CLASP – Partner One Report – England

The redress of creative teaching and learning through specialist
programmes and strategic partnerships.
Bob Jeffrey
Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology
The Open University
Milton Keynes
Paper given at ESRC The Creativity in Education Seminar Series, University of the West of
England, Birmingham, 2 July 2005
A creativity discourse has emerged in this decade to counter the performativity one that
dominated the 1990s and teachers and schools are beginning to redress this imbalance and
allow the re-emergence of their past creative values. This research shows how some primary
schools have been using institutionalising critical events in the guise of specialist programmes
and partnership strategies to achieve these objectives and we conclude that these may be
examples of a third phase of policy and practice in education in which reform policies are
incorporating creative practices.
Keywords: creative, teaching, redress, critical, events.
The redress of creative teaching through critical events
The 1990s was a significant time of reform of English primary education, one in which
government and its agencies took an increased controlling role over the curriculum and
pedagogies of teaching and learning. The government introduced a national curriculum
alongside new national assessments at Key Stage 1 and 2 and this was followed by a
prescriptive programme for the teaching of literacy and numeracy. The evaluations of a new
national system of inspections, carried out by the Office for Standards in Education [Ofsted],
together with the results of national assessments were published to enhance parental choice
and to identify a category of ‘failing’ schools.
During these reforms primary teachers perceived that their professional autonomy was being
undermined (Helsby 1999; Woods and Jeffrey 1996; Woods et al. 1997) and in particular that
their creativity was marginalised in the pursuit of school performance to maintain a market
position (Woods and Jeffrey 1996; Woods et al. 1997; Jeffrey and Woods 1998; Ball and
Gewirtz 2000; Ball 2000). The developing culture of performativity (Broadfoot 1999; Power
1994) was pervasive and deleterious for relationships between teachers, teachers and learners
and schools and local authorities (Jeffrey 2003), the terrors of performativity (Ball 2003,
2000) for some teachers resulted in high levels of stress (Troman and Woods 2001).
The predominate response during the 1990s to the reforms in primary schools ‘was one of
incorporation, in which many teachers were able to adapt the changes into existing ways of
working – at least to some extent’ (Osborn e McNess, and Broadfoot 2000, p. 68 – their
italics). There were a few isolated examples of appropriation (Woods 1995; Jeffrey and
Woods 2003) or creative mediation (Osborn, McNess, and Broadfoot 2000) in which teachers
managed to preserve what they thought best about their practice and protected children, to
some extent, from what they considered to the be the worst effects of the change.
However, as the millennium turned and the full and extended power of Ofsted inspections
became routine along with the annual publication of league tables of schools test results and
the literacy and numeracy programmes became more prescriptive the situation became a story
of diminishing creative pedagogies (Ball 2000; Woods, Jeffrey, and Troman 2000; Alexander
2004; Troman and Woods 2001; Jeffrey 2002; Jeffrey and Woods 1998). The performativity
discourse and its specific policies were dominant and those teachers interested in creative
pedagogies found themselves not so much preserving their values and pedagogies as striving
to find ways to make the prescriptive programmes, set lesson plans and objectives led
assessments, creative experiences for themselves and students. They had to challenge the
prescription with small but significant adaptations to the programmes to counter student
instrumentalism (Jeffrey 2003). Students felt themselves part of the ‘team’ whose
responsibility it was to assist the improvement of test results for the school and for the
community status it reflected (ibid.). The performativity discourse is not one in which schools
and teachers are left alone once they have gained satisfactory awards or grades. The discourse
is continually urging improved performance each year, term, month and week; witness the
call from Ofsted and the determination of the DfES to focus on ‘coasting schools’ [Ref?],
those who regularly achieve good or satisfactory reports and a mid league table place are now
exhorted to improve performance annually.
The performativity discourse was, by the millennium turn, pervasive and powerful to the
extent that teachers and educationalists spoke its language (Ball 1990) and attempts to
incorporate it into prior value systems were diminishing as the performativity technology
(Ball 1990) dominated practice (Jeffrey and Woods 1998).
However, in spite of performativity acting as a moral technology (Ball 1990) it is possible to
distinguish between the discourse of performativity and its technology. The latter brooks few
challenges, for the inspection audits carried out by external – Ofsted - and internal evaluation
processes are focused on an assessment of the adequacy of lesson plans, the quality and
effectiveness of their implementation and delivery and the testing of the internalisation of
lesson objectives by students and the improvements made against previous audits. Schools
and teachers have to produce the written material in a standard format, teach to a standard
format and they and the students are assessed against standard formats. It is these
technologies that are graded and reported to school governors, parents and the wider public.
Discourses, on the other hand, can be countered from within and by reference to alternative
and allied discourses (Davies 1990; Davies and Harre 1994). They are resisted and
reconstructed within the ‘field’ (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977), although this requires
challenges to the dominant power of the discourse and recourse to other discourses to use as
alternative perspectives in argument. Teachers in primary schools at the turn of the
millennium were probably surprised to find such an international discourse available to them,
however, there was one.
