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Clash of the titans

Chris Woodhead and Sir Ken Robinson take centre stage for the main event of the show, the Curriculum or Creativity debate. Andrew Mourant sets the scene

Curriculum or creativity? - education's equivalent of the chicken or egg question - is this year's big issue at the Education Show, sure to provoke impassioned debate. Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools 1994-2000 and now professor of education at the University of Buckingham, will lock horns with Sir Ken Robinson, former chair of the National Commission on Creativity, Education and the Economy.

First up is Professor Woodhead, with a contribution entitled "Gradgrind or Robinson? Neither, thank you". Thomas Gradgrind was the myopic industrialist in Dickens's Hard Times, whose view was that "Facts...alone are wanted in life." Woodhead will argue for a balance between curriculum discipline and a creative approach.

Sir Ken's theme will be "Back to Basics: learning to be creative". Their contrasting views are likely to set the agenda throughout. Other leading education figures will discuss points raised, but visitors will have the final say, able to express views interactively and vote on issues arising.

Proceedings will be chaired by broadcaster and journalist Kim Catcheside.

"Now we're to have a curriculum for the 0-5s, issues of creativity and the usefulness of a curriculum are more important than ever," she says. "How can we balance the need to provide children with basic skills with society's need to produce future generations able to challenge conventions and come up with the ideas it needs to progress?"

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, describes the debate as "unmissable". "Curriculum versus Creativity is key to school leaders across the 3-19 age range. Keeping structures that have helped raise standards, yet releasing creative energy in the classroom is the key to future success in our schools."

Experts on hand include Tim Brighouse, Commissioner of London Schools and formerly Birmingham's chief education officer. Brighouse says that 20 years ago, teachers were expected to demonstrate flair and creativity, but that "the dead hand of the national curriculum has driven out thoughts of creativity."

Others due to attend are Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers; John Bangs, education secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers; Carole Whitty, deputy general secretary of the NAHT and Darren Northcott of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

Mary Bousted argues that teachers and pupils deserve a "creative curriculum which captures their attention, captivates their imagination and leads to higher standards of learning." Carole Whitty says the debate will explore fundamental questions about the purpose of education.

The creativity theme flows through the show: from the continuing professional development programme to the subject associations' half-day workshops. Inspiration could come from anywhere: maybe a "creativity in practice" area within the art and design zone, which will include a live art lesson from Robin Hood Primary School, Birmingham. Or from the first NASEN Annual Poetry Competition. The topic, "inclusion", is open to primary and secondary age categories, with prizes for the three best poems in each.

lThe debate takes place on March 9, 9.30am. Tickets cost pound;10 plus VAT, for either the morning or afternoon sessions, and pound;15 plus VAT for both sessions

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