The rise and fall of creativity in English education

Ashley Compton


Creativity is currently a popular, but ill-defined, word in English primary education. The concept of creativity has been a recurring feature of government reports, education acts and advice to teachers but the history of creativity is cycles of promotion followed by a swing away from creativity towards a ‘back to basics’ model. This cyclical nature of educational thought and practice regarding creativity was analyzed. The main threats to creativity seem to be a lack of shared definition; lack of resources; a perception of creativity as antithetical to standards; and teachers seen as technicians rather than professionals. The Hadow Report (1931), which formalised the primary stage of schooling, did not use the word creativity but advocated many approaches that would be considered creative today. Similar approaches were recommended in the Plowden Report (1967) and again in Excellence and Enjoyment (DfES, 2003). In addition to Excellence and Enjoyment, currently creativity is promoted in The Early Years Foundation Stage and the National Curriculum, although they all use the term creativity differently. The result is that the government is promoting creativity without teachers, pupils and the general public sharing a clear understanding of what this means. The danger in this lack of agreement is that creativity becomes a meaningless rallying cry rather than an embedded concept. A common conception of creativity as building on skills and knowledge is needed to prevent another swing away from creativity in education. This needs to be supported by trusted, professional teachers.

Compton, A. (2010) The rise and fall of creativity in English education. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 2(2). Available at: [Accessed 21 Apr, 2024].