Michael Dickson CBE FrEng: in memoriam
Michael Dickson CBE FrEng: in memoriam
Prizewinning and world-changing ideas from our primary schools
This year there’s a new challenge for Creative Education Trust sixth formers to take on. Conceived and delivered in partnership with the Design Management and Cultures course at London College of Communication (University of the Arts London), the Sixth Form Creative Prize is a vehicle to give young people insight into the working practices of the creative industries.
The competition brief is designed to get them thinking about issues of local and national importance:
‘Research and develop a campaign, service, spectacle or product that has the potential to improve a particular community.’
When sixth form heads and teachers were canvassed about the issues they felt were troubling the local community, homelessness, mental health, and public spaces for young people surfaced as areas ripe for research and innovation.
To start off the challenge, forty-eight students from the four sixth forms gathered at Abbeyfield School for a workshop lead by Mo-Ling Chui, Noemi Sadowska and Robert Urquhart of University of the Arts London. After a brainstorm on each of the issues, a series of ‘What if’ questions asked students and teachers to imagine how they would help the communities if reality were not an issue. What if you were Harry Potter and could use your magic to help the homeless? What if you were Google and had access to lots of technology? What if you had £1m? What if you had access to any space in the community? The UAL team were quick to point out that this was not just for fun, but that imagining a fantasy solution can and often does spark a realistic one.
Stakeholder mapping was a crucial step in to discovering not only who is directly affected by an issue, but who is in the wider supporting community, what is the chain of influence and where would the students be most able to effect change and improvement. Students left the workshop with formed ideas of who they could talk to, who they could support, and where their own power and strengths lie.
The project explicitly encourages and rewards multidisciplinary interaction between students. Since the participants were drawn from a broad range of subjects – including maths, languages, sciences, social sciences, art and design – the exercise was a first foray into creative processes for many. One head of sixth observed with satisfaction that everyone was “well out of their comfort zone”.
Creativity and the Future of Work, a report published earlier this year by the Creative Industries Federation and NESTA, predicts that occupations within the creative industries will grow by 5.3% by 2024, as compared with overall growth across all sectors of 2.5%. Furthermore the report stresses that the interpersonal skills of collaboration, communication and social perceptiveness will be in especially high demand by 2030. Collaboration will be key. This cross-Trust competition therefore, the Creative Prize, will be awarded to a team for collaborative effort and achievement, not to an individual.
After a period researching and giving form to their ideas back in school, the student teams are invited to London in July to work with staff at the London College of Communication on a publication to explain their proposals. Teams pitch to an expert panel in September during the London Design Festival, and a winning team will be named.
The new year brought our first inspection of 2018, at Caister Academy, deemed by Ofsted to have ‘serious weaknesses’ before it joined Creative Education Trust. The new report glows with praise across all four categories: leadership, teaching and learning, student welfare and outcomes. “Leaders and governors have driven sustained and effective improvements, and changed the culture of the school.” The care and progress of disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils, the transferability of all students’ skills across subjects, and their careful preparation for the next stage of education, with “very effective guidance on future careers”, all receive specific commendation, as do the school leaders and executive colleagues whose “effective support and training” have been “critical to the journey of improvement”.
After Abbeyfield’s success in 2016, Creative Education Trust have seen four Ofsted upgrades, as Thistley Hough, Ash Green, Lynn Grove, Weavers and Woodlands were successively rated as ‘good’. At the close of 2017, Three Peaks had had a full section 5 inspection. It joined the Trust in December 2014 as an inadequate’ grade 4 school and is now firmly grade 2; ‘good’ in all categories, with its head, Richard Penn-Bourton, commended as “unrelenting in is quest to ensure that the school offers pupils experiences that enable them to develop enjoyment in learning”. The long overdue section 5 visit to Queen Eleanor took place in December, with another outcome of grade 2; ‘good’ in all categories. It too has made the journey from ‘inadequate’ over the last four years, with inspectors noting the impact of the “shared vision and high expectations” that Daniel Smith has created.
