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Creativity in Education

Earlier this month, the Durham Commission published its final report following a two-year review of Creativity in Education.  The Commission is a collaboration between Arts Council England and Durham University. It aims to identify ways in which creativity, and specifically creative thinking, can play a larger part in the lives of young people from birth to the age of 19, both within and beyond the current education system.

The Commission brought together a diverse group from Education and the Creative Industries to act as Commissioners, chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota, CH, Chair of Arts Council England.

It gathered a wide range of evidence from various sources including:

  • A survey of over 1,000 stakeholders from business, education and the arts
  • A survey of headteachers and governors across the country
  • Meetings with stakeholders
  • A review of previous reports and initiatives into creativity and education
  • One-to-one interviews with the Commissioners

This research has enabled the Commission to explore key questions about the relationship between creativity and education such as, “How can creativity be recognised?” “What are the challenges and opportunities when embedding creativity in schools, and in the workplace?” And, “Who should be responsible for promoting creativity across the country?”

Key Definitions

Key Recommendations

The Commission recommends that a national network of Creativity Collaboratives should be established to allow schools to collaborate in establishing and sustaining the circumstances and environment required for nurturing creativity in the classroom, across the curriculum

1: Establishing Creativity Collaboratives

A key recommendation is that a three-year pilot of nine Creativity Collaboratives should be established in each of the DfE regions with funding from a consortium including DfE, Arts Council and educational trusts, with a view to exploring additional funding from partnerships between DfE, industry and commerce

2: Barriers to teaching for creativity

The Commission recommends that Government, Ofqual and the awarding bodies work together to consider the role of examinations and how scholarship and craftmanship are recognised and rewarded in assessment frameworks.

3: Recognising the value of creativity

The Commission identified that schools who have successfully established and sustained conditions where creativity is nurtured should be championed and encouraged. The Commission suggests that success should be recognised in the Ofsted inspection process and that Ofsted should share good practice case studies of teaching for creativity in a range of subjects and across phases.

The Commission also suggest that Ofsted should also continue to refine the inspection framework to further decrease incentives to ‘teach to the mark’ and that there is more clarity that the inspection process is looking for “teaching for scholarship and craftsmanship, not merely exam-passing.”

Throughout our research, the words most frequently associated with the exercise of creativity were imagination, freedom, expression, collaboration, and problem solving. The research findings also highlighted the importance of curiosity, perseverance and resilience.

4 & 5: Evaluating the impact of creativity

The Commission highlights the benefits to schools of taking part in PISA 2021 evaluation of creating thinking, and recommends that the DfE should support English schools’ participation in this in order to influence and shape future use of the framework.

The Commission also recommends a role for Higher Education institutions, in conjunction with the DfE, to 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.”

There need be no conflict between knowledge and creativity in our education system. Indeed, the opposite is the case – creativity is founded on deep understanding. Every meaningful creative breakthrough in human history has been made by people with deep expertise, immersing themselves in the practices and problems of the field and finding new ways to see, act or behave.

6: Digital technologies, creativity and education

The Commission stresses that the English education system should support young people to engage creatively and critically with the digital technology that is now a substantial part of their everyday lives. Suggestions including additional funding from the DfE for training for school teachers in digital literacy and digital creativity, with time and resource committed to it. The Commission also suggests NESTA play a key role, by managing a pilot programme working with a mix of education, business and the cultural sector to explore how digital education in schools can help develop the creative digital skills most in demand by employers.

7: Creativity and the arts in schools

The Commission states its belief that “Arts and culture should be an essential part of the education of every child.” Its recommendations to achieve this include a funded National Plan for Cultural Education to be established by the DfE which will ensure all children access cultural opportunities in school alongside the new Plans for Music Education and Sport.

The Commission also suggests that the 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 which would include the arts as a substantive part of the curriculum, not as an add-on.

Another recommendation is that the Artsmark scheme awarded by Arts Council England should be reviewed by ACE to make sure the value of creativity, arts and culture in schools is recognised. This should be achieved through ACE working with the DfE to evaluate the current provision of professional development opportunities for teachers in arts subjects and for the cultural workforce and freelancers who work with schools.

8: Creative beginnings: pre-school and the early years curriculum

The Commission identifies the importance of the purpose and place of creativity and teaching for creativity being recognised and encouraged in the early years (0-4). Recommendations include integrating creativity into the Early Learning Goals within the Early Years Foundation Stage by the DfE while establishing and funding effective training and CPD for the pre-school workforce. The Commission suggest reviewing the current Continuing Professional Development opportunities, qualifications and entry routes to the sector by 2021.

The Commission also identifies other key partners in Early Years creativity and suggests that the BBC, other media and broadcasting organisations alongside the DfE, should further develop quality early years content that encourages young children’s creativity alongside literacy and language development.

9: Creative opportunities out of school hours

The Commission also states its belief that in-school opportunities to develop creativity should be complemented by a range of opportunities to take part in creative activities outside of school hours. They recommend that Arts Council England work in partnership with youth sector organisations and social services to align and build on existing out of school provision to be creative in the arts, sciences and humanities. Routes identified include Saturday Clubs, Music Education Hubs, existing Arts Council programmes which support out of school hours activity, and the National Citizens Service.

