Creative sparks can fire up the curriculum

If ever an issue of TESS had a single theme running through it, it's this. "Creative Learning . Creative Thinking" is the title of next week's Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow, but it is also supposed to be the essence of Curriculum for Excellence.

Our cover picture expresses it spectacularly. What some of the finest projects are doing is firing the imagination, sparking ideas across schools and authorities.

Putting it into words is not easy; putting it into practice is even harder. That's one reason why it is difficult - even counter-productive - to lay down guidelines for teachers, for at its best it's about imagination and capturing the inspiration of the moment.

We look at how the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh is working with primaries and secondaries in an inter-disciplinary project around Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (pages 18-21). The ground has been prepared through exploratory meetings of the city's Creative Learning Network, continuing professional development sessions to inspire, and principal teacher meetings to share ideas. Sparking them off is artistic director Mark Thomson at the Lyceum.

But what the city's arts and learning manager Linda Lees hopes is that teachers will appreciate that this is not about a single project - it's about thinking differently. So if departments across a school have collaborated on a creative project, they may be inspired to pursue their own ideas with colleagues in future.

Edinburgh is not alone. In Garnock Academy, an English teacher is running literacy courses through computer games development (page 23). At Clydebank High, staff are developing innovative approaches to assessment, to drive up and record achievement in the new curriculum (News Focus, pages 12-15).

By sharing ideas, they are developing confidence in their own judgement of pupils. So if teachers have to assess what a child has achieved, they can do it not through ticklists of attainment but a meaningful all-round view of a pupil's development. All this takes time, of course, and adds to their workload (page 9).

This year's festival takes place as the first cohort of CfE pupils enters its third year of broad general education - hence Project Dream's focus on S3s. Here is a model of how schools can explore exciting, creative work in a broad general framework, while reaping benefits for myriad subjects.

These projects and others will feature in the festival, as will distinguished speakers such as Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA (page 35), and between sessions visitors can scour the exhibition for resources (page 25).

The measure of the festival's success will not be in numbers, but the depth of understanding and sparks of creativity that teachers take back to school to ignite future ideas and projects.

gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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