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Of abseiling and ironing

Unravelling the jargon of educationspeak

Are you creative? Do you like taking risks? In that case, creative risk-taking could be for you. It's one of the new big things coming our way, and all we have to do is work out what it means.

It sounds like the successor to extreme sports - things like ironing clothes while abseiling down a rock face (and I didn't make that up) - which, let's face it, are so last millennium. Extreme creativity could be the wave of the future, albeit possibly a very short one. This would be art with death at every slip of the pen or the brush, like writing the authorised biography of Osama bin Laden, or painting a black rhino (they really hate that). Or perhaps it just means taking really imaginative risks, like eating Turkish chicken sushi, or being alone in a room with a Liberal Democrat.

The truth, of course, is much more mundane, as this is pure business jargon. Creative risk-taking is all about making the most of the vicissitudes of a changing world, where nothing is certain, where there are no signposts, and the roads less travelled are the highways of the brave.

Every breakfast meeting features a leap into the unknown; every challenge is an opportunity, and the winners are those prepared to dive from the high springboard of vision into the black pool of unknown horizons.

Sorry, one gets rather carried away with this sort of thing.

Anyway, whatever you make of creative risk-taking, it has arrived at the graffiti-covered doors of education. As anyone who has ever taught art to 2B on a wet Thursday afternoon is aware, teachers could write the manual on creative risk-taking. For us, every day brings unknown horizons, to say nothing of black pools. Choosing the right homework is a creative risk: will an essay on Wolsey's foreign policy fire in my young charges a fascination with the geo-political intricacies of early 16th-century Europe, or lead to me being bludgeoned to death with a scale model of Hampton Court?

Unfortunately, once creative risk-taking has been passed through the creativity-free prism of educationspeak it is likely to mean something terribly dull, involving budget heads and community liaison, or getting by with fewer teachers. I prefer the earlier possibilities. There is something strangely moving about the image of Ruth Kelly defending education policy while abseiling in Afghanistan.

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