The UK is a creative hot spot, producing some of the best designers, artists, musicians and imaginative thinkers in the world. Many of these innovators lovingly recall the schools and teachers who inspired them. But many succeeded in spite of their schooling. The potential of too many others remains untapped during their journey through education.
The idea behind Creative Partnerships is a simple one. At the heart of the programme is the passionate belief that everyone is inherently creative and has the right to participate in our varied and exciting culture. Our aim is to foster effective, sustainable partnerships between schools and the widest range of cultural and creative professionals in order to develop young people's learning, both across and beyond the formal curriculum.
Since 2002, Creative Partnerships, which is government-funded, has worked with nearly 400 schools in 16 challenging areas. This year, we will be working in 20 more areas, and spreading our impact far beyond through publications and programmes.
Creative Partnerships first helps schools to identify their individual needs and then enables them to develop long-term partnerships with creative organisations and individuals. The projects aim to broaden learners'
cultural experiences, animate all aspects of the curriculum and promote systemic change. School staff and creative practitioners - from artists to scientists - develop ideas together from scratch and share their findings.
Our working definition of creativity comes from the Robinson report:
"Imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value." Creative learning is simply any learning which develops our capacity to be creative. It equips young people with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in today's world, nurturing ways of thinking and working that encourage imagination, independence, tolerance of ambiguity and risk, openness, and the raising of aspirations. Schools can and do promote creativity on their own. But collaborate with artists and others, and you create a cocktail of complementary skills that can transform learning opportunities for all adults and children involved.
Creative Partnerships programmes aim to raise achievement and to redefine what it means to "achieve" as a learner. In one sense, we are getting back to basics, to reassess what those are - what pupils need to learn, to prepare themselves for adulthood, and to negotiate that tricky business we call childhood in an exciting and empowering way.
Creative Partnerships has a unique opportunity to explore and demonstrate the value of creativity in learning, and have a radical impact on the education system.
Is it working? A national evaluation will be published in 2005. Evaluations describe successes, and the endorsements of pupils, parents, and educators give confidence to the enterprise. Every area of education policy, from changes to inspection and accountability, to new thinking about curriculums and assessment, to the promotion of teacher-led innovation, appears to be moving in a direction which supports the creativity agenda.
The test will be whether creativity returns from the covert margins to the noisy mainstream of teaching and learning, and stays there, withstanding fluctuating educational trends and restless political priorities.
Joe Hallgarten is learning director at Creative Partnerships. For information visit www.creative-partnerships.com, or contact joe.hallgarten@ creative-partnerships.com