.
If we look at the Cransley School mantra of ‘Where individuals matter,’ underpinned by our three core values of seeking excellence, nurturing relationships and venturing beyond, such values could not be successfully implemented without the active promotion and encouragement of creativity and individuality!
Our sporting and drama successes are witness to our desire to live out the Cransley School values, rather than pay lip service to them.
The Art work produced by our children is of such a high standard that one can only take a step back to admire such creativity!
We are so fortunate to have been invited by one of our parents to a privileged ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the specialised engineering project that is currently taking place at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station, in an attempt to encourage creativity, that may lead to a career in Engineering! We are all very much looking forward to this trip on Tuesday!
Two of my regular mantras to our children that encourage creativity are:
‘Be yourself – everyone else is taken’ and
‘An original is always worth more than a copy.’
On Friday morning of last week, I addressed the Parents of our new Senior 1 September intake. I spoke with pride about how our energetic and hardworking staff make such a contribution to the holistic approach to education, developing the pupils of Cransley School academically and supporting their personal growth and development.
Later that same afternoon, I witnessed two of our Senior 1 pupils engaging in an outdoor lesson, bathed in sunshine, within an inspirational Cransley School landscape, being actively encouraged by Staff to exploit their creativity. It was a joy to behold!
In the words of Professor Gert Biesta;
“When a child becomes a liability for their School’s performance, education has come to an end.”
We at Cransley School value our children far too much to ever consider them ever being a liability! Our School ethos is one that certainly encourages creativity!