At the same time as the performativity discourse was pervading education an international
discourse of creativity (Jeffrey and Craft 2001) began to gain ground within economic,
industrial, government and educational arenas. Its message was that creativity is eminently
suited to the multiple needs of life in a new century, promoting as it does skills of adaptation,
flexibility, initiative, and the ability to use knowledge on a different scale than had been
realised hitherto (Seltzer and Bentley 1999). The commissioning of a national report on
creativity and culture in education in 1999 (NACCCE) acknowledged the United Kingdom
government’s view that creativity was relevant to schools, although the same department, the
DfEE was planning and implementing more performativity procedures at the same time. The
importance of this discourse was recognised by the Office for Standards in Education who
published a report in in 2003 called 'Excellence and Enjoyment: a strategy for primary
schools' (Ofsted 2003) where they identified creativity as a significant factor in educational
experience. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) supported this initiative by
commissioning a literature review of creativity, a report into creativity in the national
curriculum and followed this by inserting a set of criteria for ensuring that creativity was
included in each subject area and established a website where learners and teachers were able
to submit examples of creative practices (QCA 2000). The government also funded Creative
Partnerships, a £40m programme to develop creativity in learning and participation in cultural
activities (Partnerships 2002) and another large government programme to raise achievement
in deprived areas – the Education Action Zones – also used some creative pedagogies to meet
their targets.
Other challenges to the performativity discourse have come from within this ‘field’ (Bourdieu
and Passeron 1977). Apart from research literature publications, a continual debate took place
in the press involving some critics of the performativity discourse such as the late Professor
Ted Wragg who wrote regular critical articles in the weekly Times Educational Supplement
newspaper. Added to these challenges to the dominant discourse were the small number of
schools who had a strong enough community base and the foresight to appropriate the reforms
and to maintain their creative pedagogic values and who became beacons of challenge to the
idea of conforming to performativity (Craft 2000, 2002; Jeffrey and Woods 2003). In short,
two complex related policy agendas are discernable in ‘the heat and noise of reform’ (Ball
1998), p125).
These initiatives were seized upon by teachers and schools to firstly confront constraint and
then redress the existence of creativity teaching and learning policies through specialist
programmes and strategic partnerships from the situation of the 1990’s in which they had
been marginalised. The research site institutions contained supporters of a creative approach
to teaching and learning and they took advantage of the growing creativity discourse to
support their interests and in some cases called upon government funds available for such
The Critical Event
We noted one specific strategy evident in our co-ordination of an ESRC seminar programme
we administered from the Spring of 2004 until the Autumn of 2005 - that of critical events
being used to redress creative teaching rather than represent it as it had done a decade
previously. This programme included six seminars in six different regions of the country with
over sixty papers given, in which a large number of them focused on creative teaching and
learning projects involving special events and projects additional to the normal curriculum in
schools. Many of these were related to the government alternative government programmes
and involved community relations and engagement (Craft, Jeffrey, and Chappell 2006).
The events used to begin the redress of creative teaching were similar to the critical events
that Peter Woods noted in the late 1980’s exemplified for him creative teaching. The structure
of a critical event went through well-defined stages of conceptualisation, preparation and
planning, divergence, convergence, consolidation, and celebration. Outcomes for learners
included positive attitudes to learning, new found confidences, motivation for learning,
enhanced disposition, and skills in listening to others and being listened to, self discovery,
realisation of abilities and interests, a ‘coming out’ of new found self, blending in to previous
impenetrable cultures and emotional development. The events stirred up the adrenalin,
sharpened senses of awareness, marshalled energies and abilities, even summoning up new
ones. The experiences were carthartic, providing a spark which touched off individuals and
groups alike and which led to revelations about one and others. There was a refinement of the
art of learning. Students learnt the skills of communication in a variety of media, how to
research, to find things out, how to conceive, develop and express ideas, to self evaluate, to
reflect critically. They were challenged, stretched, fulfilled, they learnt about others including
teachers and other professionals, about the nature of working co-operatively in a group,
democratic procedures and decision making. They realised that they could both enhance the
group and be enhanced by it, that their own worth was valued and that they could value the
work of others. There was respect and dignity for both self and others (Woods 1993).
During the gradual development of the performativity discourse and its technology in the
1990s Peter Woods and his team carried out research documenting and characterising creative
teaching (Woods 1990, 1993, 1995; Woods and Jeffrey 1996; Jeffrey 2001, 2003, Jeffrey and
Woods, 1997, 1998, 2003). Initial identification of this phenomenon (Woods, 1990) was
followed by study of exceptional educational events (Woods, 1993), and adaptations of
creative teachers to the National Curriculum (1995). We were also concerned with portraying
the nature of creative teaching. Prominent features include innovative behaviour, teacher
ownership and control of the pedagogical process, and relevance to pupil cultures and
generally accepted social values.
