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Creative Learning and Ethical Curriculum Award: Building better futures

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do:

Lisa: I’m passionate about the creative arts as a way of connecting and empowering diverse communities of learners! I’m a researcher and lecturer in Initial Teacher Education and Creative Learning at Leeds Beckett University. My practice based research focuses on story making with children to create culturally relevant curriculum opportunities. This centres on active participation, compassion, critical thinking and wellbeing which is the foundation for an Ethical Curriculum- both locally and globally.

I have worked in education for 25 years, as a teacher and senior leader in Primary Schools in Bradford. I am also an experienced drama practitioner working in community arts. I am Director and founder of Story Makers Company, a practice based research collaborative. Our research and practice develops creative learning opportunities with schools and cultural organisations both nationally and internationally.

Kate: I’m a freelance coach and compassionate leader who is dedicated to the development of an Ethical Curriculum: a curriculum that interweaves relevant moral and social themes such as equity & diversity, global citizenship and sustainable living into the education system. This, and supporting others to be the best they can be through coaching and sustainable support, is my soul mission!

I have worked in education for 15 years, most recently as the Co- Headteacher of a Primary School in Oxfordshire. I am also the Network Project Leader for an incredible National Headteachers Network called HeadsUp4HTs which champions the role of headship and provides sustainable emotional support to Headteachers and school leaders across the UK.

What was it that initiated the creation of the Creative Learning & Ethical Citizenship Award?

Kate: As a school leader, I was always driven to design a more relevant, purposeful and ethical curriculum than the one the National Curriculum prescribed. A curriculum that ensured all pupils developed holistically; allowing them to deeply understand, celebrate and empathise with others, empowering them to become global citizens, changing their attitudes and actions to make the world a kinder, more sustainable place to live.

There’s a demand for a curriculum that focuses on learning and enjoyment beyond exams, one that’s ethically informed and develops the skills that students themselves need to thrive in the future.

Lisa: I share Kate’s vision for creating the award. My rationale for creating this award is also driven by the communities of educators and children with whom I work as well as my own practice. As a practitioner researcher, I have been involved in researching with and alongside children, teachers and artists through many projects. This always includes multiple perspectives and ways of knowing. A pattern emerges through these experiences when children often critically reflect on their own perceptions of learning. This includes a greater sense of participation, belonging, emotional literacy and agency.

Within most creative learning contexts, children need to find solutions which are not in textbooks. They need to work as a diverse community of thinkers. This involves taking risks and embracing uncertainty. This type of generative thinking is critical in facing future learning needs as we strive to create a more sustainable world. The award is designed to facilitate a community of practice amongst educators in developing and sharing an ethical curriculum driven by creative learning.

Why is it needed now?

Lisa: Young people are facing many challenges such as climate change, technological advancements and social divides. This raises the question of what knowledge should be taught and why, in order to equip children to thrive in the future. In a sense, Educational Policy has not developed in line with these needs and many children feel that learning is disconnected from their lived experiences. There are some really innovative curriculum models in schools and school leaders in response to these needs and their community of learners. The award creates a space to create, rethink and share a more sustainable curriculum model together in response to the world that we live in.

Kate: There’s been a lot of discussion about the value of what is being taught, learned and measured in schools during the pandemic. In a sense, this time has given school leaders the freedom to focus on what their children and communities need, without the restraints of performing for OFSTED. It’s given schools a taste of what could and should be in a new version of education! School leaders are keen to reimagine their curriculum now, to ensure they are not only preparing children for the future, but also thinking about a more sustainable lifestyle in terms of mental, physical health and taking care of the planet.

Tell us about the creative process of co- creating an award for schools:

Kate: As an advocate for co-working, and as a former co-headteacher and co- deputy headteacher, it’s been an absolute pleasure to collaborate with Lisa and Rachel on this award! It’s interesting because we all have a different perspectives and understandings around what creativity is and looks like and we had much deliberation of the title of the award! From my perspective as a former teacher and primary Headteacher, creativity is learning about the arts and cultural curriculum, and having the freedom and expertise to develop artistic skills and practice to a high standard, such as dance, drama, story telling, drawing and sculpting. These are the magical aspects of the curriculum that the children love! Lisa taught me about creativity from a different perspective through her lens in FE and as a researcher. We all wanted the framework and standards for the award to support schools to develop and celebrate their incredible work.

Lisa: The most powerful work is always collaborative- it draws from the strengths of the group. This award draws from the professional expertise in education from all of us. This type of thinking always promotes critical reflection, active listening and reimagining- which is why we feel that it is so important as part of the curriculum! It has been exciting to draw from our shared practice as this award has emerged over the past year. Kate’s perspective on school leadership and curriculum design has been a critical part of the award as has Rachel’s enterprise expertise and award design. We are currently piloting the award in schools and the Headteachers and teachers feedback will further shape our framework. As well as providing sustained support for schools, we see the award as becoming a celebration of curriculum values and the teacher’ professional imagination!

What does this award mean for you?

Lisa: All teachers want to equip children to thrive in a world in which they feel valued and can actively participate. This means a refocusing on our relationship with the world and each other- a more balanced curriculum. I believe that the award will nurture this curriculum space. This includes learning with and in response to each other as a community of practice. It advocates that teachers and schools know their pupils best and that the framework supports, connects and invigorates collective thinking. A recent report by the Cultural Alliance (2019) cited many children’s lack of opportunities to engage in cultural activity as a social justice issue. The creative arts have a unique relationship with the world providing a universal and global language through images, movement and sound which help us to make connections between ourselves and others. This curriculum means empowering children as critical thinkers to gain more confidence in acting ethically together in the world.

The award means that we have a shared reflective space to reimagine curriculum together. The time to act is now!

Kate: The future of education needs courageous teachers and school leaders to teach a reimagined curriculum! I want to ensure that we are teaching a diverse and colourful curriculum that promotes equity and inclusion for all. We want to be educating our young people on issues around sustainable living, and the importance of becoming globally minded citizens in order to make the world sustainable; a kinder and more equitable place. We want our young people to know and live their core values, to know their purpose in the world, so deeply, that they develop an authentic self esteem with the potential to become future change makers. I believe this award will give schools a robust framework to work within in order to start making a real impact on the educational landscape.

Who is this award for?

Lisa: This award is for headteachers, teachers, parents and children who all need to see themselves as agents of change. It involves a systematic approach to coaching which draws from innovative curriculum models and empirical research in schools. This means that there are many professional development opportunities. The flexible nature of the award also means that it can be applied to the time frames of individual schools. The award aims to support teachers and pupils to create a culturally relevant curriculum that promotes and encourages critical and generative thinking. It offers an opportunity to draw from international perspectives on ethical curriculum and think beyond examinations.

Kate: I work with a large network of Headteachers so I know there is a demand for a focus on a more ethical curriculum from a school leaders perspective. And, from a students perspective, there is a demand for more opportunities to develop skills and values that will serve them beyond their exams. This award is for anyone with a desire to give their students an opportunity to make a lasting impact on themselves and their communities, and learn about the value of citizenship and creativity in the process. As the school lead on the award, there are great professional development opportunities available too, through transforming practice to make sustainable changes, developing creative pedagogy and understanding and creating community through ethical and creative arts practice.

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