Creativity From a Primary Source

Here’s another interesting article from the Guardian Education this week.

The article asks a different question – can secondary schools learn from primary schools?

Our simple response to that is YES!

Again, what is education for? We would suggest that (for a variety of reasons which we shall return to in a future post) the philosophy of education is clearer and more child-focused in the Primary sector than in later years. However, things aren’t quite as rosy in Key Stages One and Two as the writer of this piece, Adam Webster, might imply.

He says that “the creative curriculum is alive and kicking” in primary education, and that this is possibly due to the smaller size of schools and because they’re “less exam focused”. He goes on to say that younger children are “still totally immersed in a creative world”.

Our response to this is yes, smaller schools, just like smaller classes, do create a greater sense of community and a clearer understanding and appreciation of individuals. Also, there is usually a stronger link between home and school – but this doesn’t mean that these things can’t be achieved at secondary school as well. Furthermore, exam culture has significantly affected the primary sector, with a huge and disturbing influence on pedagogy over the last two decades. In many schools the creativity of the teacher and his/her pupils has been dramatically stymied due to the pressures of expecting Level Four and Level Five achievement by the end of Key Stage 2 – where schools mistakenly believe that the curriculum needs to be narrowed and teaching to the tests is somehow “necessary”.

As for younger children being immersed in a creative world, we would argue that there are many older pupils who crave nothing more than the chance to be creative. They haven’t lost their will to be immersed – they’ve simply lost the opportunity to be creative. Creativity isn’t the domain of the young. It should be the very essence of life-long learning; the driving force that enables us to learn about music, books, culture, writing, philosophy, science and so forth.

Creativity is learning. It is the greatest enabler of learning and should be part of every single lesson in every single curriculum area, be that topic -based or subject driven.

Here’s a few bullet point quotes from the article that really should be read in full.

  • Innovation is the single most important quality needed in a staff common room.
  • Children want to learn; if you’re a teacher and you don’t believe that, then you probably work in a secondary school and have forgotten that this is an essential truth about your students.
  • Children want to learn, but they want to be engaged too. They do not want to be straight-jacketed, shoe-horned, or any other such analogy, into learning in one particular way . . .
  • . . . and they don’t want to learn because there’s a test at the end of it (unless we have convinced them that this is the most important reason to learn anything).
  • There are some really great primary initiatives out there; . . . The first idea is to encourage independent learning and the second is all about contextualising learning and blurring the lines between subjects.
  • It is simply ridiculous to tell students that they are going to learn independently, but only for a limited post-exams period of six weeks, then it’s back to normal.
  • Innovation in primary schools is much more deeply embedded.
  • Primary students are growing up in a world in which they will never know anything but an immersion in technology. They are using laptops and tablets in the classroom because this will seamlessly lead them on to whatever technology comes next.
  • They’re learning through games, through apps, through independent research and through being given freedom to make connections between different subjects.

We’ll leave you with the last paragraph in full.

(Please note that 3Di Associates will be happy to advise any secondary school struggling to come to terms with the potential for an active, involved and engaging creative curriculum.)

“When these students take their first tentative steps into secondary education it’s crucial that it is not a backwards one. They should be walking into an environment that builds on their experiences of learning and technology. They need to be holding up-to-date equipment and learning to use it effectively. At the moment this is not a reality for many students, but eventually we will reach a point where this will no longer be an acceptable failure. Innovation in education must not end simply because there’s an exam factory that requires our students’ attention, it must go on in spite of this.”

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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