Durham Commission on Creativity and Education calls for shift towards creativity in education system

Teaching for creativity in schools must be given priority so that we can equip young people with the skills they need in later life, according to a new report published today.

Our world is changing faster than ever before. We face challenges in every aspect of our lives at home, at work and as a nation. These changes require a re-evaluation of the ways in which we think about education and the ways in which children learn.

Following 18 months of evidence gathering and research, the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education has today launched its report and recommendations with a long-term vision for promoting creativity in education.

The Commission, chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota from Arts Council England with Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Durham University, found evidence of the positive impact of creativity and creative thinking in our lives.

The Commission therefore suggests all schools, from early years to post-16 education, should be encouraged and resourced to support teaching for creativity for all young people, whatever their background. The Commission adds that it is an issue of fairness that every child is given the opportunity to develop their creativity.

The recommendations call for a range of organisations to deliver this vision including the Department for Education (DfE), Ofsted, Ofqual, Institute for Apprenticeships, Nesta, BBC, Arts Council England and Local Cultural Education Partnerships (LCEPs). 

They include:

  • The development of a pilot national network of Creativity Collaboratives established through joint working between DfE, the Arts Council and education trusts 
  • Better recognition, research and evaluation of teaching for creativity in schools and a recognition of this teaching in the Ofsted inspection process
  • A clearer focus on digital technology and its role in a creative education
  • Inclusion of the arts as standard in the curriculum to key stage 3 and a National Plan for Cultural Education
  • A focus on early years learning including training for the workforce 
  • Creative opportunities out of school hours and in the world of work

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, said:

“The current knowledge-based education system only goes so far in equipping young people with the skills that will give them the confidence and resilience to shape their lives. We must prioritise teaching for creativity, in addition to arts in the curriculum, to meet our future needs and give children the opportunity to fulfil their potential. It is our ambition that the Durham Commission report and recommendations lay the foundation for future work, for a long-term shift in educational policy and practice.”

Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Durham University, said:

“The findings of our research show that creativity and creative thinking are important for young people’s rounded development, not just in arts subjects but across all disciplines. However, it is also clear that more can be done to nurture this, particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We hope that the report and the Commission’s recommendations can lead to positive changes for creativity and creative thinking in our education system.”

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The Commission believes that through engaging in opportunities for creative learning, grounded in subject knowledge and understanding, students’ creative capacity will be nurtured, and their personal, social and academic development greatly enriched.

With these advantages, the report finds that young people will enter society and the world of work able to think and work creatively across disciplines and sectors and champion the UK as a leader in creativity.

The Durham Commission on Creativity and Education

The commission is a collaboration between Arts Council England and Durham University, which 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. Crucially, the Commission hopes to find out what already works well and where there might be gaps that can be addressed. It seeks to influence national (English) policy; inform and contribute to Arts Council England’s work in this area. 

The Commissioners are:

  • Sir Nicholas Serota, CH: Chair of Durham Commission, Chair of Arts Council England
  • Sir David Adjaye, OBE: principal and founder of Adjaye Associates Architects
  • Lauren Child, MBE: award-winning children’s author and former Children’s Laureate
  • Sir Jon Coles: Chief Executive of United Learning
  • Althea Efunshile, CBE: Chair of National College of Creative Industries
  • Dame Reena Keeble: Educationalist and former primary Headteacher
  • Lord Kerslake: Chair, Peabody Trust
  • Imran Khan: Head of Public Engagement, Wellcome Trust
  • Akram Khan, MBE: Director of Akram Khan Company
  • Baroness Kidron, OBE: Filmmaker and co-founder of educational charity Into Film
  • Professor Roger Kneebone: Professor of Surgical Education and Engagement Science, Imperial College
  • Anne Longfield, OBE: Children’s Commissioner for England
  • Professor Linda Merrick: Principal of Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music
  • Jacqui O’Hanlon: Director of Education, Royal Shakespeare Company
  • Kathryn Pugh: Headteacher of The St Marylebone CE School, London
  • Paul Roberts, OBE: Arts Council England National Council member and Chair of the Innovation Unit
  • Phil Stokes: Creative Industries Leader, PwC 
  • Alice Webb: Director, BBC Children’s and BBC North

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Durham University is a globally outstanding centre of teaching and research based in historic Durham City in the UK. We are a collegiate university committed to inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham and in the world.

We conduct boundary-breaking research that improves lives globally and we are ranked as a world top 100 university with an international reputation in research and education (QS World University Rankings 2020).

Our commitment to providing a wider student experience that fosters participation and leadership at Durham and beyond means our graduates are among some of the most sought after in the world and we are ranked in the top 50 globally for the employability of our students by major companies (QS 2020).

We are a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive UK universities and we are consistently ranked as a top 10 university in national league tables (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, Guardian University Guide and The Complete University Guide). 

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