The Enrichment of Creativity

Twenty years ago, Sir Ken Robinson led a commission that aimed to address the lack of ‘creativity’ and ‘creative thinking’ across the curriculum and throughout UK schools. The report was entitled ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’

It makes for very interesting reading. It was never adopted by the then government and subsequent administrations concentrated on times tables, spelling and an overhaul of the new GCSEs which we now run today.

Before I entered teaching I worked as a creativity consultant for businesses and schools. I was fascinated by what makes someone creative, how can we improve innovation in an organisation and generally how can we all be better at creative problem solving. I’m delighted to bring those same probing questions into my role as Fyling Hall‘s Head of Enrichment and Extra-Curricular. 

The first port of call has been an overhaul of the Assembly Programme that has been evolving over the last couple of years. We now have a theme, a name, for each of our six terms. You’ll find these themes have been in our school brochure for many years, part of the ethos of the school but now brought to the fore with activities and opportunities based around them.

The six themes are: Creativity, Nurture, Individuality, Preparation, Perseverance and Celebration. We aim, of course, to live these themes and their values all year round, but having a specific term as their focus allows us to drill down on what we really mean by them and how best they can inform our daily practice, our lessons, our interaction with and development of, our students.

So we began this term with that big broad topic of Creativity. What is it and why is it important? These are the questions posed. Is it limited to the creative arts? Of course not, but a programme of creative subjects: art, painting, drawing, photography, musical instruments, singing, drama and writing are essential to develop the self, the imagination, valuable skills in their own right that could lead to a vocation as well as providing, as Churchill put it, ‘the Arts are what we are fighting for‘. So many schools have reduced their creative arts programme, reducing what opportunities their pupils have, reducing the numbers of trained expert staff for these subjects that are deemed optional nice-to-haves that don’t relate as strongly to funding and league tables. One of the many advantages we have at Fyling Hall is that do not have to dance to the tune of a current ideology or whim of what an Academy chain or local authority need to do to jump through the right hoops. We know music and art are important, and it’s going to stay that way.

The theme of creativity permeates through all aspects of school and its subjects, along with its offshoot innovation. Innovation is the process of doing something in a better way, or changing it for something better. The need for problem solving crops up everywhere. My own subject, Physics is all problem solving. You also need a strong imagination. How else can you deal with the scale of the cosmos or the weirdness of the subatomic realm?

From my work training thousands of people from CEOs of large corporations to primary school children, in various weird and wonderful places around the world including Europe, Africa and the Middle East, I’ve found the block to being more creative is the same wherever and for whoever. It’s judgemental thinking about the self. It’s lack of self belief and a fear of failure. So that is where we begin. We want our students to try and fail, then learn then try again. We don’t want them to have a fear of trying in case they fail so never get past the first page. We don’t want them to deny or cover up their failures either (That is why tippex or liquid paper is banned by the way). Thomas Edison celebrated every one of his 9999 attempts to create the lightbulb. He would say that each attempt was yet another success in how not to create the lightbulb. 

The theme is therefore to embrace every task set, to deliberately push outside of each and every comfort zone that holds back that achievement. The answers to our problems, the grades we want, the courses and careers we eventually want to have cannot be achieved by playing it safe.

We have a metaphor that we use. It’s one metre in diameter, purple with yellow metallic stripes. If your child was in our first assembly of term, ask them what it means to ‘step out of the hoop’…

While you’re at it, ask them what they would do if someone in assembly ever said the name of the school on stage…

By Ayd Instone, Head of Enrichment and Extra-Curricular