Considering the relationship among these criteria, we conclude that the higher the relevance
of teaching to children's lives, worlds, cultures and interests, the more likelihood there is that
pupils will have control of their own learning processes. Relevance aids identification,
motivation, excitement and enthusiasm. Control, in turn, leads to ownership of the knowledge
that results. If relevance, control and ownership apply, the greater the chance of creative
learning resulting – something new is created, there is significant change or ‘transformation’
in the pupil – i.e. innovation (Woods 2002, 1999). We have defined creative learning as
learning that is controlled by students and recognised by them as making a relevant change to
their learning, thus creating something new, and leading to their ownership of knowledge (as
opposed, for example, to learning as instruction or simply for tests).
The critical events that Woods documented at the beginning of this exploration of teacher
creativity fro primary schools was part of a wider curriculum approach to project work in
primary schools that had developed in the 1970s and 1980’s but it had been superseded by a
subject centred focus.
The dominance of the performativity discourse and its strategic policies has changed the
nature of primary school curriculum and pedagogy from one in which the former was often
delivered through a topic or project cross curricular approach, although not always
proficiently or efficiently (Alexander 1992). In this approach a range of curriculum lenses
were brought to bear on a subject based study such as The Romans (Woods 1995) or a theme
such as Our Community (Woods 1993) or the environment (Woods and Jeffrey 1996) and the
projects would integrate relevant subject lenses such as maths, art, history, geography,
biology, science into the projects. In these situations, knowledge was investigated and shared
and a workshop approach was often adopted (ibid.).
With the testing of teacher’s pedagogies, the curriculum in primary schools became subject
centered, once again as it had been prior to the 1960s and teaching and learning in the new
millennium in primary schools is now wholly organised around basic subjects and subject
periods. ‘Everything was being squeezed. We found that a lot of the music, dance, P.E. and
the artistic things were being put on the back burner’ [Veronica-S]. There was a fragmentation
of learning time into smaller and smaller slots of either 40 minutes or an hour and ten minutes
(Jeffrey 2001, 2003b).
The topic approach completely and utterly went in the Juniors. The children were losing
the skills of being able to apply different concepts to different situations and we really
felt that the topic work of the past was extremely good because children were able to
link lots of different things together to see an overall picture. We lost that for some time
because each subject became timetabled [Veronica-S].
The opportunity for individualised attention had diminished.
In a regimented, tight curriculum you don’t have the chance to see a different side to the
children We’re too prescriptive in our teaching and we have to follow the curriculum
and we have to do this and that, whereas in the olden days something might happen in
the day and you could go off and have a wonderful learning day but not necessarily
following set rules and plans and by the children taking their lead you get so much more
out of it [Tricia-S].
There was a constant conflict for teachers who were trying to ameliorate the influence of
national standardised assessments and generating a form of creative learning they thought
more effective.
Even in those schools that have appropriated the new initiatives and are world famous for
their creative approach (Jeffrey 2001) a full timetable operates in which learners go to subject
teachers for their age and level of ability for four days of the week.
The three schools on which this article is based were subject to the dominant discourse of
performativity. They regularly tested their children in years 2-6 in spite of only being required
to do it on years 2 and 6. They used a subject centred timetable and used pre-packed
curriculum programmes, which conformed to the National Curriculum and in two of the
schools the year’s programme of study was laid down for all to see. The third one allowed the
class teachers some latitude to select which order they delivered each subject topic but they
still had to produce documentary evidence of having delivered it by producing lesson plans
and lesson evaluations and student achievement records.
Nevertheless, the schools wished to provide a more diverse structure to the experience of
learning for some part of the year and they had not lost their interest in creative teaching and
learning. The particular strategy these schools used was to create a critical teaching and
learning event in conjunction with targeted external funders and activists and community
educational artists and specialist providers. They were responding to opportunities provided
by national providers such as the government’s Creative Partnership’s programme and
Education Action Zones and their contacts in the community and especially with educational
community operators. Primary schools often have had close relations with their communities
and some have made it a major part of the school’s culture and education programmes
(Jeffrey and Woods 2003).
The three sites for this research were primary schools, which were specifically involved in
creativity projects attempting to redress the influence of the performativity discourse that had
developed through the 1990s through the use of critical events that didn’t replace the
technology of performativity but by invoking the alternative discourse and alterative
initiatives available they forged a space for events that supported and redressed creative
teaching and learning. These events were legitimated by the alternative discourse and
specialist funding and at the same time did not overtly challenge the procedures and processes
of the performativity technology.
The research methods were ethnographic with the aim of accumulating rich data pertaining to
the issues under examination, and to produce 'thick description' (Geertz, C. 1973). The UK
partner project was an in-depth qualitative study with a small sample and therefore we are
unable to claim empirical generalizability but the research was strongly grounded in a wealth
of detail concerning teacher strategies, characteristics of creative learning and the meaning of
creative learning for the young participants.
