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South West Fellows recently organised a debate in Plymouth focused on creativity in education, particularly in a time of austerity.  It links into the plethora of blogs coming out of the RSA around creativity, lead by Adam Lent's blog Why is creativity the most important political concept of the 21st Century?. The debate was organised by Fellows in partnership with Fotonow, who create new opportunities in photography and facilitate socially motivated projects exploring visual culture across the South West of England.

The turnout of about 50 Fellows and interested others, in the week before Christmas during a howling gale, showed what an important debate question this was, and many in the audience participated with questions and comments to make it a vibrant discussion event, based around taking ideas forward.

plymouth debate
(c) Fotonow


Plymouth has a diverse landscape of educational provision and was a perfect place to hold a debate, the Plymouth School of Creative Arts opened for primary intake in September 2013, its mission to be “a centre of excellence for learning, living well and the creative arts for children from all walks of life and the wider community they form”.  The panel was made up of Andrew Brewerton (Principal, Plymouth College of Art), Steve Baker (Principal of Lipson Co-operative Academy), Dave Strudwick (Headteacher, Plymouth School of Creative Arts), Joe Hallgarten, (RSA’s Director of Education), Jonathan Clitheroe (Education consultant, Real Ideas Organisation), Steve Butts (Associate Dean Teaching and Learning, Plymouth University) who all responded to the debates question and then opened up for general discussion.

Some of the key points made by the panel are listed below, fuller transcript can be viewed here

  • What kind of creativity depends on affluence? More important to think about sustainability.
  • Should see austerity as an opportunity – austerity breeds innovation…makes people more creative
  • Don’t talk enough about creativity, talk more about the challenges, creativity should always be considered as an approach to education
  • There are advantages about having less in a time of austerity – amazing what the response can be to having less
  • In times of austerity challenge is key to look at a different model of thinking, diversity and having better well-being
  • If/when austerity hits it will be a good opportunity to focus on what only schools can do
  • Biggest challenge to keep alive is how to manage creativity in this world
  • Need creativity to break connections – students are taught to bring this together

— Eleanor Bernardes (@Nor_edu) December 12, 2013

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One of my favourite comments was a quote on how creativity in education showed be viewed taken from Pina Bausch the German choreographer, who said I’m “not really interested in how my dancers move…I’m interested in what moves them”.

The debate ended after a couple of hours, and informal discussion carried on  afterwards.  The overarching question that seemed to come out of the debate is what how can we ensure creativity remains vitally important in education.  We hope that we may be able to hold a day’s action workshop on this subject for the whole of the South West in 2014, if you are interested in being involved, please get in touch.

If you are interested in the RSA’s work in education, keep an eye on the blog site, the Learning, Cognition and Creativity page on the RSA’s website.  Finally, you can support the RSA’s latest project on Pupil Design Awards on kickstarter where the team are seeking the crowds support to launch the pilot for an innovative design project for pupils of secondary school age.

Lou Matter is the Programme Manager for West and South West. You can follow her @loumatter


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