"The work of the Devon Curriculum Services is acknowledged
across the country as exemplary, a beacon showing others the way forward.
That work together with partners such as Film Education, or City Screen
through their unique partnership with the Media Education Centre, offers
unique insights for all of us into what can be achieved; most especially
if industry practitioners have the imagination and vision to really get
Itâ€™s a genuine pleasure to have been asked to speak to you this morning;
and I say this as someone who, throughout their life, has been passionate
about creativity and the arts. Not just cinema, but music, photography and
Iâ€™m now well and truly retired from the film industry and as you heard
Iâ€™m now devoting much of my energy and whatâ€™s left of my imagination
to my role as chair of the General Teaching Council for England. For the
past four years Iâ€™ve also been chair of National Teaching Awards and
the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, more popularly
known as NESTA. So one way and another my life is now thoroughly embedded
in the â€˜Public Secto. But this morning, Iâ€™d like to speak
in a more personal capacity, and, precisely because of my own enthusiasm
and passion for the creative arts, to speak from rather closer to my heart.
Over the next twenty five minutes or so, Iâ€™d
like to share some reflections on the importance of creativity within
education; both as regards developing creativity and artistic excellence
as an end in itself, and as a means of contributing to the development
in this country of a world class system for education and training
and, as a result, a world class economy. In closing Iâ€™ll also
have something to say about the need for us to communicate to the
wider world about the economic potential of the creative industries.
If there are any rather more policy-oriented issues you would like
to raise we can perhaps address them during the Q&A that will
Letâ€™s begin by going back to first principles.
Why do we value creativity and the arts? Throughout human history,
art has been the means by which we have sought to make connections
between ourselves and the cosmos; to express the inexpressible, to
make the invisible visible, and to give shape to the shapeless. It
represents the sum total of our attempts to explain the world to
ourselves and to each other. As the French playwright Jean Anouilh
once put it, "Life is all very well. But it lacks form. It is
the purpose of art to give it some".
Iâ€™ve always believed that the arts are the lifeblood
of any society worth the name. They can help bring people together,
they represent a way of helping us to recognise our shared values,
emotions and vulnerabilities. Art is, as Anouilh recognised, not
just a way of understanding the world, but a means of coming to terms
with it â€“ most especially during troubled times such as we
are presently living through. Art has the power to mark-out the truly
personal moments in each of our lives. Birth, death, love, family,
in fact all of our great joys and losses; each and every one of those
seemingly unique emotions is captured, immortalised and reflected
back to us by the power of really great art.
An American social philosopher, Eric Hoffer, captured
this thought beautifully when he said, "it is not so much the
examples of others we imitate, as the reflection of ourselves in
their eyes, and the echo of ourselves in their words."
Britain has always had a particularly strong tradition
of creative achievement. Over the centuries we have at different
times excelled in writing, music, architecture and the theatre. Equally,
in the more contemporary forms of creativity, such as filmmaking
and design, time and again, our excellence has been recognised â€“ as
our success at the Oscars over the last fifty years clearly demonstrates,
a success out of all proportion to our size and importance as a film-making
nation. British architects, designers, filmmakers and painters are
hailed the world over. Our achievements are also represented in a
more concrete form; from Tate Modern to the RSC, from the Edinburgh
International Festival to the new Gateshead Music Centre; here are
physical embodiments that demonstrate the growing strength of our
commitment to the arts.
In many respects, Creativity, or at least, originality
is one of our defining national characteristics. A characteristic
that sets us apart from many if not most of the other nations in
the world. Itâ€™s a characteristic we cherish â€“ or ought
to! A characteristic that, as Iâ€™ll argue later, represents
something of a special advantage in the modern world. Or to borrow
the language of the economists for one moment, something of a "competitive
advantage." But this tradition of artistic excellence and creativity
has not just magically fallen from the sky; in fact it is, and always
has been, fundamentally linked back to our system of education and
training. And unless we continue to nourish and develop the arts
and the creativity that goes with them it will, without question,
begin to wither on the vine. This is something that I believe, despite
some occasional signs to the contrary, that this Government genuinely
recognises. It is, for example, why the Government commissioned Ken
Robinsonâ€™s report on Creativity, Culture and Education, soon
after it was originally elected, many of whose recommendations have
already been put into practise â€“ itâ€™s also why the idea
of specialised Arts Colleges became a reality. And what a reality!
