Durham Commission on Creativity and Education

24 Oct 2019

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On 15th October 2019, the Durham Commission shared a report, summarising their findings on Creativity and Education. A joint research collaboration between Durham University and Arts Council England, the Commission was set up as a response to the growing interest in the importance and value of creativity and creating thinking in our society and its future.  The research conducted by the Commission examined the role that creativity and creative thinking should play in the education of children and young people.

The over-arching theme running through the report is the strong conviction that teaching for creativity should be practised across the whole school system. The misconception that creativity is solely the province of the arts is highlighted, and the Commission clarify the lack of validity in this viewpoint, as creativity exists in all disciplines;

“The Commission received strong representations from those working in maths, the sciences and humanities stating that creativity is as important in these subjects as they are in the arts and that opportunities for nurturing creativity should be championed in all subjects.

This is consistent with the Commission’s belief that creativity makes a valuable, indeed vital contribution to learning in all subjects. In turn we have heard that music, dance, drama, art and design all require the acquisition of technical skills, subject knowledge and understanding alongside opportunities to express and explore creative thinking” (pgs 22 – 23).

The report states that a belief that young people studying an arts subject may be providing a personal response rather than learning and applying knowledge disregards the necessity of discipline, rigour and technical excellence in a good quality arts education. Instead, the arts are described as “a resource from which people can draw their inspiration for creative thinking”. As the sector support organisation for dance, One Dance UK work to ensure dance education delivered both inside and outside of schools provides students with a breadth of experiences, allowing young people to express themselves in a physical way whilst developing and expanding their theoretical knowledge. There are many misconceptions in education about dance being a ‘soft subject’ or ‘not academic’, and we welcome the support from the Commission as we aim to eradicate these opinions.

From the research, the Commission has created a series of ten recommendations designed to lay a foundation for future work. The recommendations are far reaching, and key statements and suggestions from a Dance Education perspective include;

  • The Department for Education (DfE) should establish a National Plan for Cultural Education that ensures all children access cultural opportunities in school. This aligns with the recent developments in the Ofsted Inspection framework, which will now look at a school’s ‘cultural offer’
  • The arts should be offered as a substantive part of the curriculum, with emphasis placed on the importance of the arts at Key Stage 3. This means all student should be able to study the arts until the end of Year 9
  • Encouragement of creativity and teaching for creativity in the early years education setting (0 – 4 years). The report recognises that expressive arts including movement play an important role in developing creativity, curiosity and imagination
  • Arts Council England (ACE) and youth sector organisations should work collaboratively to build on existing opportunities to be creative in arts, sciences and humanities outside of school

The Commission has also expressed concerns in the report regarding the impact of the Ebacc and the decline of the arts in schools, stating the reduction in the number of students taking ‘creative subjects’ at GCSE and A Level as a ‘serious imbalance in the all-round education of students.’ This is evident in the Commission’s survey findings, as teachers in schools where arts subjects had been ‘squeezed’ reported a negative effect on learners’ oral skills and self confidence in contrast to schools with a growing arts provision reporting high levels of pupil behaviour and self-confidence.

One Dance UK welcome the report, which has come at time when the need for creativity and creative thought has never been more evident. As the careers landscape changes, and automation increases, creativity will be valued even more in future workforces and it is likely that young people will be working longer and will change careers more often. This must be reflected in the education received by young people, with creativity and the opportunity for creative thought embedded across the curriculum.

The findings and recommendations strengths the mission behind our Dance in Education work, aiming to make dance accessible to all and provide a diverse range of experiences for children and young people to engage with and participate in. The report also acknowledges the possibility of the arts becoming ‘the province of the privileged’, and One Dance UK echo the Commission’s declaration that every child deserves rich and varied experiences of excellent arts and cultural education.

The Commission is now set to begin delivering its recommendations, working with youth sector organisations and reflecting on the developments in a further report in 2020. One Dance UK will be following the next steps of the Commission in realising its goals, and will be looking to support, shape and deliver the recommendations in any way we can.