What are the long-term ramifications for young people of an education that stifles creativity? It's a question there has been a great deal of debate around recently - just how important is creativity in UK education and does the national curriculum as it currently stands supports it? It's something that is front of mind for me on a daily basis because of the nature of my job, but it's also a topic that's becoming more prevalent in the public consciousness. And rightly so.
I recently read Sir Ken Robinson's new book, Finding Your Element, in which he claims creativity to be 'the crucial 21st century skill we'll need to solve today's pressing problems.' It's a claim I can't help but agree with, as the creative industries themselves are one of the fastest-growing in the UK. But outside of that sector, more and more employers across every discipline are looking for their workforce to be creative and to have the skills and insight that creativity brings - such as problem solving, idea generation and critical thinking. It's therefore crucial that our education system fully supports the growth of creativity skills to give young people the best possible chance of succeeding in later life.
This isn't just my opinion, it's one that is echoed by many a teacher, parent and employer. Our own research tells us that over two thirds (67%) of teachers in the UK - across primary, secondary and higher education - think that creativity in education is vital to fuel the economies of the future. Despite this, 65% acknowledge that there is a big hill to climb first before they can do this effectively, with many pinpointing the current curriculum as being a key barrier, due to it stifling them (61%) and not allowing them to enough time to be creative (65%). In fact 68% agreed that there needs to be a complete transformation in the way education institutions across the UK work for them to be able to teach creativity effectively.
What is encouraging to see however, is that the government is starting to address these concerns, shown through recent proposals geared at teaching young children how to code as part of the computing curriculum, as well as a new "tech level" which will run alongside A-levels . The key to the success of these plans however, will be ensuring that teachers are equipped with the right tools and technology to make creative teaching central to the curriculum. Almost seven in ten (69%) UK educators told us this is the number one way they believe they can teach creativity more effectively - and 87% of parents agree. This further highlights the need for the heads and decision makers within schools, colleges and universities, to invest in better resources to help support their staff and meet the growing expectations of parents.
There are many schools I work with that have seen the benefit of making technology and digital skills central to helping to drive creativity in its students. For example, Chalfonts Community College rewrote the traditional art specification to include digital media - from animation, digital imaging, film-making, game development - to help its students learn creative skills which influence their approach across the curriculum. As a result they not only saw an increase of attainment, but of student engagement too, in particular with previously disengaged boys.
One of the course's creative projects involved working with industry experts and Stoke Mandeville Stadium to develop a new interactive online game, which was inspired by the Paralympics. It required students to think creatively about how they could make the game as interactive as possible, so that multiple players could access it around the world. The project allowed students to sharpen up both their technical and artistic skills to create a great final product. In fact, one of the students involved in the project at Chalfonts now has his own website dedicated to the games and digital art he has created both for school projects and for professional clients.
The UK is renowned for its creativity thanks to its successes in fashion, art, design, film, food and music, so creative schooling is incredibly important. The recent changes to the curriculum are certainly a step in the right direction towards creating a more creative learning environment. The next step, however will be ensuring students are given the right industry standard tools to work with. Once in place, educators then need to become facilitators of learning - increasing student access to creative technologies and supporting and guiding their use of the technology - rather than teaching them exactly how to use the tools. Students will then have the freedom to nuture their creativity in their own time and way.