Prioritise teaching for creativity, says report

Published: 18 October 2019
Reporter: Peter Lathan

The Durham Commission on Creativity and Education calls for a shift towards creativity in the education system, following 18 months of evidence gathering and research.

The aim of the Commission was to identify ways in which creativity, and specifically creative thinking, can play a larger part in the lives of young people from birth to the age of 19, both within and beyond the current education system. The Commission hoped to find out what already works well and where there might be gaps that can be addressed. It seeks to influence national (English) policy and inform and contribute to Arts Council England's work in this area.

The Commission, chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota from Arts Council England with Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Durham University, found evidence of the positive impact of creativity and creative thinking in our lives.

Our world is changing faster than ever before, its report says. We face challenges in every aspect of our lives at home, at work and as a nation. These changes require a re-evaluation of the ways in which we think about education and the ways in which children learn.

“The current knowledge-based education system only goes so far in equipping young people with the skills that will give them the confidence and resilience to shape their lives,” Sir Nicholas Serota said. "We must prioritise teaching for creativity, in addition to arts in the curriculum, to meet our future needs and give children the opportunity to fulfil their potential. It is our ambition that the Durham Commission report and recommendations lay the foundation for future work, for a long-term shift in educational policy and practice.”

“The findings of our research show that creativity and creative thinking are important for young people's rounded development, not just in arts subjects but across all disciplines,” Professor Alan Houston added. However, it is also clear that more can be done to nurture this, particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We hope that the report and the Commission's recommendations can lead to positive changes for creativity and creative thinking in our education system.”

The Commission suggests that all schools, from early years to post-16 education, should be encouraged and resourced to support teaching for creativity for all young people, whatever their background. The Commission adds that it is an issue of fairness that every child is given the opportunity to develop their creativity.

The recommendations call for a range of organisations to deliver this vision including the Department for Education (DfE), Ofsted, Ofqual, Institute for Apprenticeships, Nesta, BBC, Arts Council England and Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEPs).

They include:

  • The development of a pilot national network of Creativity Collaboratives established through joint working between DfE, the Arts Council and education trusts
  • Better recognition, research and evaluation of teaching for creativity in schools and a recognition of this teaching in the Ofsted inspection process
  • A clearer focus on digital technology and its role in a creative education
  • Inclusion of the arts as standard in the curriculum to key stage 3 and a National Plan for Cultural Education
  • A focus on early years learning including training for the workforce
  • Creative opportunities out of school hours and in the world of work

In addition to the co-chairs, the members of the Commission were:

  • Sir David Adjaye, OBE: principal and founder of Adjaye Associates Architects
  • Lauren Child, MBE: award-winning children's author and former Children's Laureate
  • Sir Jon Coles: Chief Executive of United Learning
  • Althea Efunshile, CBE: Chair of National College of Creative Industries
  • Dame Reena Keeble: Educationalist and former primary Headteacher
  • Lord Kerslake: Chair, Peabody Trust
  • Imran Khan: Head of Public Engagement, Wellcome Trust
  • Akram Khan, MBE: Director of Akram Khan Company
  • Baroness Kidron, OBE: Filmmaker and co-founder of educational charity Into Film
  • Professor Roger Kneebone: Professor of Surgical Education and Engagement Science, Imperial College
  • Anne Longfield, OBE: Children's Commissioner for England
  • Professor Linda Merrick: Principal of Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music
  • Jacqui O'Hanlon: Director of Education, Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Kathryn Pugh: Headteacher of The St Marylebone CE School, London
  • Paul Roberts, OBE: Arts Council England National Council member and Chair of the Innovation Unit
  • Phil Stokes: Creative Industries Leader, PwC
  • Alice Webb: Director, BBC Children's and BBC North