The advantage of researching critical events to discern more about creative learning was that
we saw the whole process of a creative experience as it developed over time (Jeffrey and
Troman 2004) showing how relevance, ownership and control lead to innovation and a
possible transformation of learners. Over a period of time the researcher was able to capture
more of the detail of a learning engagement than the brief moments attached to single lessons
where much might be missed that was significant and where students act with creative speed
to mimic the constraints of the timetable. Following a project enabled the researcher to
immerse himself in the activity and engage in debates with students concerning their
The decision by these schools to create a critical event established a special time period, or
project within the school timetable which in some cases was integrated within the rest of the
curriculum programme, in others they were treated separately although they often involved
the use of other curriculum subjects or directly influenced separate subject study. Secondly,
the critical event also involved a considerable amount of external engagement from advisors,
artists, specialist funders, workshop providers, project specialists and visits.
The creation of a critical event (Woods, 1993) was a strategy used by these schools to redress
their creativity involving specialist programmes and strategic partnerships.
The decision by these schools to create a critical event established a special time period, or
project within the school timetable which in some cases was integrated within the rest of the
curriculum programme. In others subjects were treated separately although the programmes
often involved the use of other curriculum subjects or directly influenced separate subject
study. Secondly, the critical event also involved extensive external engagement from advisors,
artists, specialist funders, workshop providers, project specialists and external visits.
The first school – Suburbia – planned a series of curriculum weeks over two years in which
designated curriculum co-ordinators were allocated £700 to design a week of learning
experiences focusing on their specific curriculum area and involving all the staff and with
many external local contributions.
The second research site was a dance project funded by specially designated government
funds known as Education Action Zones (EAZ). These major initiatives in inner cities or
areas of deprivation focused on raising achievement and one of the methods was to make use
of arts initiatives to develop individual participation, well being and confidence. This
particular EAZ project funded a co-ordinator and dance teachers. The CLASP project focused
on two groups of Year 5 and 6 classes in two schools in a high density urban environment –
Victoria and Highways school. The dance project lasted ten weeks in each school with a
weekly half day session organised and led by a professional dancer and teacher.
The third research site was a new school built on reclaimed land and in an urban development
near a major river crossing – Tunnel school - that had put creativity at its core by appointing a
co-ordinator to develop the area across the school. She had gained over £10,000 of
government funded Creative Partnership (CP) money to develop the school grounds with the
involvement of the whole school. This national £40 million CP programme was to encourage
relations with the arts and especially community arts projects to assist the education of
students in deprived areas. The Tunnel school funds were used to employ a project artist and a
sculptor over two terms to develop the project with all the classes in the school. The school
also generated two other relevant projects during the CLASP project’s research. The first
involved a six week partnership project between one Year 4 class and an artist specialising in
Sounds in the Environment and the second was a four year project with the National Theatre.
A Year 5 class was involved in a ten week project investigating the Marlow play of Faustus.
A musician/actor/educator carried out weekly workshops at the school over two terms for half
a day a week and the final week consisted a of presentation of a short play at a local arts
centre as well as a visit to the National Theatre to see a public performance of the play. The
class tied the experience to a class project on the Tudors.
Specialist Programmes
Specialist programmes are extensive and significantly different from the mainstream activities
of the school. As with critical events they were planned in detail, often becoming whole
school projects and gaining support from governors and parents. They gained legitimacy as a
critical event due to their claims to be a significant learning experience for learners and as a
dynamic educational engagement with a wide variety of people. They often involve
collaborations with significant others and have a heightened atmosphere and climate during
the event’s process. They are portrayed as being a worthwhile addition to the general
curriculum programmes not as a substitute yet significant for attitudes and commitment to
both teaching and learning, a meaningful event (Jeffrey 2004).
Suburbia school began the process of redressing creative teaching and learning by
institutionalising two or three curriculum weeks every year. During a special Maths week the
whole school focused on pattern and shape and the maths co-ordinator arranged different
specialist activities for different age groups within the school and the class teachers also
designed specific programmes for their own class or collaboratively with other classes.
Two classes visited Watford football club, specialist PE teachers gave lessons on shape, two
classes visited the local secondary school to use some of their maths apparatus, all the
children took part in a sponsored ‘mathelon’ to raise money for the Great Ormond St
Children’s hospital in London and they had a maths trail one afternoon where the classes
moved round to every teacher carrying out a different maths activity in each classroom. The
week finished with a report to a special assembly of parents. The opportunity to teach is a
major factor in the development of teaching creatively (Woods 1990) and the opportunity to
learn also appeared to be crucial in developing creative learning,
I’d love to see a primary school running like this the whole time. There has to be
schemes of work and a National Curriculum but when I see some of those children lying
on the floor building 3D mathematical structures my heart goes out to them because we
are also going to put them under assessments, tests and yet they learn more in one
morning here and are able to apply it to a situation than sitting there the whole term in
the classroom [Veronica-S].
