Creativity is not confined to arts alone

7th November 2003 at 00:00
My family visited Egypt for the first time during our October holiday and we agreed that it was the most amazing holiday we've ever experienced.

Friendly people and amazing landscape apart, what had the greatest impact was not just the temples and tombs but the sophistication, skill, creativity and endeavour of an ancient society which has left its mark on our civilisation in so many different ways.

The question of what conditions existed to allow this to develop so long ago consumed me on my return, when I was preparing a workshop for last week's Creativity in Education conference organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland and the IDES Network. Scotland is a small nation and to maintain (at worst) or enhance our prosperity we have to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

David Hargreaves, in his speech "Towards Education for Innovation" (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2000), says: "Unless more people leave formal education with an enhanced capacity to engage in, and make an active contribution to, innovation, then much of what we label creativity and inventiveness and entrepreneurship and enterprise will remain unexploited to the detriment of both individuals and society."

So there we have it; creativity is on the agenda.

I have to admit when the Creativity in Education materials arrived on my desk, my heart sank. Creativity, I thought, is something art departments do and, having ended my career in art around 1965, I didn't feel I was in a position to contribute much.

However, when I began to read and came across definitions of creativity which included "openness to change", "flexibility" and "resilience", I realised that creativity spreads its influence much wider than the arts.

The creative disposition is not just a special talent given to the few, but can be developed and enhanced.

If we accept that creativity is concerned with creating something new - an idea, a different way of looking at something or making an artefact - then the development of such a disposition lies not only in the traditional areas of art, craft, design and drama but indeed across the curriculum. And a host of examples of good practice are already in place in schools.

In English, social subjects, religious and moral education, science and many other subjects, creative and extended writing is approached by means of writing frameworks and scaffolding. Along with a good knowledge and skill base, this helps to avoid blank page block, which is such a big impediment for so many young people.

Edward de Bono's "Six Hats" approach to thinking and problem solving, for example, is used by many teachers from all sectors to great effect. Mind maps and other visual organisers assist the creative process, as do role-playing and simulations.

Even subjects which may not immediately leap to mind as the perfect spawning ground for developing creativity, maths for instance, have great potential. If you are sceptical, take a look at Wendy Fortescue-Hubbard's weekly Mathagony Aunt column in TES Teacher. I learned to love algebra, along with 300 parents and pupils, on a wet Monday night in Oban last year at Wendy's fantastic workshop.

Creativity is something we cannot neglect; our young people need to develop this disposition to play their future roles effectively. And schools are probably further along this road than they realise.

Linda Kirkwood is headteacher of Oban HighIf you have any comments, e-mail scotlandplus@tes.co.uk

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