Creativity in schools vital for later success – Durham Report

Creativity in the curriculum is essential if young people are to be properly prepared for a successful work life, according to an Arts Council/Durham University led research programme whose report is published today.

The Durham Commission on Creativity and Education says creativity must be given priority in schools – but is being hidebound by a focus on exams and targets.

“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” said the commission’s chair, Sir Nicholas Serota.

“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 commission, which has been researching and gathering evidence for 18 months, wants all schools to be encouraged and resourced to support teaching for creativity for all young people, whatever their background, and recommendations in the report calls for action by the Department for Education (DfE), Ofsted, Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation), the Institute for Apprenticeships, Nesta, the BBC, Arts Council England and Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEPs).

The report’s recommendations include:

  • The development of a pilot national network of Creativity Collaboratives established through joint working between DfE, the Arts Council and education trusts 
  • Less exclusive focus on examinations and targets
  • 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

 “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” said Professor lan Houston, pro-vice chancellor for education at Durham University. “However, it is also clear that more can be done to nurture this, particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The report quotes the headteacher of a London academy secondary school: “We’re thinking, rational, physical, aesthetic creatures – we’re not purely academic. We are rounded complete individuals. And to deny the opportunity therefore for creativity in an artistic, in anaesthetic and cultural sense, is, in essence, to deny someone an aspect of their humanity”.


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