That the most recent school to join the Trust (Wroughton) is also improving dramatically demonstrates not only the transformative power of talented individuals at all levels, but of knowledge sharing, collaboration and a vision shared across the group. As Chief Executive Marc Jordan commented on Caister’s success: “It is unusual for a report to contain such explicitly favourable wording about senior leaders, governors and trust in its first few paragraphs. I think you can see the level of impact that’s happening.”
Seven sixth formers contended for the 2017 public speaking prize with a ten-minute speech addressing the proposition ‘Safety in Numbers’. Eloquence, ingenuity and evidence were applied to a wide range of arguments and purview.
Sophia Nichol of Abbeyfield took on the big theme of democracy and argued for lowering the voting age to 16. Emily Kuhn of the Hart School described the contemporary perils of social media and how ‘our touchscreens make us lose touch’, while her classmate Morgan Buckley drew a fascinating analogy between teenage gangs and wolf packs. Bethany Clarke of Ash Green made us consider how little safety there is in numbers for the rhino and the elephant – a passionate exhortation against the extinction of species. Corina Patulea and Matt Gladwin, both of Abbeyfield, presented strong arguments in favour of individual courage and ‘going it alone’.
The winning talk, by Wiktoria Seroczynska of Weavers, argued persuasively that while medical science achieves greater and greater safety in numbers through research, personalisation and universal healthcare, we need to look ahead to the result of this success – unimaginable billions of humans occupying the planet.
Our judges were Paul Lay, Editor of History Today, Kirsty Dias, a director of the international design company Priestman Goode (and the newest member of Creative Education Trust’s Education Advisory Group), and Marc Jordan, Chief Executive of Creative Education Trust.
In inspiring his address to students, Paul alluded to the eloquence and prose rhythms of historical and literary writers from the days of ancient Greece and Rome through to the present; among them Herodotus, Gibbon, AJP Taylor, Milton, Shakespeare, Cranmer, Jane Austen and many others; reminding us that Neville Chamberlain quoted the Book of Common Prayer (‘Peace in our time’), and so did David Bowie. Paul encouraged his audience to look back further than the last two centuries, and more widely than the language we speak and culture we know. “If you want to write history, or write anything good” he said, “expand your chronology, expand your geography, and above all, read.”
This years essay prize finalists named a wide range of themes and questions of their own, including the ethics of stem cell research, the economic impact of university tuition fees, Shakespeare’s credentials as a proto-feminist and the collapse of the Mayas.
The judges, professor of classics Jonathan Katz, science writer Hugh Aldersey Williams, and literary critic and writer Erica Wagner, commended two particularly highly. Gabriela Teriaca‘s essay (Abbeyfield) on the negative perception of maths in schools was “an important subject, personally felt and written out in a methodical and pleasingly arch way”. Esha Kumari‘s piece on epigenetics (Weavers) “opened very well and led on to a warm engagement with an interesting subject”. The winning essay by Richmund Rosales asked if the Philippines’ war on drugs was unwinnable. The judges called it “well structured, using well sourced material and no unnecessary digressions. An interesting opening followed by clear exposition and stylistic flourishes throughout.”
Staff and pupils at Three Peaks Primary Academy in Tamworth were celebrating today as Ofsted declared them good in all areas. Inspectors praised the school for its “significant improvements to the quality of education” since joining the Creative Education Trust, and highlighted the school’s strong leadership and effective teaching.
Two Creative Education Trust schools – Lynn Grove Academy in Great Yarmouth and Weavers Academy in Wellingborough – are in the top 18% of schools in the country for progress, new Department for Education figures have confirmed.
Holly Hartley, Principal at Thistley Hough Academy, a Creative Education Trust, school in Stoke-on-Trent, was asked by Schools Week to write about ‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour’ by Paul Dix. More than just a book review, Holly shared her insights on what it takes to build strong relationships and how to transform a challenging school.
Creative Education Trust pupils write, direct and star in their very own thriller.
Staff and pupils across the Creative Education Trust are celebrating as the number of key stage two pupils achieving expected levels in reading, writing and mathematics improved at almost three times the rate of other primary schools across the country.
Creative Education Trust recently reached a key milestone – Ofsted now rates more than half of our schools as good. This is an incredible achievement given that most of those schools were in special measures before joining our network.