IVE worked with Silverdale Primary Academy in Hastings on our Creativity for Teaching pilot. This case study records the impact that it had on the academy’s own objectives.
Our work with Silverdale Primary Academy in Hastings ran over 1 academic year (2016-2017). We delivered 10 twilight inset sessions of 2 hours each. All staff, including support staff were involved (70 teachers in all). In addition to the twilight training sessions, teams within the school undertook a piece of Learning to Enquire action research based upon an enquiry question of their choice. IVE facilitators also spent two days working in school where we undertook two joint observations with a member of SLT; one of 45 minutes and one of an hour. We also observed 17 classes, each for around 20 minutes.
The school was part of the ‘Coastal Challenge’, which aimed to raise standards in rural and coastal schools. They had been involved in the ‘Thrive’ programme https://www.thriveapproach.com/ for 12 months before adopting our Creativity for Teaching programme. They had specific priorities they were hoping to address through the programme including.
- Reading in year 5; particularly white working class boys who were starting the year significantly lower than their expected levels.
- Engagement in learning of pupils in year 3
- Quality of teaching across the school
From the outset of the programme it was clear that Silverdale Academy staff saw themselves as being creative, and evidenced strong levels of individual and group creativity in how they responded to challenges set them during training sessions. However, at the start of the year there appeared to be less confidence in the understanding of how to develop the creative capacities of their pupils. One aim of the programme therefore, was to build capacity that enabled teaching to be geared towards developing the creativity of pupils.
Each session we delivered adopted a blended approach of practical activities, discussion and reflection.
From the lessons observed and feedback received, it is evident that there is solid practice across the school with regards to learning that supports the development of pupils’ creativity. We saw no examples of ‘bells and whistles’ teaching in which staff prepared something ‘special’ to show off that they knew about the subject. Every lesson observed was clearly rooted in embedded routines, and in the vast majority of cases, indicated a solid grasp of the key aspects of teaching for creativity. There were a number of themes that emerged across the school that we believe supports this statement.
- Starting in early years, but permeating throughout the school are solid structures that allow for creativity. This structure allows learning to be scaffolded and means that pupils’ creativity is born out of clear frameworks. For example, in an Early Years class, the learning that had taken place around the story of ‘The 3 Little Pigs’ allowed pupils to be highly imaginative in the Lego houses they were building, and innovative in the strategies for how the wolf might be evicted!
- This inventiveness of pupils was evident across year groups, for example, in a group of boys in year 3 who were undertaking a challenge involving a fictional story. When asked a question about fishing, they were able to spontaneously make connections with other areas of the island and justify why they needed to trade, rather than fish.
- In the vast majority of lessons observed there was strong collaboration and support between pupils. From activity observed, this appeared to be due to established routines. For example, in a year 6 class, pupils had been writing a story about how ‘Skellig’ ended up in the garage. Several pairs within the class decided to work together to weave their stories into one and could articulate a variety of methods they used, or could use, to negotiate how to share ownership of the task.
- There were also numerous instances around school, where pupils were observed naturally supporting each other: a girl who hurried to her classroom at the start of the day didn’t realise that her bag had fallen off her hook. A few seconds later a boy, unprompted, picked up her bag and put it on her hook.
- In all lessons there were opportunities for pupils to respond to a brief/challenge independently of the teacher.
- Perhaps this point is beyond the remit of our work, but it became evident that the school is on a long term journey, and teaching for creativity is only one element. The work undertaken with Andy Cope last year has, I think, influenced practice, and as such is supporting the creative development of pupils in addition to the work we have undertaken.
- In conversations with pupils across the school, we were struck by the confidence they showed in responding to questions, and the spontaneous inventiveness they applied to their answers.
- Our joint observation of a year 5 science lesson, typified much of the practice seen across the school; although practice in this particular lesson was exemplary. Examples of teaching for creativity pedagogy included;
Generating imagination, enquiry and dialogue
- Teachers encouraged a spirit of enquiry, the generation of ideas and the use of imagination by asking enabling questions that encouraged dialogue and exploration such as: what if?; why?; what would happen if?
Modelling possibility thinking
- Teachers presented themselves as co-learners. They asked genuinely exploratory questions and there was a sense in a number of cases that outcomes were to be discovered rather than predefined. In the science lesson we observed, the teacher regularly used phrases such as, “I wonder why this is happening”.