I know, I spoke last week at their first annual conference.
All of this has been particularly strongly recognised
in this region; the work of the Devon Curriculum Services is acknowledged
across the country as exemplary, a beacon showing others the way
forward. That work together with partners such as Film Education,
or City Screen through their unique partnership with the Media Education
Centre, offers unique insights for all of us into what can be achieved;
most especially if industry practitioners have the imagination and
vision to really get involved. There are, of course, individual geniuses
who emerge and flourish as a result of some peculiar combination
of genetics, the position of the stars or maybe one or other form
of cultural circumstance. We donâ€™t know why this happens, and
we will probably never know enough about itâ€™s genesis for it
to hold any generally applicable lessons about developing the creative
spirit; it remains one of the mysteries of art and indeed of life.
Iâ€™m now old enough to rather hope it stays that way!
But for the most part, the foundations of artistic
and creative excellence are laid down within our education system
- or they are not laid down at all. Creative skills such as imagination
and concentration, team-work and problem-solving, co-ordination and
spatial awareness are all principally developed at school. Activities
such as reading, playing music, creative writing, dance and acting
all of these contribute to the development of a very special set
of skills. Of course all of this is meat and potatoes for many of
you, but itâ€™s still worth reminding ourselves of the importance
of this basic commitment to developing creativity and the comparative
success we achieve.
Iâ€™ve seen at first hand from my visits to schools
around the country just how powerful participation in these activities
can be. Most especially for children and young people for whom participation
in any number of activities is in some way compromised by reason
of physical or mental disability or even on occasion by home circumstance.
Equally important to the development of these skills is access to
the arts. Access can mean something as simple as a visit to a local
theatre or art gallery. These visits can plant the seeds of creative
ambition every bit as much as classroom work. We know only too well
how strongly children are influenced by "example"; the
strength of their desire to emulate those they admire. To recognise,
as that quote from Eric Hoffer puts it, "the reflection of ourselves
(themselves) in the eyes of others".
Access to artistic performance can be one of the very
strongest means of harnessing these ambitions, of turning them into
something that will cause a young person to gather their strength,
to take flight and rise to heights they didnâ€™t realise they
were capable of achieving. Everyone of you has seen it happen â€“ thatâ€™s
largely why you do what you do! Access to art is, in short, not only
something that can bring great rewards in its own right, but also
a gateway to participation. In fact, education, access, and participation
are indissolubly linked. It pays remind ourselves â€“ and policymakers â€“ of
this rather simple, unvarnished truth from time to time. Education,
access and participation are but three sides of the same triangle.
Personal fulfilment, public confidence and a richer understanding
of the social and cultural context which they inhabit are all things
which flow from studying and participating in the creative arts.
That is why, speaking personally, I have been the strongest
possible advocate of the Governmentâ€™s Creative Partnerships
scheme, the two year pilot being run by the DCMS in conjunction with
the Arts Council. Hereâ€™s a scheme, which as I suspect most
of you will know, aims to develop both creative skills in the classroom
and an understanding of the arts through direct experiences such
as visiting a museum, meeting members of an orchestra or even spending
a day on a film set. The philosophical under-pinning of the project
is that education and the arts are inextricably tied together, and
so too is the development of personal creativity with access. That,
it seems to me, is exactly right.
Which brings me to my second theme this morning.
For I believe that the development of those same creative
skills and all that goes with them, is absolutely essential to the
competitiveness of any nation in the modern globalised economy. In
case this seems a little fanciful or far-fetched, even to those who
are the most passionate advocates of creativity in education, let
me try to flesh out and justify that assertion. Itâ€™s become
something of a commonplace to argue that the days when nations could
remain competitive based on large manufacturing industries let alone
agrarian economies are rapidly drawing to a close. Despite the bursting
of the dot com bubble, the travails of digital television and our
failure to convert to WAP mobile phones, the New Economy is, unquestionably,
here to stay.