The whole school took part in a range of activities which brought the subject alive and made
it real, and at the same time teachers integrated other areas of the curriculum into the week to
enhance the meaningful experience of the subject focus, ‘Children are individuals aren’t they,
just as adults are and it’s up to us to offer a full range of experiences’ [Jill-S]. There was
‘much more openness about the subject and children who usually cowered at the back took
part far more openly’ [Cindy-S].
The school opened itself up to its own creativity. ‘We had an art week when everybody
thoroughly went for it because they had felt so restricted but as we’ve progressed as a school
we are becoming much freer because we’ve done the literacy strategy, we’ve done the
numeracy strategy. We’ve seen the disadvantages as well as the advantages and we’re using
the best bits of them’. They were redressing the situation through a mixture of appropriation
and reconstruction. ‘it was just thrilling to let us have a week where our teaching wasn’t set in
stone [Cindy-S] They felt freed from ‘heavy duty accountability’ (Jeffrey and Woods 1998),
It gives me a huge amount of pleasure; the teachers held their heads up high, shoulders
not down, everyone’s happy. They haven’t got the world on their shoulders and
neither have the children and that has a knock-on effect. I just get exited at the
thought that I’ve empowered someone to be able to lead a whole week in school. I’ve
empowered them to communicate with other members of staff and with outside
agencies, which is always good for us and the children have got smiles on their faces
They felt ‘free to try things because it didn’t matter if it went a bit wrong’, [Clare-M] to go off
at a ‘tangent and now we’re following it up; you can’t normally do that. The children have
taken an interest so you can actually go with it a bit more’ [Sonia-S]. They also freed their
own teaching, ‘We had no parameters so you stretched yourself. Instead of saying “I’ve only
got to get to there” I would take it further’ [Clare-S].
Strategic Partnerships
Schools and teachers also developed strategic partnerships, sometimes as part of specialist
programmes. These partnerships were with national programmes, local groups, community
operations and specialist consultants. Again, these conformed to a critical event, a unique
activity involving innovative personnel who provided a unique or unusual experience and
specific expertise. Again they were not permanent arrangements but temporary collaborations
to enhance existing programmes or stimulate new ones. The partnerships also brought new
ideas, perspectives, relationships and outcomes into the educational process.
Teachers also employed strategic co-operation with other teachers, parents, local
communities, arts organisations and artists. These partnerships were a major part of the
critical event that each school created because the school had
a very constricted timetable and we couldn’t deliver what the National Theatre (NT)
could. I had the feeling it was going to be a quality production and I was hugely
impressed by the enthusiasm and the expertise of Kate – the NT leader and her
colleagues. It offered expertise that I couldn’t deliver without investing a huge amount
of time in preparing lessons and obviously Kate comes with a huge wealth of expertise
in working with drama [Glyn-T].
These were strategic decisions to counter the constricted curriculum and the restricted time
available and invest in quality products. They also knew that there would be benefits to the
learners in terms of the main curriculum for they were able to integrate some of these critical
events into the curriculum programmes and to fulfil some of the curriculum and learning
objectives through projects that were specifically creative,
The dance project helped because the teacher didn’t actually show us the working of the
planets through their movement but when we used dance we understood what the
teacher was telling us about it. You remember because you think of the movements and
you remember that that the earth goes round slowly [Victoria-V].
Teachers also relied on the support of their institution,
I believe it’s a great environment that’s being created here. The ethos of the staff team
and the ethos of the school is one where creativity is encouraged. You’re not
frightened to try anything new because you know you won’t get criticised, somebody
won’t be looking and saying what about the literacy hour, what about the numeracy
hour. The Faustus project takes up a huge commitment of time but the benefits for the
pupils are going to far out weigh the benefits of literacy and numeracy hours [GeoffT].
These co-operations were different from those in the past where schools invited external arts
groups into the school as a bolted on activity - a breath of fresh air from the daily grind, a
reward to the children for working so hard. Instead, these were partnerships in which the
teachers played a leading role,
It’s fantastic that we have got Creative Partnerships working with us but in this school
we’re in the position to make the decision ourselves about what we want to happen.
This is our school, this is our identity, we are a group of professionals, this is our
development plan, these are our priorities and to enable us to get there and get there
with quality and excitement we need this to happen and we are able to choose the sort
of person to do it with us, for example Sid with the ‘grounded in colour’ project. It’s
far superior to past models where someone phones up and says, ‘We can do a lantern
workshop on Friday morning with Year 6, do you want it? We are now working much
more co-operatively [Alice T].
Partnerships can, according to a community arts project worker at Tunnel school be
a very dangerous way of working for teaches. It’s a very scary thing to go into. My job
is to come up with the biggest idea possible, go mad and from that you bring it down
to something that’s achievable, whereas teachers start with the little idea and if they’ve
got time they build on to that, it’s about starting small and achievable [Sid – T].
