The General Teaching Council for Scotland

Mission creative

Teachers and pupils had their creativity tested by CREATE, with new skills developed for the classroom.

On arrival at industrial events space SWG3 in Glasgow, digital clocks started to tick away the minutes and seconds. Boffins in white lab coats with clipboards directed us to our seats. Spotlights hit the stage. Nearly 150 pupils and teachers were buzzing with anticipation. Just what should we expect from a conference led by Glasgow Education Services’ Creativity and Expressive Arts Transforming Education (CREATE) and facilitated by Vox Liminis, a Glasgow-based arts and justice organisation which has been partnering with CREATE over the last year?

Our top-secret mission – should we choose to accept it – was to “Rewrite the Future” through an immersive experience designed to develop the creativity skills of curiosity, imagination, open-mindedness and problem-solving. At the end of the day, we hoped to make the cut as Secret Creativity Agents.

As part of Glasgow’s Improvement Challenge, Glasgow CREATE was established in 2016 to support schools to raise attainment and achievement through development of expressive arts and creativity skills across the curriculum by supporting schools to think differently. This included linking the Instrumental Music Service, Youth Music Initiative and Visual Arts Studio to develop projects that would support schools across the city.

Expanding creativity

Initially focused on ensuring that teachers were confident and skilled in teaching music through a comprehensive training and support programme, links have been made across the curriculum to ensure this contributes to improved interdisciplinary learning and identification of transferrable skills.

Primary 3 probationary year teacher Jamie-Leigh at Aultmore Park Primary was already “enthused by creativity”, having been part of a choir singing at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games as a pupil at St Mungo’s Academy. It was during this time that she met CREATE Quality Improvement Officer Louise Hamilton, and she was hooked. “I love my job,” said Jamie-Leigh. “I am here to take the things I am passionate about back to the classroom. I don’t think there are a lot of opportunities for children in that age group to do much creative work in the classroom.”

Primary and secondary pupils from across Glasgow were given a taste of what was to come from the day through a short film, which emphasised the importance of creative skills in a future world of automation.

Graeme McKerracher, Assistant Director at Vox Liminis, took to the stage to state that: “We have long suspected that humanity’s creative skills have slipped into the background”, requiring a new recruitment drive for the next generation of elite agents of creativity.

With videos and photography captured by Glasgow Kelvin College 1st and 2nd Year HND Students in Sound Production and TV, teachers and pupils were rounded into groups for the day of problem-solving and creativity ahead of them. Nancy Porteous, Depute Headteacher at Quarry Brae Primary, and Lynsey McLaughlin, Acting Principal Teacher of Battlefield Primary, each attended the event with four pupils from their schools. Lynsey said: “I was worried that my group (of seven- and eight-year-olds) would be too young for this, but they are really enjoying it. They are already creative-thinking pupils and their parents were pleased they were selected.”

Setting it all in motion

Work began with problem-solving challenges designed to inspire adaptive thinking – how can a group of eight people use three sheets of newspaper to cross the hall without stepping on the ground? The pupils’ really started to immerse themselves in the project when they were asked to find solutions to the questions: “what do you do if your best friend has a bad haircut?” and “you have broken your aunt’s vase while she was out, what do you do?”.

Louise Hamilton started working with Vox Liminis on a song-writing project called ‘Imagine If’, designed to use creative messages to influence the future of education, from which it became apparent that both teachers and pupils had similar pressures and worries. They teamed up again for the Rewrite the Future event with the objective of bringing together primary pupils, secondary pupils and educators for an “immersive creative experience”.

Louise said: “We wanted to make this very different from a traditional conference. We have designed this very carefully in partnership with Vox Liminis to allow children, young people and staff to work together to develop their understanding of the creativity skills and how important they are across the entire curriculum. We hope to raise the profile of these skills through an immersive experience and give time to reflect on how this learning can be taken back to classrooms across the city.”

In attendance were representatives from Apple education, who are currently in talks with Louise about future creativity projects. This follows the rollout of iPads to nearly 52,000 children and teachers at schools and early years in Glasgow, to encourage them to embrace the digital age and to help raise attainment and achievement.

While the groups downstairs came up with innovative means of fixing vases and avoiding their friends’ bad haircuts, the pupils and teachers upstairs were tasked with creating new worlds with pens, pipe-cleaners and plasticine. Jamie-Leigh soon established that her dog school could be linked up with the park proposed by a nearby group, and links between the new worlds started to emerge.

Jane Arthur, Lead Officer (Curriculum) Glasgow Education on secondment from Pirie Park Primary, said: “It would be great to have more events like this in which the learners are leading the learning. The creativity that the children have is fantastic. My responsibility is the Developing the Young Workforce agenda and creativity is one of the metaskills required in the future world of work.

“What is great about this is that no one is teaching the pupils. Creativity is not about dance and singing; it is about the fact that our children have new solutions to world-problems. Different age groups are working together here to create solutions for a modern world.”

The teachers were certainly enthused by the day. Sophie Thomas, Acting Principal Teacher at Langside Primary School, said: “It was me driving this idea with the pupils but they have just asked me how we are going to take this back to share with the rest of the class. Enthusiasm is catching!”