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How do we promote creativity at SGS?

Creativity is a key skill for future employment, as technology threatens repetitive or predictable jobs, but an appreciation of creativity is also part of being a well-educated human.

I was heartened to read a newly published report on the subject and find how many of the recommendations we are already doing. Here are ten points about creativity drawn from the report:

Creativity and knowledge. Creativity is enhanced by knowing a lot. Most new ideas are not entirely original but are consciously or subconsciously drawn from what we already know. The more we have experienced, thought about and researched, the more raw material we have to fashion a new development from. An ambitious and knowledge-rich curriculum fosters creativity rather than crushing it under a weight of facts.

Creativity and grit. Creativity requires perseverance. Most new ideas do not spring fully-formed from a ‘moment of genius’ but are refined, discarded and re-worked until they stand up to scrutiny. In my own subject of Physics, Albert Einstein, often identified as a ‘creative genius’, worked for many years on his General Theory of Relativity before publishing it in 1915.

Creativity and collaboration. Whilst design by committee is usually disastrous, most new ideas emerge from debate, teamwork and the combination of the ingenuity of a number of different people. Lessons that help pupils to practise collaborating boost creativity: building good relationships, listening to and challenging the ideas of others and comparing and contrasting different points of view are all skills that can be learned.

Creativity and co-curricular activities. Activities beyond the classroom from music ensembles to drama clubs develop creativity and SGS offers an enormous range. Sadly, many maintained sector schools do not have the resources to support such a programme and this reduces the opportunities for pupils to develop creatively.

Creativity across the curriculum. Creativity runs through all subjects including Mathematics, Science and History as well as the natural domains of Music, Dance, Drama, Art and Design. Solving problems and generating hypotheses are creative activities, requiring imagination, insight and new approaches just as much as crafting a piece of Art or a performance. The well-regarded Extended Project Qualification, open to anyone in the Sixth Form, allows pupils to choose a question and carry out research to answer that question. This sort of open-ended, pupil-led project is ideal for developing creative habits of mind.

Creativity and assessment. It is hard to measure creativity and attempting to do so robs the pupils of the sheer enjoyment of creative activity. The international PISA tests for 15 year olds in different countries will include a creativity test in the 2021 iteration, alongside the more familiar areas of Mathematics, Science and Reading, and it will be interesting to see how the United Kingdom fares. In the meantime, one classic exercise in creativity is the ‘30 circle challenge’ in which participants are challenged to make each of thirty different circles into an object. A quick internet search will reveal a template (and some solutions).

Creativity and well-being. The instinct to be creative is part of what it is to be human and indulging this instinct promotes well-being. At a time of justified concern about the mental health of young people perhaps part of the solution is to give them plenty of creative opportunities within school. I suspect that when adults talk about having got the ‘creative bug’ they are really reflecting a long-buried sorrow dating from having their crayons removed from them at some stage in their early teens.

Creativity awards. The Artsmark award is one way of validating the creative experiences and opportunities of pupils in a school. SGS is well on the way to achieving the (highest) Platinum level of this award having expanded Drama and Dance, in particular, this year. If you have not yet got your tickets for this term’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ please book soon. Next term SGS takes on the musical ‘Chicago’. Art and Design & Technology will stage exhibitions of pupil work later in the academic year and art work adorns the walls around the school. The music department have their usual run of concerts through the academic year. If you have never attended one of these concerts, I invite you to do so: excellent individual and ensemble performances from pupils who are obviously enjoying themselves.

Creativity and the classroom. At SGS the classroom culture is tolerant of ambiguity and different points of view and this is crucial in allowing pupils to develop and express new ideas and approaches. Equally important is a sense that failure is just part of trying things out so that pupils don’t lose their confidence if they pursue an interesting notion that turns out to be ‘wrong’ or unproductive. Fail means First Attempt In Learning and this culture certainly helps creativity.

Creativity and choice. The eBacc has had a negative effect on creativity in state schools, requiring pupils to choose particular GCSE subjects and reducing the number of choices available for Music, Drama and Art and Design. At SGS we allow the pupils to play to their strengths and have a far more flexible approach to choosing GCSE subjects than the vast majority of schools. This results in plenty of pupils, far higher than the national averages, studying traditionally creative subjects as 15 and 16 year olds.

Creativity is a favourite topic of the educationalist Ken Robinson who wrote ‘Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.’ If you like that idea you can watch the charismatic Ken Robinson warm to his theme. I think that he overstates his case but I hope that he is successful in helping to keep creativity at the forefront of education.