ISM statement: Durham Commission

Following 18 months of research, the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education yesterday launched its self-titled report, setting out a set of recommendations with a long-term vision for promoting creativity in education.

The Commission (a collaboration between Arts Council England and Durham University) found evidence of the positive impact of creativity and creative thinking in our lives.

However, it reported concerns about the reduction of status of arts subjects including art and design, dance, drama and music within schools that has followed the introduction of the EBacc in secondary education. At the report launch, attended by ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts, a Commissioner said they want to see the EBacc be extended to include a creative subject. Sir Nicholas Serota also called for a change in education policy, noting the causal link between the EBacc and fall in arts subjects.

Sir Nicholas Serota said in his foreword:


'The Commission believes that the arts make an invaluable contribution to the development of creativity in young people. We are therefore deeply concerned about the reduction of status of arts subjects including art and design, dance, drama and music within schools that has followed the introduction of the EBacc in secondary education, and that concern is reflected in our recommendations.'

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:


‘The ISM welcomes the Durham Commission, which sets out recommendations with a long-term vision for promoting creativity in education.

We echo the Commission’s concerns that the EBacc has been the cause of the decline of uptake in arts subjects including music, and we agree that the consequence of this is that pupils are missing out on a broad and balanced curriculum. For many students, the classroom is the only place where they are able to access arts subjects, including music.

We were also pleased to see the APPG for Music Education’s State of the Nation report referenced in the report. As the Commission states, State of Nation demonstrates the focus on the narrow range of EBacc subjects has, in some cases, prevented students from studying music as part of their secondary school curriculum. Music is no longer taught at Key Stage 3 in more than 50% of state-funded secondary schools, including some schools still under local authority requirement until the end of Year 9. Other schools are moving towards music only being offered on a ‘carousel’ basis (offered for part of the year on rotation with other subjects) or taught on one day per year.

If the EBacc policy is not to be scrapped, we hope the Department for Education takes the advice of the Commission and extends the EBacc to include arts subjects including music.’


Notes for editors


Recommendations set out by the Durham Commission include:

1: Teaching and creativity through system leadership and collaboration

A national network of Creativity Collaboratives should be established, in which schools collaborate in establishing and sustaining the conditions required for nurturing creativity in the classroom, across the curriculum. This will involve:

A three-year pilot of nine Creativity Collaboratives, one in each of the DfE regions. Evaluation of the pilots should inform the creation of a national Creativity Collaboratives network from 2023.

Funding for the pilot Creativity Collaboratives from a consortium including DfE, Arts Council and educational trusts. The period of the pilots should be used to explore the possibility of attracting funding from partnerships between DfE, industry and commerce

Schools that value creativity should nominate a champion for creativity. This role would require an understanding of teaching for creativity and the ability and resource to promote this across the curriculum. This champion should have a voice at the level of senior leadership and exposure at the level of school governance.

2: Barriers to teaching for creativity

Government, Ofqual and the awarding bodies should work together over the next 2-3 years to consider the role of examinations and how scholarship and craftmanship are recognised and rewarded in assessment frameworks.

3: Recognising the value of creativity

Schools that have successfully established and sustained conditions in which creativity is nurtured should be recognised and encouraged. Such success should be recognised in the Ofsted inspection process. Ofsted should share good practice case studies of teaching for creativity in a range of subjects and across phases.

Ofsted should also continue to refine its inspection framework to further reduce incentives to ‘teach to the mark’ and make clearer that it is looking for teaching for scholarship and craftsmanship, not merely exam-passing.

4 & 5: Evaluating the impact of creativity

The DfE should support English schools’ participation in PISA 2021 evaluation of creative thinking in order to influence and shape future use of the framework.

Higher Education institutions, in conjunction with the DfE, should work with the Creativity Collaboratives to develop research-informed practice to evaluate creativity, looking at how creativity and creative thinking can be identified across disciplines, and how its impact can be measured.

6: Digital technologies, creativity and education

The education system should support young people to engage creatively and critically with the digital technology that is now a significant part of their everyday lives. To achieve this:

The DfE should seek additional funding for training for teachers in digital literacy and digital creativity, with time and resource committed to it.

Nesta should manage a pilot programme working with education, business and the cultural sector to explore how digital education in schools can develop the creative digital skills most in demand by employers.


7: Creativity and the arts in schools

Arts and culture should be an essential part of the education of every child. To achieve this:

DfE should establish a funded National Plan for Cultural Education which ensures all children access cultural opportunities in school alongside the new Plans for Music Education and Sport.

DfE should require schools to offer a full national curriculum at all key stages, but in particular at KS3 until the end of year 9. This should include the arts as a substantive part of the curriculum, not as an add-on.

The Artsmark scheme should be reviewed by Arts Council England to ensure the value of creativity, arts and culture in schools is recognised.

In support of the above, the Arts Council should work with DfE to review the provision of professional development opportunities for teachers in arts subjects and for the cultural workforce and freelancers who work with schools.

8: Creative beginnings: pre-school and the early years curriculum

The purpose and place of creativity and teaching for creativity should be recognised and encouraged in the early years (0-4). To achieve this:

The DfE should integrate creativity into the Early Learning Goals within the Early Years Foundation Stage, to be operational from 2021.

The DfE should establish and fund effective training and CPD for the pre-school workforce, reviewing current Continuing Professional Development opportunities, qualifications and entry routes to the sector by 2021.

The BBC, other media and broadcasting organisations and the DfE, should further develop quality early years content that encourages young children’s creativity alongside literacy and language development.


9: Creative opportunities out of school hours

The Commission believes that in-school opportunities to develop creativity should be complemented by diverse routes to take part in creative activities outside of school hours. To achieve this:

The Arts Council, working in partnership with youth sector organisations and social services, should align and build on existing out of school opportunities to be creative in the arts, sciences and humanities. This should include the work of Saturday Clubs, Music Education Hubs, existing Arts Council programmes which support out of school hours activity, and the National Citizens Service.

10: Beyond school: creative opportunities and experiences in the world of work

Young people should be better prepared for the changing world of work. They need the creative capacities that employers seek and which will enable them to be resilient and adaptable, to pursue portfolio careers and engage in lifelong learning. Qualification frameworks should reflect the value of creativity for the current and future workforce.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education should review the current opportunities for developing creativity as a key capacity in emerging T level qualifications and existing Apprenticeship Standards.