Dauntsey’s School Head of Art Victoria Rose and Head of DT Alun Pickford argue that creative teaching brings both a competitive edge and skills for life

In one of the most watched TED talks of all time, the late educationalist Sir Ken Robinson defined creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value”.  He argued that our education system has “mined our minds… for a particular commodity” (intellect), while “neglecting the gift of human imagination”.  He also suggested that school teaching has traditionally weeded out creativity: “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it”. Robinson’s argument was that creativity is as important as literacy and should be given the same status.

His words certainly provide food for thought. Creativity and imagination set you apart in a world where technology and Artificial Intelligence are taking over a multitude of roles. The iterative process involved in studying creative subjects leads pupils to constantly question their work, want to improve or add and try new approaches – a valuable skill in the workplace, and in life.

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Victoria Rose and art students at Dauntsey’s School

Traditionally, art and related subjects such as Design Technology have been thought of as less important than courses perceived to be more ‘academic’ such as history, English and the sciences. The STEAM movement, spearheaded by academics and students at Rhode Island School of Design, sought to bring all five STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) together. Their goal was to educate the world of academia about the importance of incorporating creative thinking and visual learning into the classroom. 

This is not a new concept – think of Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci, a master not only of art but also scientific invention. More recently, Great Britain’s Industrial Revolution made art, science and engineering close and successful companions. The STEAM movement is growing in popularity, but a lingering perception remains that the arts are ‘soft’ subjects with less value than the core subjects on the curriculum.  

The Design Council argues that good design capability can boost Britain’s competitiveness, and we have a world-class reputation for art and design reaching back centuries. But how many have heard of British designer Sir Jonathan Ive?  As Chief Design Officer of Apple, he designed the iPhone, iPad and MacBook. Without this design genius, Apple would be essentially another engineering company.  Creativity is the magic ingredient that turned it into the multi-billion-dollar business it is today.

“The iterative process in creative subjects leads pupils to constantly question, improve and try new approaches –  a valuable skill in the workplace”

In its 2019 report, The Durham Commission on Creativity and Education said that creativity is the driver of economic growth and innovation, stating that our national economy has been boosted by the success of the creative industries in the past ten years. Such success will only continue, the report continues, as long as we can ensure that young people are given the opportunity to experience and develop the skills in art, drama, music, design, craft and digital that are the foundation of the creative industries. The report says that creativity is now among the most sought-after clusters of skills among all employers.

If, as Sir Ken Robinson argued, we continue to stifle creativity in our education approach, we do so at our peril.  Art and Design Technology should not be seen as an easy option. Creative subjects develop skills across a range of different areas: problem solving, independent thinking, planning, development, organisation, communication and presentation. These are skills for life, not just for a degree course at university.

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