In fact, to my mind the lesson to be learnt from difficulties
in the sectors I just cited is that technology is only ever a bridge,
it never is and never can be a destination in itself. What matters,
what creates real and lasting value, is human creativity and imagination.
Just to drive the point home; in this new â€˜knowledge economyâ€™ value
resides overwhelmingly in intellectual property rights (IPRs), in
human knowledge and in intangible goods. In this new economy "competitive
advantage" will increasingly mean "knowledge" advantage.
So what are the implications of all this as regards the kind of skills
organisations need if they are to earn that knowledge advantage sufficient
not only to put them ahead of the competition, but to enable them
to stay there?
In answering that question itâ€™s become something
of a truism to direct attention to the so-called "soft skills" as
the likely drivers of successful organisations in the early part
of the 21st Century â€“ that is to say skills such as creativity,
the ability to innovate, the ability to inspire. In other words,
just the kinds of skills that you are seeking to develop in the children
and young people that you work with. Nonetheless, as someone who
has spent the vast majority of his professional career in one form
or other of the â€˜Creative â€™ Industries, itâ€™s my
belief that these "soft skills", in particular creativity,
are already critical to the work of many successful organisations,
and will become ever more critical in the next few years.
From their inception, I have been a whole hearted supporter
of the numeracy and literacy strategies this Government has put in
place, and the principles that underpin them; the notion that we
have to ensure that every child leaves school with a rock solid foundation
in the core skills, those skills they will need to make anything
really worthwhile of their lives. It was always simply unacceptable
for forty percent of our eleven year olds to be entering secondary
school without the basic skills they need to set them on a path to
any kind of a fulfilling adulthood. And Iâ€™ve also reluctantly
come to believe that setting measurable targets is a fundamental
imperative if we are to achieve the levels of improvement that are
necessary. I would however like to see the criteria against which
those targets are set become significantly more sophisticated, year
on year. But how we interpret that imperative to get the basics right
- what educational context we choose to give to the teaching of these
fundamentals, all of this must also be thought through very carefully.
The real danger is that in striving to ensure that all basic ingredients
of "an education" are added to the mix, we might lose sight
of, as it were, the "baking powder" without which even
our very best efforts will remain flat, lumpen, and thoroughly unappetising.
This is where the work that you do has so much to offer, well beyond
providing the kind of scope for personal fulfilment and artistic
achievement that I talked about earlier.
Iâ€™m by nature an optimist, and canâ€™t help
but remember something Marcel Proust once wrote; "We do not
need new landscapes, we only need new eyes to see those which already
exist". We know what we have to do - itâ€™s now about finding
a new way of thinking about, and discovering the means by which we
can incorporate creativity and the arts into the whole of our learning
As a â€˜for instance,â€™ (and without wishing
to get technical), research has shown that symmetrical, or "cordant" sound,
such as a Mozart piano concerto, is transmitted faster to the brainâ€™s
neurones than discordant information - which means that, simply put,
music can help learning. An analysis by James Catterall, Professor
of Education at UCLA of a USA Department of Education database of
25,000 students found that those with high level of arts participation
outperformed those with low level of participation by virtually every
measure. He also discovered evidence that continued involvement in
art forms such as music and theatre had a high correlation with success
in mathematics and reading. I donâ€™t believe it will be long
now before every company follows Price Waterhouse in asking, as they
did in a job advertisement not long ago, â€˜which musical instrument
do you play?â€™ Not if, but which. And how long will it take
other businesses to follow the lead of the BBC senior management
team who were addressed by the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic,
Ben Zander, on the use of "music" in management.
(As an aside, I was at a headship conference a couple
of years ago at which Ben Zander had 600 new heads and several Government
ministers standing on their chairs singing Beethovenâ€™s Ode
to Joy, in German. It was quite something to behold).
So, letâ€™s be in no doubt about one thing. The
idea that "specialism" equates to narrowness of outlook
is entirely specious. Particularly when it applies to the arts. Thatâ€™s
something that every employer worth their salt in this country should
think about very carefully when considering the type of people they
need to help them navigate the commercial shoals of the 21st Century.
Which brings me to my third and final theme.
Creative industries are the key, without any doubt
whatsoever, to the development of the global economy, and most particularly
to the British contribution to that economy. All of you I think absolutely
understand that â€“ it informs the work you do day in, day out.