The partnership approach ensured that teachers and artists were in it together,
I think there’s a danger that artists are seen as the savour of schools in terms of
creativity because actually I think teachers are incredibly creative. To take a
curriculum with has its restrictions and dullness and its demands and make that
interesting on a day to day basis is hard. It’s very easy, in lots of ways, for me to flit
in, be exciting and go away again. I don’t have to worry about that kids’ literacy
progress etc. but nevertheless I love working alongside teachers, facing the demands
upon them. This project has had several examples of very good partnerships where I
have adapted to teachers priorities and they have learnt from me. It has worked
because the teacher has said that it’s beginning to fulfil this and that criteria and at the
same time she has said ‘I would never have thought of doing it that way, yes you’re
So we can allow more time for this project because I’m ticking the literacy box and
that feeds back into their daily teaching so they pick up ideas from me but only in the
sense that I pick up ideas from them. I think its give and take. We’re better together
than separately. I don’t ever want to go into a school and be put in a classroom on my
own because for me it’s what the teacher brings to it that’s important [Project Artist].
The Sounds Project run by Alison, a Year 4 teacher and Violet, an artist specializing in sound
in the environment included a major theme of environmental sounds familiar to the children.
Their contributions emanated from sounds they recalled close to their homes and school,
sounds that signified events, people in their lives, cultural and geographical icons and sounds
that they discovered as they began to investigate their environment,
Violet asked the children what they could hear when sitting in the classroom. They said
‘boilers, a machine, a silence, breathing, a heart, something building in my ear’.
They were asked for their favourite sounds in London and they suggested the ticking of
Big Ben, sea gulls, the waterfall in Trafalgar Square, foxes, people walking to work
striking their heels on the pavements. They are then asked to guess some London sounds
from a CD such as a market, [one child says ‘I know it my mum goes to it ‘], rain on a
window, ice pouring out of a bucket, the pings and beeps at a supermarket checkout, a
football turnstile [Field Note 10/11/03].
Using an artist in a pedagogic partnership, someone who has a particular perspective on the
world, was seen as an opportunity to bring to the surface learners knowledge in a
collaborative exercise between artist and learners who were strangers to each other and the
development of a new relationship required an initial respect of each other,
I get quite cross when it’s assumed that they only have joy for learning when there’s an
artist involved, as if when the artist walks out the door it’s all dull. It’s not and that’s
vital for the success of the project that the project sits on top of a very open culture.
Loads of artists work here and they say to the children ‘this is great, you’ve listened,
you’re engaged, this makes our job so easy, we can teach you more ‘cos you’re ready to
learn’. When they come in it sits on top of a very open minded atmosphere in
classrooms and in the school as a whole. Violet was saying she could be more playful
with it and it made a difference to how she could be (Alison-T).
The close relationship developed between teachers and learners over a period of time became
a familiar one and the incoming artist gave the teacher an opportunity to make the familiar
strange, ‘When you’ve got two people leading it part of my agenda was to take more of a
back seat and to observe more and to not be in there all the time doing it but to take a step
back, if you like’ (Alison-T).
The relevance of life and experience is a central tenet of being an artist and these coalesced in
the pedagogy of teaching creatively and creative learning. Learners who were included in this
kind of pedagogy were encouraged to bring their perspectives of the world and their
experiences to the teaching and learning situation to add to the body of knowledge being
investigated and discovered,
One child told me about: ‘the sounds of the sea gulls shouting at each other like the sea
gulls I heard at Folkestone when they came so close to you. The keep you awake at
night. I sometimes stay awake until two o’clock in the morning to listen to them. I
might go back there for Christmas. I like the sound because it is relaxing. Its real is to
me’ (Field Note 20/11/03).
Including their perspectives also meant accepting that new ways of viewing knowledge were
continually absorbed into the learning situation. Working with artists not only brought new
perspectives or interests it helped support a common theme between creative teachers and
artists, the value of uncovering, sharing, exploring experience.
Drawing on what was relevant to children strengthened the construction of learners as people
and weakened the pupilisation of learners. The inclusion of relevant experience acted as a
building block for learners to begin to take ownership and control leading to innovation.
Artists and teachers have another common practice, that of qualitative work. Artists work to
extend qualitative experiences just as teachers highlight a creative approach,
The planning was a crucial thing and we had good time for planning and we spent quite
a lot of time during the project as well, having conversations out of school. She might
have an idea, like a concept that she would want to introduce to them, want them to
explore and then I’d come along with how it could be made accessible by the children,
just how to keep it learner friendly if you like (Alison – T).
Teaching creatively included the construction of a creative vocabulary in the classroom and
opportunities for learners to inhabit the discourse. It seeped into everyday conversation just as
it would in a community of artists,
I talk to a group of girls during their reading session, Nadia, Julia and Nidha. ‘Reading
stories is about using my imagination and creativity ‘. ‘Creativity is about texture and
creating things and sculpting’. ‘it’s mainly about art and colours and creating from the
imagination’. ‘We argue when we work together but we also put our minds together to
make a creative thing’. ‘If we were talking to younger children about reading we could
ask them for details of the character’ [Field Note 12/11/03].