Seeing pupils as partners in ‘co-constructing’ learning
- On a number of occasions, pupils were involved in decision making. They were given opportunities to reflect critically on their own progress and on their personal and creative development. Where this happened, teachers generally knew when to intervene and when to stand back and let pupils explore an idea, concept or process.
Supporting calculated risk-taking
- Less so across the school, but within the Science lesson, the creative process allowed pupils the chance to be immersed in a task and for solutions to emerge, combined with a willingness to take risks, imagine alternatives and create new possibilities.
Points to Consider:
- In working with other schools, and through personal experience of leading creativity development in school, it has proven to be highly beneficial to establish a common definition for ‘Creativity’. A definition that is concise, easy to remember and one that has meaning to all staff (and pupils). There is a growing consensus in Silverdale, but quite wide variance also.
- An aspect that was not observed over our two days observation (which is not to say it is not being used) is framing learning using the creative process, with staff facilitating that process, thus adding an element of rigour. The simple model that we looked at in session 3 and 4 of our programme supports this. Several teams have identified using the creative process as part of their Enquiry Question, so it might prove useful to reinforce with all staff.
- The school uses WALT (What Am I Learning Today) as a mechanism for sharing learning objectives and planning learning. Through our Specialist Leader in Cultural Education (SLiCE) programme, we encouraged schools to frame learning as an enquiry or question. This proved to deepen learning and enrich the creativity within lessons. For example: one WALT observed was ‘Write an explanation text’. In essence this is a task/command and not an objective. However, if reframed as a question, such as ‘How should we write an explanation text?’ the teacher and pupils are forced to consider alternatives and methodologies for approaching that task. This is where real learning and creativity takes place.
- During our observations we saw several numeracy focused activities. In the main, these were fairly didactic in approach, although there were good levels of pupil peer support observed. One class was quite different though. They were looking at time, and rather than having clocks with the hands on and working out the time, they only had the second hand, and pupils were free to work out the time in any way they wished, using the resources in the room; including each other. The vibrancy of this learning and approach seemed ripe for sharing. Later, during the second twilight, we asked each team to capture and share 3 approaches they have found effective in developing the creativity of pupils. Each team then wrote down 3 pledges of things they will try out over the next 4 weeks. The cross fertilisation of ideas across teams was quite refreshing and there was real energy about trying things in Year 6, for instance, that were working well in Early Years.
Against the priorities emphasised by the school in September 2016, there was significant impact.
Reading in year 5; particularly white working class boys who were starting the year significantly lower than their expected levels.
- By July 2017 assessment data indicated that progress in reading had exceeded all expectations. Not only had the vast majority of all pupils reach their expected levels, many had exceeded it
Engagement in learning of pupils in year 3
- Liz miles, Headteacher reported that impact on engagement in learning had far surpassed just year 3 pupils.
“This programme has impacted on every aspect of our school community. The way teachers plan, talk about pedagogy and reflect on practice has seen profound changes. There is a palpable sense of pupil ownership of their learning across the school, which has also impacted on pupil to pupil and pupil to teacher relationships. Even parents have become more involved in supporting their child’s education through imaginative approaches to reading, which in turn has resulted in rapid progress being made in this area. I am so happy we decided to invest Creativity for Teaching.”
“We had really good feedback from parents.”
“During our project children made great progress with their writing. There was increased engagement and an obvious enthusiasm for the text.”
“Although I’ve been teaching for a number of years, I’ve learned lots from this training; Sharing ideas empowers others to make impact stronger.”
“If you really want the kids to fly you have to be prepared to take risks and experiment.”
“We became more mindful about our teaching, our practice.”
“At the start of our project 28% of our year 2 students loved reading while 72% were more towards the ‘hate’ side” while at the end of it ‘81% enjoyed and wanted to do more reading’. We are definitely going to continue with this project in the next academic year.”
“My year 5 students’ confidence increased tremendously as a result of our spelling project.”
“I think 3 words sum up this training: supportive, purposeful, mindful.”
The programme we implemented with Silverdale Academy is an example of how our Developing Independent Learners through Creativity bespoke work might operate. If you are interested in building sustainable development in your pupils and build a curriculum for the future then you can find out more about how the programme works at the Developing Independent Learners page or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org