Siobhán O?Neill from the Black Country outlines the spectrum of CPD initiatives for teachers and creatives, from apprenticeship schemes to international visits
As a team, we have a strong CPD focus, exploring different levels of engagement for school staff and creatives. The professional cultural sector is relatively underdeveloped in the Black Country, as is the cultural infrastructure to support it. There are a number of small key cultural organisations but these are spread out across the four boroughs (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton). Therefore, a key aspect of our Creative Partnerships programme is to help build capacity within the sector.
Alongside a series of free development days covering themes such as ?Developing reflective, creative learners?, ?Whole school creativity?, ?Culture, community and creativity?, we run a number of long-term opportunities.
In 2003, Creative Partnerships The Black Country initiated the Creative Apprenticeship scheme with local organisations aliss (artists and learning information and support service network for the West Midlands www.aliss.org.uk) and The Public (http://www.thepublic.com) giving nine creatives the opportunity to work alongside a lead creative professional in a school. The placements gave the apprentices an opportunity to extend their practice through observing and eventually leading on projects. The scheme also focused on professional aspects such as managing budgets and timekeeping.
The apprentices gained a great deal from the project: ?I now have a much more thorough and developed understanding of working as an artist in educational settings.? Two major successes of this pilot scheme are that seven apprentices have continued to work creatively in educational settings and two apprentices who met on the scheme have set up their own creative media business with a focus on working within education. The importance of the mentors has also been acknowledged and we now have an extended pool of creatives. For this reason Creative Partnerships and aliss have decided to offer this opportunity to more creatives within the area in 2005.
Training the Trainers
We have also identified an approach to creativity training with the emphasis on investing in people. Twelve participants based in the Black Country ? seven teachers and five creative professionals ? will take part in a five-day pilot creativity training programme, facilitated by Mathilda Joubert (Director of Softnotes, affiliated to the Creativity Centre at the Open University and Synectics). This course has its roots in Joubert?s innovative EXCITE! project. EXCITE! stands for Excellence, Creativity and Innovation in Teaching and Education, and looked at ways in which teachers could be trained, using creativity techniques used in international businesses for nearly 50 years.
The course has a dual function. It will use training materials that develop teacher creativity and also equip teachers to help their students develop their creativity. ?Training the Trainers? will equip these twelve people to effect such transformations in schools over the next year.
Project Zero visit
During the summer of 2004, 15 representatives from the Black Country were given the opportunity to attend Harvard University?s ?Project Zero? Summer Institute. Project Zero (http://www.pz.harvard.edu) encourages teaching for understanding and promotes creative thinking within and across disciplines.
Over 50 people working with Creative Partnerships travelled to Harvard University. The Black Country sent a mixed group of teachers and creatives, including five of our Creative Agents (creative professionals who act as facilitators between schools and the creative sector). This professional development has meant that many of the Agents have reappraised how they work with schools.
?Creative Partnerships The Black Country has really invested in our learning as we?ve gone along ? something I?ve never experienced in an organisation before,? commented Janette Bushell, Creative Agent.
One of the key findings from this trip has been about questioning and the importance of reflection. Every activity we encounter will be informed by the questioning developed at Harvard, and through this we will extend boundaries by pushing ourselves and our schools out of their comfort zones and beyond their educational models.
What is Creative Partnerships?
Creative Partnerships is a government- funded programme, delivered through Arts Council England, that aims to give schoolchildren in deprived areas throughout England the opportunity to develop creativity in learning and participate in cultural activities.
In bringing together creative people, teachers and young people, one area that Creative Partnerships focuses on is CPD. At the heart of the programme is the belief that bringing creatives into the school environment can fundamentally change how everyone learns, but in parallel, there is also a recognition that a new set of skills is often needed to make these new partnerships flourish.
Sixteen Phase One partnerships were established in July 2002 as an initial pilot. The programme has been extended to cover 36 areas, currently being rolled out.
Creative Partnerships is funded through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (with additional funds from the Department for Education and Skills). http://www.creative-partnerships.com