The RSA’s Tom Gilliford talks to Innovative Education Faculty member Fran Plowright about her creative approach to school governance and why she thinks it would be a good idea for other schools to adopt the position of Creativity link governor.
Tom: Can you tell us a little about yourself, and your role as governor?
I’m Fran Plowright, I work in education and I’m a youth engagement producer & consultant. I’m Creativity Link Governor at Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form.
Tom: Creativity link governor? That’s not a standard position, why did you create it?
Fran: Part necessity, part passion. Stoke Newington School has always been strong in terms of its arts provision – so one of our reasons for suggesting the link creativity role was to support the school to find more ways of embedding creativity across the curriculum and ensuring link up between disciplines. We all know with the change in government since 2010 we’ve increasingly seen creativity de-prioritised within our education system - creativity is a core part of who we are but now more than ever we need champions at governor level to fly the flag.
Tom: What’s your motivation for thinking that creativity should be at the top of the agenda?
Fran: More than ever before, young people will be going out into a world that is increasingly uncertain, some to do jobs which don’t even exist yet. The school’s vision and mission is to make sure that creative activities are part of the full and rounded education that all its pupils receive. Creativity isn’t a treat, or a privilege for good behaviour, it’s a right. All our students, whatever their background should experience all the amazing arts and culture that London has to offer. This will give them the chance not only to see the career opportunities that lie in the arts and digital sectors but also to engage with the skills of problem solving, tenacity, intellectual bravery and creative communication that will be valued in whatever careers they choose to go into.
Tom: Is that the role of a governing body?
Fran: As a school it is our duty to engage with this side of the education process. We have to make sure we are not only supporting the curriculum to be ‘broad and balanced’ but also outward facing in terms of the world of opportunities there are out there for our students.
Tom: Why did you take up this responsibility?
Fran: I share the position with Bel Reed. Both of us come from an arts / design and media background. I was also very involved in the whole Creative Partnerships programme, as a practitioner, project manager and Creative Agent, back in the days when there was more funding available for some amazing projects to take place in schools. Bel's background at the Arts Council and her current role as education & skills lead at the Design Council has meant that she has always been involved loosely with “the arts” at Stoke Newington School. The problem is that with a brief as wide as that, it often felt that the remit was too big and vague to be able to have any real impact. We both felt it was important to make this role more formal and strategic and that with our backgrounds, contacts and skills we were the people to do it.
Tom: This could be seen as a bit left field for a governing body, you must have faced some barriers?
Fran: To be honest, none! We made the proposal to the Chair of Governors and Head Teacher and they said yes straight away.
Tom: That’s great. I suppose the next big question really has to be, have you had any impact?
Fran: It’s still early days but one of our first tasks was supporting the school in the submission of their Artsmark Platinum application. We were selected to take part in the pilot scheme, and our head of expressive arts has subsequently been asked to deliver workshops as an exemplar school demonstrating how we use creativity to raise attainment. The application process is now a much more valuable tool in itself, it allowed us to work with the Head of Expressive Arts (also the head of creativity), and also the Head of Literacy (now seconded to Hackney learning Trust as a creative Learning Consultant). We got the school to reflect upon and share more widely how they use creativity as a lever for raising attainment across the board.
Tom: Would you suggest that other schools create the position?
Fran: There has never been a more important time to have a position like this. We all know that accountability measures, reduced funding and a lack of political awareness is squeezing creativity hard. Having a creativity link governor not only helps get stuff done, but ensures the creativity agenda stays firmly on the table. The fact that we have now built creativity into our mission statement and three year strategy plan is a testament to that.
Through the RSA’s Innovative Education Network I’d love to help other schools set up the position and see what it could mean in their context. It would be amazing if every school had one person making sure that this agenda stays front and centre.
Tom: Fantastic. So, what’s next on the agenda for you and your school?
Fran: Some exciting work is already underway to get the young people to be the architects of their creative learning and to make this an integral part of student voice at Stoke Newington School. We’ve also got a whole day of INSET in creativity planned for early next year and we are in talks with the Barbican to be involved in some of the creativity training. It feels like a very pertinent and exciting time to be doing this. In the light of funding cuts, partnerships and collaborative projects this may be the way forward.
We are also forging links with Tech City and Silicone roundabout. I am a Tech London Advocate and have recently joined a working group which looks at Technology and Education and the importance of linking creative learning in schools to industry and future jobs and looks at how industry can learn from the next generation. There are always reciprocal benefits to creative approaches.
A big part of the future has got to be collaboration with groups like Innovative Education where new ideas, like a creativity link governor, can be shared, discussed and debated. I’m eager to see what else we can come up with by working together.
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