10: Beyond school: creative opportunities and experiences in the world of work

The Commission identifies that young people need to be better prepared for the changing world of work particularly requiring the creative capacities that employers are looking for and which will enable them to be “resilient and adaptable, to pursue portfolio careers and engage in lifelong learning.” The Commission highlights that qualification frameworks should appreciate the value of creativity for the current and future workforce.

It suggests a review of the existing opportunities for developing creativity as a key capacity in emerging T level qualifications and existing Apprenticeship Standards by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Full report available at 

Click to access DurhamReport.pdf

Composing the Future

On 1st October 2019, Sound and Music announced the findings of their National Music Educators’ Survey, Can Compose. The report, which is based on responses from over 500 educators, is the first of it’s kind to look specifically at creativity and composers.

Sound and Music believe that composing should be a core element of every child’s music education – and 97% of their respondents agreed.

One of the areas of the report is the identification of 5 key barriers (from the over 600 barriers that were reported) that prevent young people’s progression in composing:

  • Many young people lack the skills, knowledge and confidence to compose their own music
  • There are concerns about the relevance of opportunities for young people 
  • Many educators lack support and training in how to teach composing 
  • There is limited, patchy and unequal access to resources and opportunities 
  • Composing as a core part of music education is undervalued 

These are worrying findings for those of us who believe in the importance of opportunity for creativity and access to music for young people, however not a great surprise to the MWC team who see a wide range of musical opportunities for young people in schools in many areas, but speak to teachers who do not have the skills to teaching composition or do not have access to the necessary resources.

Sound and Music suggest that these findings point to the need for changes in perceptions, provision, practice and policy.

As well as identifying the barriers to young people composing, Sound and Music’s report also identifies 5 outcomes to address the barriers:

  • There should be more opportunities for young people to compose in and out of school 
  • Opportunities for young people to compose should be more relevant and diverse 
  • There should be improved provision of training, support and resources for educators, music education hubs and schools 
  • There should be improved progression pathways through better networks and signposting 
  • More value should be placed on composing

Sound and Music state:

“We want to see a world where more young people have the opportunity, skills and confidence to create their own music; where their creativity and imagination can flourish; and where the composers of the future, key to the success of many of the UK’s creative industries, are nurtured.”

This is a sentiment that we, at MWC, fully support.

Key Findings

Key findings from the report include:

97% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that creating and composing music should be a core element of music education

96%  of respondents agreed that creating and composing music enables children and young people to develop their identity and their wellbeing

97% of respondents also agreed that there should be more opportunities for students to compose their own music

Young peoples’ confidence and performance opportunities

An important point for consideration is that young people’s confidence in composing declines throughout their time in education up to the age of 16. By age of 16 and over, the confidence in composing seems to return a little, however, the number of young people participating in music education in schools at this stage is a very small proportion of all young people. One concern is that many students lack confidence in themselves as composers and worry about being judged. The report suggests this lack of confidence to experiment and make mistakes when learning to compose has its roots in a number of the issues identified throughout the survey. The report further suggests that this lack of confidence is compounded by the systemic deprioritisation of composing compared to performing.

Also highlighted in the Sound and Music report is the fact that opportunities for young people to hear their own compositions performed live are extremely limited. The research found that there is a mismatch between students composing and works being performed.

Teachers confidence and CPD

The research suggests that teachers and educators are not accessing training and Continuing Professional Development focused on composing with only 41% of respondents reporting that they had received composing-focused Continuing Professional Development (CPD) within the last 5 years. Educators seem to value to CPD with 45% of respondents agreeing that “CPD for themselves and colleagues” that be the activity that would most benefit young people. Linked to this is a lack of confidence in educators regarding assessing composing, particularly for exams. Educators’ confidence can be undermined by exam boards’ assessment methodologies, which are not always perceived to be reliable or transparent.

As educators do not always feel confident teaching composing, the report found that schools increasingly rely on external music tuition to fulfil curriculum and examination requirements, which particularly impacts composing,

The question “what would most benefit young people to compose music?”, 38% of those respondents directly involved in teaching music, and 45% of those respondents working for organisations, said that better teaching resources would help them support composing activity.  This was broken down with categories most frequently given as school facilities, equipment and space (34% of responses within this category), including the need for more technology and equipment; insufficient breakout spaces for group composing activity; and a lack of accessible instruments for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. This last point is highlighted in the finding that music educators struggle to support young people who face disabling barriers to composing and creating music.

Also identified as something that would help young people compose was access to composers. The report suggests “Providing young people with more opportunities to work alongside composers, and supporting composers in developing their skills as educators, are two important steps that educators feel the music education sector needs to take.”

Concern about the future of music in schools

A concern that MWC has raised in numerous blogs is the challenge that music as a curriculum subject is being deprioritised. In the Sound and Music report, 78% of respondents identified the deprioritisation of music as a curriculum subject or lack of time for music within the school curriculum as barriers to young people composing their own music.

Recommendations

The report goes on to identify ways to create opportunities and support young people to compose. These recommendations link to key areas:

  • Creating more opportunities for young people to compose both in and out of school
  • More relevant and diverse opportunities for young people to compose
  • An improved offering of training, support and resources for educators, music education hubs and schools
  • Clear signposting to improved progression pathways with better networks
  • A higher value to be placed on composing

To read the full report visit http://soundandmusic.org/projects/can-compose-national-music-educators-survey

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