But Iâ€™m equally convinced that there are many in the wider
world and many commentators in the media who, absolutely, donâ€™t
get it. The truth is that in many parts of the country, while the
old manufacturing industries such as shipbuilding and mining have
physically disappeared, to be replaced by elements of what some would
describe as the green shoots of a "knowledge economy",
they haven't disappeared emotionally. And their disappearance is
still seen as an issue of tremendous regret.
I spend a lot of the time in the North-East â€“ in
part, because Iâ€™m Chancellor of the University of Sunderland.
The North East is, of course, at the core of our industrial heartland;
home to just the kind of smokestack industries used to illustrate
the glory of our industrial past in school textbooks. In this respect,
it was very instructive a couple of years ago to deliver a lecture
in the Miners' Union Building in Newcastle, talking about the creative
economy. You sense the history of the building, but what you want
to say is, "Not one of you today would wish your sons and daughters
to go down the mines". You know it was a dreadful job".
Yet there is this nostalgic affection for it, because it is somehow
caught up with a whole notion of community, security and stability
- all things which are seen to be very wobbly in todayâ€™s social
environment. The University of Sunderland itself is another good
example of what Iâ€™m talking about. It is a technology-focused
university, with a brand new, beautiful campus, built on the site
of the old shipyards. It has 16,000 students many of whom come from
families who never dreamt their children would ever go to university.
It will surprise many of you to know that more people are employed
by the University on Weirside than were ever employed in the shipyards
in their hey-day. Yet for many of the people you talk to in Sunderland,
it is not seen as a symbol of a bright new future, but as something
that has replaced the old sense of security. The traditional industries
were seen as reliable. They were hard industries, but they were felt
to foster community. The new economy, symbolised by the University,
is seen as somehow temporary, artificial and soft. Itâ€™ s a
perception we are working very hard to correct!
So while in our different ways weâ€™re all engaged
with the brave new world of creativity, recognising the importance
of the creative industries and creative skills; in many senses, the
underlying arguments have yet to be won. We are forced to ask ourselves
why the debate around the creative industries has moved on so little
since 1997. Itâ€™s a debate that should by now have moved well
beyond buzz words, well beyond aspiration, the truth is, it's not "somewhere
out there", we're living in it. We have somehow to find a new
language to describe it to those same people whose lives and jobs
are going to rely on what we broadly describe as these "creative
industries". As a nation, we havenâ€™t been entirely spinning
our wheels, we have successfully identified the nature of the opportunity.
We have successfully identified the huge potential of this sector.
As your work here in Devon has shown, we have identified ways of
addressing that potential through educational work. But we have done
nothing like enough to identify how, as a nation, we are going to
take advantage of, or exploit the opportunities that exist; witness
the fact that Devon may be a beacon, but itâ€™s a rather solitary
beacon in respect of good practice.
Finally, the worst problem we face in developing the
idea of the importance of the creative economy is when senior educationalists
and their fellow travellers argue that creativity in education is
somehow "anti-standards", that in one way or another there
is a conflict between the rigour of academic achievement in liter
acy and numeracy, and this other, sloppy, limp-wristed thing called
creativity. This is a debate that common sense should have settled
years ago â€“ yet it is kept alive, largely for political purposes,
by the Woodheads of this world â€“ at least it gives them something
to scribble about at ten pence a word! But it remains an argument
we need to confront head-on. For unless we find a way of building
children's natural creativity into the entire curriculum, from start
to finish, create environments in which it is as natural to them
to be engaged in music as maths, and in which these things are not
seen as opposites; unless we can make that leap we will still be
floundering about twenty years from now - and some other similar
group of well meaning souls will be meeting here saying, "Where
on earth did we go wrong?" We also need to make sure that the
development of digital technology to nurture creative skills isnâ€™t
left solely in the hands of the "techno-nerds". Jean-Paul
Sartre once said of Albert Camus that "he was a nightingale
who thought he was an owl."
Well, I think that in the context of education and digital technology the
reverse is true; there are too many owls who think they are nightingales.
