The road ahead

13 September 2018

As the My Creative School programme comes to an end, Greg Klerkx reflects on the achievements of the participating schools & the shifting perception of arts education

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It's autumn 2018: a new school year with new possibilities. Save the final project evaluation and learning resource (stay tuned!), the My Creative School (MCS) programme has concluded - going out with a joyous bang at our wonderful sharing day on 24 May at the Coin Street Community Centre.

We know that the first months back from the summer break are tough, for both teachers and young people. There’s a lot going on and it’d be easy enough for teachers involved in the programme to consign their school’s MCS work to last year’s events: the planning, the permissions, the (occasional) mess. It may feel daunting so early in the year to unpack and revisit all of that in light of so much else on their proverbial plates.

And yet, as we’ve done throughout the My Creative School programme, we’d encourage all involved to pause and reflect on what their creative explorations felt like as they happened, and on the impact they had on those pupils who were too shy, too boisterous, or were just struggling. Remember those ‘a-ha!’ moments; recall the new connections forged with parents and colleagues and what they could mean for your teaching and even your school. Think about your own connections, or reconnections, to creativity and arts practice.

Think also about the changing landscape of education when it comes to the arts and education... because it is changing. MCS sought at every turn to use the joy and power of the arts to develop critical thinking, collaboration, risk-taking, iteration, and resilience. A Sutton Trust report published last year found that 88% of British young people, 94% of employers and 97% of teachers surveyed said these skills are as important – or more important – than academic qualifications. Nearly three-quarters of teachers surveyed by the Sutton Trust said the arts were the most effective way for children to learn these skills, whether in school or through extracurricular activities.

The Sutton Trust results reflect a global trend. An analysis by international consultancy McKinsey found that, through to 2030, the economic demand for creativity, adaptability and empathy – skills routinely developed through the process of doing anything in the arts – will grow at a faster pace than engineering, data analysis and any number of other STEM-heavy subjects. A World Economic Forum survey of global employers reports that, by 2020, creativity will become the third most sought-after skill in the global marketplace (after complex problem solving and critical thinking), up from 10th place since a survey only five years earlier.

Perhaps for these reasons, the Programme for International Assessment in Education – better known by its acronym, PISA – is planning to roll out a creativity assessment as part of its 2021 survey of the world’s education systems. Good PISA results are a source of national pride and global bragging rights (think Finland) just as poor results often drive radical rethinks of domestic education policy.

We believe that My Creative School teachers and creative practitioners are at the leading edge of the change that the Sutton Trust, PISA and countless other organisations are pointing towards; that teaching and learning are fundamentally creative activities, and that creative confidence and skill must be actively valued and nurtured in school to prepare today’s children for life as tomorrow’s adults on an increasingly complex and competitive global stage.

While the My Creative School programme has technically finished, the remarkable creative work initiated in all of the participating schools is, we hope, just beginning.

Image credit: Roger Brown for A New Direction