Arguing for a creative curriculum

Written by: HTU | Published:

Headteacher Anne Bull has been awarded an honorary degree by Bath Spa University in recognition of her contribution to education. She argues why a creative focus across the curriculum is vital

WASPS (Weston All Saints CE Primary School in Bath) is one of the top performing state schools in the country and prides itself on the way it puts high literacy and numeracy standards alongside creativity at the heart of the curriculum.

The latest Ofsted report said that the children at the school had a habit of bursting into song as they went to their lessons – our children are rightly proud of their work and achievements.

The school ensures that a link to the arts is integrated in every subject and it is important that every member of staff understands that creativity should not be taught within only certain subjects, but should be embedded in all subjects.

For example, when in a maths lesson pupils will use the outside grass area to plan, scale, measure and create outside mazes. Through this approach to the curriculum, pupils are able to relate learning to everyday experiences and gain a better understanding of what they are being taught.

Academic success and creativity

At the school we believe that academic success and creativity go hand-in-hand, so everyday resources and the environment are used to enhance the learning experience. Children are naturally creative and the school enjoys helping them to recognise everything they are good at by linking arts with the more traditional curriculum. 

Providing this type of provision, opportunity and choice takes time, hard work, passion and commitment from the whole team. Every teacher recruited by the school is chosen because they provide something a little bit extra that the children at WASPS will benefit from. For example, one of our staff is an artist in her spare time, another works with sculpture, and a third has his classroom littered with Lowry-like prints that were done by his pupils.

This way of thinking and working is how we approach learning at the school and it is not just through the taught curriculum, it is evident also in the out-of-school clubs we offer the children. 

One of our learning support assistants puts on a lunchtime knitting class and one of the kitchen staff is a great artist. He now works with the children to link food with art by using artists such as Andy Warhol. 

Academic standards are also central to who we are as a school community. Teachers must ensure that they are committed to making sure every child reaches his or her full academic potential. It is all very well saying “let’s have a creative curriculum”, but you have to deliver the standards alongside that.

We know that if you have children who have been inspired by a music lesson, feel good about themselves and go into a maths lesson, it’s not surprising if they do well.

Inspiring pupils to do more 

There is a lot of research that supports the view that children do better academically if they are involved in creative activities, the Cambridge Primary Review has highlighted this point. 

The school’s latest results also suggest that creativity plays its part in inspiring pupils to do well in all subjects – 98 per cent of the school’s 11-year-olds achieved Level 4 or better in their English tests and the figure for maths was 96 per cent, way above the national average of 80 per cent. 

Although high standards in academic subjects should always be the priority, the figures are not the only positive impact of a creative curriculum. If pupils have been involved in something creative and they are feeling great, they feel as though they can do anything. 

This boost in confidence is beneficial to both the school and home environment, it can also help pupils to adjust to new situations such as the move to secondary school. 

The creative aspect of the school and the way the school celebrates staff achievements means that teachers and non-teaching staff all feel more engaged and valued. Members of staff are able to express their own ideas and really feel like they are making a difference. This in turn means better productivity for the school and a better education for the pupils.

Focus on what can be achieved 

Implementing creativity into the curriculum can be seen as a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. The arts focus is part of what we do, but we ensure the basics – English, maths and science – are right too. Anything else we do cannot be at the expense of these core subjects. Teachers are central to the success of the school and the implementation of creativity throughout the curriculum. 

As a headteacher I must look at the opportunities for the staff, listen and build capacity into the teachers’ timetable and have a realistic view on what can be achieved. We are very careful we do not take on too many activities, which can often happen when you have a passion.

Success does not happen overnight but integrating the arts throughout the curriculum will bring the pupils a very rich and exciting few years in their primary education experience. 

After 30 years in education, providing a creative environment and watching children flourish academically is still an inspiring adventure. Pupils know when they are doing well and it is a real privilege to watch them grow in confidence and take pleasure in their learning – something that I hope will stay with them for years to come.  

  • Anne Bull OBE is headteacher of Weston All Saints CE Primary School (WASPS) in Bath.


  • For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

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