Ofsted: drum up a love of learning and get creative

15th January 2010 at 00:00
As the former poet laureate laments a 'tick-box' culture in schools, the watchdog's new report prizes innovation

Schools can boost pupil performance with "creative" learning techniques such as drumming to teach multiplication tables, according to a new report from Ofsted.

Memorable, practical activities make learning relevant and enjoyable to pupils, the report said.

But it also warned that some teachers were reluctant to branch out from traditional methods because they feared not hitting test targets.

The report follows comments made last week by former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, who criticised a "tick-box" culture in schools that does not value "emotionally educated" responses.

Patrick Leeson, director of education and care at Ofsted, said: "When teachers use more creative approaches, pupils' learning is more relevant and engaging, it fires their imaginations, they enjoy the challenge and feel a greater sense of achievement."

In one of the 44 schools that participated in the report, a Year 8 class chanted multiplication tables while playing drums. This "creative" teaching style helped children better understand, remember and enjoy times tables, the report said.

Mary Tasker, deputy head at Brunswick House Primary School in Maidstone, one of the schools featured in the report, worked with a "creative practitioner" to change teaching styles in 2007. "We did a few wacky things - for example making sculptures out of fruit to explain dehydration," she said.

In another lesson, children re- enacted a Roman battle outside to give them a more real experience to write about afterwards.

"The principles of what we did with the creative practitioner stayed in place," Ms Tasker said. "It did influence our way of planning lessons."

Children learnt more because they were taught using all their senses, she added. "When children experienced it with more than one sense, they tended to remember better. You're not going to get good stuff out of them if they're bored."

Ofsted said that creative methods were less effective when teachers worried about how it helped them meet performance targets. But it warned that creative techniques could not replace the importance of grounding pupils in basic skills.

Ms Tasker agreed: "You can't do everything creatively because you have to teach the underlying skills."

Speaking at the North of England Education Conference in York last week, Sir Andrew Motion said the national curriculum "requires students to tick boxes of information, rather than provoking and recognising other kinds of attainment".

At the same conference, Sir Michael Bichard, a former permanent secretary at the Department of Education, said: "Sadly, too often our education system does educate people out of their creativity and that is partly because the arts are too often at the bottom of the list; the 'nice to have' add-ons rather than central components of a rounded education."

In addition, the report warned teachers of the need for planning of creative activities and told staff not to allow pupils to follow their own interests in class.

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