There is a danger of assuming that in the past there was a golden age when there was much more creativity in schools and teaching - at a time when teachers were free to teach much as they liked. The evidence does not support this idea. The 1978 Primary School Survey did not reveal a picture of progressive teaching. It found, on the contrary, that there was insufficient breadth to the curriculum and a concentration on 'safe' approaches to teaching. From this, via the HMI papers of the early 1980's, developed the National Curriculum in 1988 - which, while it specified the content, did not prescribe how it should be taught. In fact there remains quite a lot of professional scope - contrary to rhetoric we often hear. It is probably more difficult to 'follow the rainbow' - to pick up an issue that arises and run with it. However, as the recent document "Excellence and Enjoyment" makes clear through the case studies it contains, there is still quite a lot of freedom to determine the shape of the curriculum. The primary schools highlighted in the document understand the requirement for breadth in the curriculum - but also the need for study in depth.
Every pupil's entitlement as an educated person is to be introduced to the full range of human experience - and this is particularly true of the arts. To narrow the primary curriculum, as some would have us do, to the core subjects with choice in the rest would be fundamentally mistaken - and endanger the breadth that is so vital to a well-rounded education.
At 14 there are choices to be made beyond the core of the curriculum. However, while the evidence is that a number of pupils do not want it, breadth is still of vital importance. There seems less scope for flexibility at KS3, but the commonality of structure here may be important.
The investment in upskilling teachers has brought an enormous benefit. There is greater knowledge about what constitutes good teaching and a fair degree of consensus around the Ofsted criteria. The document "Expect the Unexpected" gives examples of skillful teachers who are good at getting creative responses from their pupils. What they demonstrate is good teaching that stimulates and inspires, but also excellent subject knowledge that can recognise the insight in an unexpected but creative response.
Creative Leadership and Management
There is no one way to salvation and no one approach to leadership that will be successful. The most creative schools offer a broad curriculum with an outlook that springs from the commitment of its leader.
Is accountability and inspection the enemy of creativity?
We should not see these as in opposition. We quite rightly have greater accountability. The taxpayer should expect the service to be accountable for £8 billion cost each year.
There is lots of evidence of schools adopting creative approaches - even during inspections. The inspection system does not simply look at test data. There is a greater emphasis on the individual nature and circumstances of the school in the inspection process. A more intelligent inspection system will allow teams to acknowledge the school's individuality.
Innovation and risk taking - Should schools be given credit for innovation?
There is a danger, if we followed this path, that schools would be under pressure to always be trying the latest thing. Requiring people to innovate would be bizarre. The extent of innovation should always be a choice and linked to the achievement of clearly identified ends or aims.
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