Thatâ€™s to say that itâ€™s tending to be the pointy-heads rather
than the real creatives who are leading the charge. And that shouldnâ€™t
be the case! As a consequence, thereâ€™s too much debate around the
nature of the technology and not remotely enough around the attractiveness
and the quality of the software. Yet the truth is â€“ and itâ€™s
been apparent from every single application in the field of moving images
from the invention of the LumiÃ¨re Brothers onwards â€“ that
itâ€™s content that drives technology not the other way around. We
have to find ways to develop learning software which creates the same level
of visual and auditory engagement among children and young people as a
video game or even a Game Boy machine. For without that software, all the
money spent on hardware is likely to be so much money wasted.
I believe that lack of imagination is the greatest
barrier to the realisation of the possibilities of this technology,
and it is the imagination and creativity of professionals within
IT, such as many of you here today, that will determine the pace
and the quality of change. We must not come to see the impact of
the computer on education as merely paralleling the impact of the
calculator on arithmetic; speeding up and simplifying the process,
without offering any significant change to the process itself. If
these new technologies are properly used, with sensitively developed,
intelligent and challenging content, they have, the potential to
accelerate the development of the whole educational process â€“ and
with it, all of our national futures. The irony is that the younger
generation understand all of this instinctively, they are living
the revolution. And computers are not seen just as games machines.
In the UK one third of those under 17 already use a personal computer
in their leisure time for something other than playing computer games.
I donâ€™t pretend to have answers to all these
issues; complex and rather intractable as they undoubtedly are. What
they require is a pretty significant cultural upheaval â€“ one
that will undoubtedly be as painful as it needs to be radical. But
of one thing I am convinced - the seeds of this change must be sown
in schools. This resistance among parts of the community â€“ especially
among older people â€“ in acknowledging the importance of the
creative industries, makes it make it even more imperative that we
equip our children with the ability to understand and tackle the
challenges of the future. One of the consequences of this will surely
be a fundamental rethinking of the structure of schools and the way
in which they use digital technology.
Let me offer you an analogy which I think illustrates
just how far behind we are. If you took a brilliant surgeon from
the year 1900 and plonked him into an operating theatre today, he
(and it would have been a he) could literally do little more than
wipe the brow of the patient, take their pulse, make a cup of tea
and stand, with extreme interest, watching what was going on. Their
skills would have become totally irrelevant in the intervening 100
years. This is nothing to do with his ambition as a surgeon, he literally
would have found himself transported into a wholly alien environment.
He might as well be on a spaceship.
Now take a schoolteacher from 1900 and put her (and
it would be a her) in a class with a blackboard, a piece of chalk
and 30 or so reasonably attentive faces and in most subjects, she
could deliver what would be entirely recognisable as a lesson, because
technology has not as yet had any significant impact on the process
of learning. And yet, I would argue that the same frontiers of knowledge
will be crossed in the next 25 years in the application of technology
to the process of learning, as have marked the last 100 years in
medicine. All this has significant implications for classroom and
school, management. That model I just mentioned of 30 children in
neat rows facing a single teacher is (or ought rapidly to be) an
anachronism in an era of video-conferencing, email and whiteboard
technology. Why shouldnâ€™t children be helped to learn French
by French children in French schools, or physics by a Nobel prize
winner? Why should teachers at state schools still be responsible
for washing out paintâ€“pots and making sure the PCs work when
there are armies of volunteers and specialists that could support
them in exactly these areas?
Technology will only ever be a bridge, not a destination
in itself. But the work that you do, much of which relies on digital
technology, can only get more and more invaluable in showing the
I began by saying that the work of Devon Curriculum
Services has been exemplary. Everyone involved appears to be enormously
encouraged by it. But letâ€™s not underestimate the scale of
the challenges ahead. For, as I hope Iâ€™ve convinced you, they
are very considerable.
Letâ€™s be under no illusion. We need every region
to have a Curriculum Service doing the kind of work that goes on
here. We need not just one Media Education Centre, but thirty, forty,
fifty around the country. And, just as importantly, we need the industry
to step up to the plate and acknowledge its responsibilities to the
future; we need more companies like City Screen to get involved at
every turn. Government and Local Authorities, no matter how well
meaning, cannot do all of this alone.