However, the teacher and artist had a different expertise and Alison’s experience as a teacher
was exemplified by the way she constructed pedagogic strategies. Together with the learners
she constructed a ‘hands on’ sounds treasure hunt for the parents coming to see presentation
of the project as part of the sounds project.
The collaboration between artist and teacher generated a dynamic momentum that was
sustained by the dual relationship which was absorbed by the children,
The project was described as involving fun activities such as active making, singing,
searching, quizzes, leading parents on the treasure hunt, collaboration, telling others and
learning from others ie: sharing, collective excitement, valuing learning and
presentations [Field note 15/12/03].
An engagement with an outside agency such as an arts agency, a research group or institution,
a local authority, interested party or a national education agency develops a triangular
relationship which can generate a dynamic interchange between artist, teacher and learners. In
Alison’s case the third party – a local university - paid for the artist and included her in a
programme of research concerning the artist-teacher relationship. They all met to consider
how to include learner’s evaluations of the project. The lecturer’s suggestions for questions
for the evaluation questionnaire contributed ideas for development by the teacher,
What do they think they’ve been doing? What would you do with the sounds? If we
were to start again what would you repeat? Who else might you share it with? What
would you tell them? What has been the most pleasurable or painful part of the project?
Is it best to do this kind of project periodically or as an immersion? Tell the children
what’s been creative about the project for you and the artist and then ask the children the
same question. Did the children realise that boundaries were being pushed by making
noises around the school that are usually unacceptable?
Developing triangular relationships is, one suspects, something that is common in the arts
world but one that is not so easy in the world of teaching due to it being a more solitary
practice and partnerships have the potential for a three way interchange to accelerate the
development of a creative teaching practice.
Alison trained as a drama teacher and therefore has close links with what we are suggesting is
a particular ‘learner inclusive’ (Jeffrey 2002) approach to investigating the world, one
suffused with gathering together different perspectives and one in which interpretation is
highly valued. Nevertheless the partnership with an artist brought an added value to the
learning experience and a resurgence of teacher creativity due to the principles of artistic life
being incorporated into teaching creatively.
These strategic partnerships differ from collaboration and networks. They involve a ‘loosely
coupled relationship’ () in which collaboration is included. At the same time partnerships are
closer than networks which can be defined as more distanced and informative based. The
partnerships in this research acted to stimulate, inform, develop creative learning, provide
support for pedagogic values, challenge centralised orthodoxies, encourage individual and
group confidence, open avenues for democratic action and processes between teachers,
between teachers and students and between students themselves.
According to Woods (1995) outcomes for learners engaged in critical events included positive
attitudes to learning, new found confidences, motivation for learning, enhanced disposition,
and skills in listening to others and being listened to, self discovery, realisation of abilities and
interests, a ‘coming out’ of new found self, blending in to previous impenetrable cultures and
emotional development. The events stirred up the adrenalin, sharpened senses of awareness,
marshalled energies and abilities, even summoning up new ones. The experiences were
carthartic, providing a spark which touched off individuals and groups alike and which led to
revelations about one and others. There was a refinement of the art of learning. Students
learnt the skills of communication in a variety of media, how to research, to find things out,
how to conceive, develop and express ideas, to self evaluate, to reflect critically. They were
challenged, stretched, fulfilled, they learnt about others including teachers and other
professionals, about the nature of working co-operatively in a group, democratic procedures
and decision making. They realised that they could both enhance the group and be enhanced
by it, that their own worth was valued and that they could value the work of others. There was
respect and dignity for both self and others.
Specialist programmes and strategic partnerships were seen in this research as critical events
for the teachers who were redressing the policy situation to re-engage with creative teaching
and creative learning. The teachers in these schools reasserted themselves and dared to
suspend curriculum programmes to revitalise creative teaching in general. They used the
discourse of creativity to reassert their marginalised values.
Peter Woods (2004) argues that we may well be in a third stage of the institutionalisation of
creative teaching and learning. In the first these approaches were generated in the post war
period through support in teacher education and then derided in the ‘discourse of derision’
(Ball, 2000) heaped on schools and teachers in the 1980-90’s and replaced by performativity
policies. In this third phase governments, Ofsted, schools and teachers have now accepted the
value of a National Curriculum and some form of assessment and accountability and at the
same time all have accepted that the quality of learning must include creative learning. These
schools and teachers have taken up the challenge to redress creative teaching and learning by
holding onto their pedagogic values and waiting for the right opportunities to appropriate
policy initiatives in the pursuit of these values and by doing so they have legitimised the
initiatives making it more difficult for government to back track in the future. Together with
those from the arts in education they have also shown the value of incorporating a qualitative
element into curriculum programmes and learning processes as well as garnering community
support through active partnerships to legitimise their creativity programmes. The schools
have also used strategic partnerships with the community and national programmes to
enhance the legitimacy of redressing the experience of creative teaching and creative learning.
The next step in this third phase is to establish how performativity and creativity policies and
programmes actually work together in teaching and learning situations and the extent to
which it is possible for them to work together.
Alexander, R. 1992. Policy and Practice in Education. London: Routledge.
