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Eight school networks will develop creativity to inspire long term curriculum change – but not necessarily in arts subjects.

pupil presenting a creative project in class

Taylor Wilcox

Arts Council England (ACE) has pledged £2.78m for a pilot to develop creative thinking across the national curriculum.

Eight schools selected as Creativity Collaboration network leaders will in turn work with at least eight other local schools to share learning and creative practices in primary and secondary education.

Jointly funded by ACE’s National Lottery Project Grants and arts education charity Freelands Foundation, each network will receive around £350,000 to develop creativity in subjects across the curriculum.


Schools will lead on different subjects depending on their specialisms, sharing knowledge and best practice inside their networks.

The pilot aims to establish and sustain conditions for nurturing creativity in schools - a key recommendation of the 2019 Durham Commission.

Jo Cottrell, Executive Leader of the University of Winchester Academy Trust, one of the participating networks, said the programme will “get to grips with the pedagogy of teaching with creativity across all subjects”.

“The overall aim is to enrich children’s lives and chances by developing them and their teachers into confident, creative problem solvers.”

Though the programme’s cross-curricular focus is wider than ACE’s usual remit, the funder says it is confident the networks can change education policy and spark “greater recognition of the value of creativity across education”.

It expects the programme to contribute towards a key goal of its Let’s Create strategy: ensuring every child can enjoy culture and develop their own creativity.

The pilot will run until July 2024, with networks working alongside universities, researchers and creative practitioners to achieve their proposals.

Nurturing creative skills

The Creativity Collaboration networks enter the scheme with different focus areas, from supporting future teachers to providing opportunities to disadvantaged children.

Each shares an overarching goal of applying creative skill sets to less traditionally creative subjects.

Anglian Learning’s Lesley Morgan and James Woodcock described their network’s plans as a form of “intellectual creativity”.

Pupils will be asked to draw upon their understanding of different topics, disciplines and subjects by applying them to new contexts. This could include designing environmentally conscious housing in a geography lesson from knowledge gained through science, economics and design technology lessons, they explained.

Across each network, teachers will be tasked with developing their teaching to place more emphasis on problem solving and dynamic thinking.

Some of the networks will also work with universities to introduce more creativity into teacher training.

“The view is that we train teachers to use creative practice and pedagogy so that everything is taught in a creative and innovative way,” said Welbeck Primary School Headteacher Rebecca Gittins, leader of the Nottingham Schools Trust network.

Towards a creative curriculum

Network leaders believe the pilot could change the way creativity is taught. 

It is hoped both practising and prospective teachers will share new teaching methods, allowing research to evolve beyond the participating trusts.

Morgan and Woodcock said the main goal is to give schools a better understanding of what creativity means in education - a “hugely contested” question.

“It is hard to define, as some people will talk about it in terms of creative pedagogies, some in terms of the arts, some in terms of thinking creatively.

“If it does require changes in the curriculum, we want that to happen.”

Although the Government has not funded the project directly, research from the project could lead to calls for more creativity to be embedded in the national curriculum.

“I think that would be brilliant,” Cottrell said, adding that the national curriculum’s focus on knowledge acquisition had restricted access to children’s creativity in recent years.

“The Government are saying children’s mental health should be at the centre of the curriculum and if they mean that, they need to allow this innovation to take place.”