events archive

Creativity and schools: what is creativity anyway?

7:00pm, Monday 21 May, Accent Study Centre, 12 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3JA

‘Imagination is the source of all human achievement.’ So says Sir Ken Robinson, author of the book Creative Schools (2015), whose TED talk on creativity has been watched over 50 million times.

Many business leaders agree and are now arguing for creativity to be given greater prominence in schools. A recent World Economic Forum report claimed that by 2020 creativity will be one of the top three skills workers will need, and the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is reportedly developing a framework for measuring creativity.

Yet some teachers are concerned that creativity is getting short shrift in the current educational climate. Andria Zafirakou, winner of this year’s Global Teacher Award, believes that many children find a personal connection to education through the arts and worries these are the very subjects that are being culled to satisfy the pressures of league tables, the Ebacc and Progress8. In contrast, Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, has defended the current focus on academic subjects and says extra-curricular activities such as plays, art clubs and orchestras should be used to explore creative subjects.

So what is the proper role of creativity in schools? And can it be taught? Clearly Robinson’s view that the modern education system crushes children’s innate sense of creativity has struck a chord with many thousands of teachers. He puts it bluntly: ‘Schools kill creativity.’

On the other side of the debate, critics such as Tom Bennett and Alex Quigley have argued that Robinson has an overly romantic view of children and that the foundation of creativity is an extensive knowledge of the world. Children may be innately curious, but this creative impulse also needs discipline and focus before it can truly flower.

So do children need to ‘learn the rules before they can break them’ as traditionalists argue? Or if, as Robinson claims, children are born as ‘thriving bundles of possibilities’, should teachers step out of the way and let children’s imaginations run free?

Harley Richardson, director of design and development at Discovery Education and a practising artist and musician in his spare time, thinks the discussion has ground to a halt because both sides of the debate are missing something important about creativity. At this Education Forum he will outline his thoughts about what creativity means and how it happens and will attempt to provide a new and more productive way of looking at this important topic.