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Durham University

Durham Commission on Creativity in Education


The Commission is a joint research collaboration between Durham University and Arts Council England, set up to look at the role creativity and creative thinking should play in the education of young people.

It was set up in response to the strength of opinion across the business, education and public sectors that young people are emerging into a world in which the skills and knowledge of the current education system will no longer be sufficient.

A national network of Creativity Collaboratives should be established, in which schools collaborate in establishing and sustaining the conditions required for nurturing creativity in the classroom, across the curriculum. This will involve:

  • A three-year pilot of nine Creativity Collaboratives, one in each of the DfE regions. Evaluation of the pilots should inform the creation of a national Creativity Collaboratives network from 2023.
  • Funding for the pilot Creativity Collaboratives from a consortium including DfE, Arts Council and educational trusts. The period of the pilots should be used to explore the possibility of attracting funding from partnerships between DfE, industry and commerce

Schools that value creativity should nominate a champion for creativity. This role would require an understanding of teaching for creativity and the ability and resource to promote this across the curriculum. This champion should have a voice at the level of senior leadership and exposure at the level of school governance.

Government, Ofqual and the awarding bodies should work together over the next 2-3 years to consider the role of examinations and how scholarship and craftmanship are recognised and rewarded in assessment frameworks.

Schools that have successfully established and sustained conditions in which creativity is nurtured should be recognised and encouraged. Such success should be recognised in the Ofsted inspection process. Ofsted should share good practice case studies of teaching for creativity in a range of subjects and across phases.

Ofsted should also continue to refine its inspection framework to further reduce incentives to ‘teach to the mark’ and make clearer that it is looking for teaching for scholarship and craftsmanship, not merely exam-passing.

The DfE should support English schools’ participation in PISA 2021 evaluation of creative thinking in order to influence and shape future use of the framework.

Higher Education institutions, in conjunction with the DfE, should work with the Creativity Collaboratives to develop research-informed practice to evaluate creativity, looking at how creativity and creative thinking can be identified across disciplines, and how its impact can be measured.

The education system should support young people to engage creatively and critically with the digital technology that is now a significant part of their everyday lives. To achieve this:

  • The DfE should seek additional funding for training for teachers in digital literacy and digital creativity, with time and resource committed to it.
  • Nesta should manage a pilot programme working with education, business and the cultural sector to explore how digital education in schools can develop the creative digital skills most in demand by employers.

Arts and culture should be an essential part of the education of every child. To achieve this:

  • DfE should establish a funded National Plan for Cultural Education which ensures all children access cultural opportunities in school alongside the new Plans for Music Education and Sport.
  • DfE should require schools to offer a full national curriculum at all key stages, but in particular at KS3 until the end of year 9. This should include the arts as a substantive part of the curriculum, not as an add-on.
  • The Artsmark scheme should be reviewed by Arts Council England to ensure the value of creativity, arts and culture in schools is recognised.
  • In support of the above, the Arts Council should work with DfE to review the provision of professional development opportunities for teachers in arts subjects and for the cultural workforce and freelancers who work with schools.

The purpose and place of creativity and teaching for creativity should be recognised and encouraged in the early years (0-4). To achieve this:

  • The DfE should integrate creativity into the Early Learning Goals within the Early Years Foundation Stage, to be operational from 2021.
  • The DfE should establish and fund effective training and CPD for the pre-school workforce, reviewing current Continuing Professional Development opportunities, qualifications and entry routes to the sector by 2021.
  • The BBC, other media and broadcasting organisations and the DfE, should further develop quality early years content that encourages young children’s creativity alongside literacy and language development.

The Commission believes that in-school opportunities to develop creativity should be complemented by diverse routes to take part in creative activities outside of school hours. To achieve this:

  • The Arts Council, working in partnership with youth sector organisations and social services, should align and build on existing out of school opportunities to be creative in the arts, sciences and humanities. This should include the work of Saturday Clubs, Music Education Hubs, existing Arts Council programmes which support out of school hours activity, and the National Citizens Service.

Young people should be better prepared for the changing world of work. They need the creative capacities that employers seek and which will enable them to be resilient and adaptable, to pursue portfolio careers and engage in lifelong learning. Qualification frameworks should reflect the value of creativity for the current and future workforce.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education should review the current opportunities for developing creativity as a key capacity in emerging T level qualifications and existing Apprenticeship Standards.