———. 2004. Still no pedagogy? Principle, pragmatism and compliance in primary
education. Cambridge journal of education 34 (1):7-33.
Ball, S, J, and S Gewirtz. 2000. Schools, cultures and values: the impact of the 1988 and 1993
Education Acts. London: ESRC.
Ball, S.J. 2000. Performativities and Fabrications in the Education Economy: Towards the
Performative Society? Australian Educational Researcher 27 (2):1-23.
———. 2003. The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education
Policy 18 (2):215-228.
———, ed. 1990. Foucault and Education: Disciplines and Knowledge. London: Routledge.
Ball, S.J. 1998. Performativity and fragmentation in 'Postmodern Schooling'. In
Postmodernity and Fragmentation of Welfare, edited by J. Carter. London: Routledge.
Bourdieu, P , and J. C Passeron. 1977. Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture.
London: Sage.
Broadfoot, P. 1999. Empowerment or Performativity? English assessment policy in the late
twentieth century. Paper read at British Educational Research Association, 2-5th
September, at Brighton, Sussex.
Craft, A. 2000. Creativity across the Primary Curriculum: Framing and Developing Practice.
London: Routledge.
———. 2002. Creativity and Early Years education. London: Continuum.
Craft, A, B Jeffrey, and K Chappell. 2006. Creativity in Education - UK. Milton Keynes: The
Open University.
Davies, B. 1990. Agency as a form of discursive practice. A calssroom scene observed.
British Journal of Sociology of Educational Research 11 (3):341-61.
Davies, B., and R Harre. 1994. Positioning, Conversation and the Production of Selves.
Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 20 (1):43-63.
Helsby, G. 1999. Changing Teachers' Work. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Jeffrey, B. 2002. Performativity and Primary Teacher Relations. Journal of Education Policy
17 (5):531-546.
———. 2003. Countering student instrumentalism: A creative response. British Educational
Research Journal 29 (4).
Jeffrey, B, and A Craft. 2001. The universalization or creativity. In Creativity in Education,
edited by A. Craft, B. Jefrey and M. Leibling. London: Continuum.
Jeffrey, B, and G Troman. 2004. Time for Ethnography. British Journal of Educational
Research 30 (4).
Jeffrey, B, and P Woods. 2003. The Creative School: A framework for success, quality and
effectiveness. London: Routledge/Falmer.
Jeffrey, B. , and P. Woods. 1998. Testing Teachers: The effects of school inspections on
primary teachers. London.: Falmer.
Osborn, M, E McNess, and P Broadfoot. 2000. What Teachers Do: Changing Policy and
Practice in Primary Education. London: Continuum.
Partnerships, Creative. 2002. Culture and Creativity: The next ten years. London.
Power, M. 1994. The Audit Explosion. London,: Demos.
QCA. 2000. Creativity: find it, promote it.
Seltzer, K., and T. Bentley. 1999. The Creative Age. London: Demos.
Troman, G., and P Woods. 2001. Primary Teachers' Stress. London: Routledge-Falmer.
Woods, P. 1999. Reconstructing Progressivism. Paper read at ISATT Conference,, at Dublin,
July 1999.
———. 2002. Teaching and Learning in the New Millenium. In Developing Teaching and
Teachers: International Research Perspectives, edited by C. a. D. Sugrue, C. London .
Woods, P. 1990. Teacher Skills and Strategies. London: Falmer.
Woods, P. , and B. Jeffrey. 1996. Teachable Moments: The Art Of Creative Teaching In
Primary Schools. Buckingham,: Open University Press.
Woods, P. , B. Jeffrey, G. Troman, and M. Boyle. 1997. Restructuring Schools,
Reconstructing Teachers. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Woods, P., B. Jeffrey, and G. Troman. 2000. The Effects of New Labour on Primary Schools.
In Taking Education Really Seriously: Three Years Hard Labour, edited by M.
Fielding. London: Falmer.
Schools have to comply with the imperatives of Ofsted inspections and their National
Curriculum programmes were prepared well in advance so parents could see the plans and
more detailed printed lesson plans were filed an archived for use each year.
There’s always that worry, that if somebody came in and said, what have you done this
term, you still worry about justifying it. There is that worry that somebody might not
like it, there’s always that worry that someone might come in and look at your books.
Its people watching it’s a bit like ‘big brother’ really. There not there all the time but
they’re in the back of your head like scars (Yr 3 teacher Suburbia school).
The small three school ethnographic study on which we base this research represents a cross
section of the projects we heard about in the seminar series.
The research sample was specifically selected because they valued creative teaching and
learning and because they were attempting to re-introduce it into their curriculum
programmes and pedagogy during a period in which, the constraints of tightly regimented
curriculum, prescriptive literacy and numeracy programmes and national inspections
There is that worry that somebody might not like it that someone might come in and
look at your books and say something. People watching is a bit like ‘big brother’ really.
They’re not there all the time but they’re there in the back of your head; there are scars’