TES letters

17th October 2014 at 01:00

To teach creativity, we must nurture possibility

Tom Bennett is right to caution that creativity cannot be taught (Feature, 10 October). He is also right to note the challenges of attempting to measure it. Where he is wrong is in saying that anxieties about stifling creativity are misplaced. Depressingly, many young people have only the most limited opportunities to step outside the cognitive box.

While creativity can be complex and mystifying, understanding and promoting it requires a system that gives schools the confidence to generate meaningful creative spaces and teachers the necessary skills to identify and nurture the often elusive creative moment. It might then be possible to know what, and what not, to teach when it comes to creativity.

Dr Dave Trotman
Reader in creative education, Newman University, Birmingham

Maybe you can't teach creativity, but you can certainly encourage and enable it.

I am a retired teacher and a painter. To paint something original, I need time and peace and quiet. I also need skills, which can be taught and practised. Skills teaching is strong in schools, but time and peace and quiet are rare indeed. Children are surrounded by noisy peers and exhortative teachers. And then their work is handed in to be judged against learning objectives. What a crushing disincentive to budding artists this can be.

Yet in spite of all this, schools are full of wonderful artwork, exciting music and inspired writing. Teachers can develop skills and nurture creativity - and they do, all the time.

Barbara Curry
Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

Rising to the `cognitive challenge'

The news that three reading schemes made no difference to literacy progress ("Tough lessons to learn about how to improve literacy", 10 October) has the same underlying message as Tom Bennett's brilliant exposure of the fallacy that creativity can be taught. Higher-order skills cannot be taught through practice, however frequent or well-intentioned. As Vygotsky showed in the 1930s, they can only be developed by cognitive challenge - most directly by setting students open-ended problems to solve through discussion.

The proven schemes for raising students' ability to think, such as Adey and Shayer's Cognitive Acceleration, all work in this way. We are finding that regular lessons in Let's Think in English, which is based on Adey and Shayer's work, significantly raise attainment in speaking, reading and writing - for less able and disadvantaged students as much as others.

Laurie Smith
Let's Think in English, King's College London

The downward spiral of delegation

It was sage advice from the school leader who said, "Your job is not to change the light bulbs, clear up sick, vacuum the carpet or place orders. Delegate." ("How many teachers does it take to change a light bulb?", 10 October.)

Unfortunately, these tasks then end up on the plates of those lower down the hierarchy who have no one else to delegate to.

A A Mills
Semi-retired languages tutor

We have the key to unlock potential

I read with interest "Open students' eyes to their true potential" (Professional, 10 October). "Gifted and talented" young people need nurturing by staff and parents. Learners need to be empowered and motivated to take creative risks. And as staff we have a duty to expose our pupils to enrichment opportunities. I recently ran a trip to Parliament, which inspired our students and deepened their awareness of the world around them.

Furthermore, I agree that we must boost students' motivation and self-belief. Schools and colleges need to create a culture of high-order thinking and questioning skills. By developing an inquisitive ethos we can tap into the imagination of our students and unlock their true potential.

Mark Damon Chutter
Faculty lead for English, Roedean School, Brighton

Confusion reigns thanks to `illogical' rule

Former education secretary Michael Gove is an English graduate, so his understanding of Newton's Third Law - "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" - may be limited. In September 2013, he decided on the "first entry rule", meaning that only a student's first attempt at a GCSE would count towards league tables. As headteachers grapple with the madness of the Department for Education league table checking process, Mr Gove no longer has to worry about the reaction. But from the DfE's conflicting advice it is clear that confusion reigns.

This year the data will be beyond interpretation and league tables irrelevant. Perhaps I should have quoted chaos theory rather than Newton. Let us hope they realise that the "first entry rule" defies logic and go back to what we all care about: what students gain when they finish their education with us at 16.

Julie Bloor
Principal, Shirebrook Academy, Nottinghamshire

In defence of independent inspection

Colin Richards' attack on independent schools is unfounded ("Private schools must show grace under fire", Letters, 10 October). The private sector is perfectly happy to "quote comparable inspection outcomes" and has made this clear to the Department for Education. Independent school inspections are, in our experience, at least as rigorous as those delivered by Ofsted and in several demonstrable areas more detailed and exacting.

Julie Robinson
Education and training director, Independent Association of Preparatory Schools

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today