Joan Parr

14th September 2012 at 01:00
Creative Scotland's head of education talks about national moves to drive the creative side of learning, misunderstandings about its new approach to project funding and what it will be doing at next week's Scottish Learning Festival. Interview by Elizabeth Buie

The theme of next week's Scottish Learning Festival is Creative Learning . Creative Thinking. How can Creative Scotland contribute to that debate?

We've been working for the past two years on the Scottish government's Creative Learning Action Plan. It was originally signed off by cabinet secretaries Hyslop and Russell in September 2010 and it's a partnership of organisations all committed to making creative learning more integrated into Scotland's various national organisations concerned with learning: Creative Scotland, Education Scotland, the General Teaching Council for Scotland, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Skills Development Scotland and Scotland's Colleges.

Are there any sessions at the SLF that you are particularly looking forward to?

Creative Scotland is running a programme of events from its stand in the main hall (stand LA1) including workshops focusing on animation, film, dance, theatre, poetry and "how to write a song in 30 minutes". Young people will also be on hand to demonstrate their skills. The seminar programme and education showcase feature nine events run by the Creative Learning Networks from local authorities across the country, illustrating inspiring case studies.

Creative Scotland has come under fire recently for changes to its funding mechanism - replacing annual support with project-by-project funding. What will that mean for education projects?

It's not project by project - that's a misinterpretation. It's programmes of work, which means that organisations can apply for funding for their core costs, not just for project costs - and they absolutely include education and learning work.

Is the overall pot of money smaller?

No. There is a slight reduction in the amount of money we get from government - our overall budget is pound;75 million, pound;50 million from government, pound;25 million from lottery. There will be a reduction of 2 per cent on the money we get from government over the next three years but actually we are expecting an increase in our lottery funding, now that the Olympics have been dealt with.

What is the future of the Youth Music Initiative?

It's still going strong. We've got the funding this year for it. We're also about to publish a youth arts strategy.

Can you give us a broad-brush idea of what the youth arts strategy will involve?

It's about greater collaboration. We have already existing a number of youth arts organisations - for example, the Scottish Youth Theatre, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, youth orchestras and YDance - but we're looking for more partnership working, a more joined-up approach to programming nationally, not just with these organisations.

Will the guarantee that all children have a year's tuition in a musical instrument by P6 continue beyond next year?

Creative Scotland's budget for the Youth Music Initiative is confirmed at pound;10 million for 2012-13 and is indicative, at the same amount, for subsequent years 2013-15.

Have other areas of the expressive arts been affected by council or other public sector budget cuts?

The expressive arts have always been a soft target. However, the main focus of the government action plan is about creativity and is looking beyond the expressive arts and how we get creativity right across the curriculum, so that we are encouraging creativity in science and maths and the whole spectrum of subject areas.

Has Curriculum for Excellence created more space in the curriculum for the expressive arts?

It has, partly because of the emphasis on active learning, experiential learning, engagement and skills - so the development of creative skills, which is a skill set that has a resonance with all the subject areas, and also the emphasis on higher order thinking skills are important, too.

Where are the links between higher order thinking skills and creativity?

It came most noticeably to my attention when I saw the Excellence Group paper published last year, which contains a taxonomy of higher order thinking skills with knowledge at the bottom, then understanding, then various others such as analysing, but creativity is at the top.

Sir Ken Robinson has argued that children lose their creative impulses as they move through school and face a `hierarchy of subjects' in which the arts are always at the bottom. Do you agree?

Historically, that has been the case. I think it's changing now. That partnership of organisations involved with the government's action plan would certainly seem to indicate that it's changing.

Are there any international examples of arts education you would hold up as worthy of emulation?

The one that springs to mind is The Big Thought in Dallas, Texas, which is a wonderful city-wide solution to getting expressive arts and creativity to every child, no matter what their background.

Do Scots tend to repress their creativity?

We have an inclination to do that, yes. But there are historical reasons for that.


Born: Dundee, 1959

Education: St Andrew's Primary, Craigie High, Dundee; MA in history, University of Edinburgh; PGDE, University of Dundee, 1999

Career: Researcher, School of Oriental and African Studies, London; U.S. embassy, Cameroon and British embassy, Abu Dhabi; education officer, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle, and Callendar House, Falkirk; education officer and head of education, Scottish Arts Council; portfolio manager for education, learning and young people, Creative Scotland.

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