How can creative thinking make pupils more employable?

One Creativity Collaborative lead school is exploring how to ensure that creative thinking is embedded in every subject of the school curriculum and make pupils more employable.

I’m Ruth Brown and our Creativity Collaborative has been developed as a network of eight primary, secondary and SEND schools across local authorities in the North East of England. As lead school for this Collaborative, we have had a long history of delivering outstanding arts provision for the North Northumberland area, working closely with creative practitioners and external agencies, to create a vibrant, rich and diverse offer for students living within a rural area with limited access to the arts and cultural opportunities. However, as a school and as a collaborative, we wanted to explore how harnessing the core skills in all subjects, we could better support the development and employability of our students. In short, develop their skills beyond the traditional assessment model.

Our collaborative includes partnerships with Creative, Culture and Education (CCE) , an international foundation based in the North East working with a range of partners to explore creativity and creative thinking. CCE brings a long history of providing professional learning for teachers at scale, for example in Wales and Ireland. Our interest in being part of the Creativity Collaboratives programme stemmed from the Durham Commission’s challenge to identify and embed the transferable creative skills found in all subjects, but particularly explicitly studied within the arts. Our hope is that such creativity can be harnessed to support engagement and attainment in all curriculum areas.

Communicating a model of creativity as five learning habits

Early on we decided to take the five-dimensional model developed by Bill Lucas and colleagues at the University of Winchester and develop it as a way of communicating to teachers, pupils, parents and partners across the collaborative. To help us in this we have redesigned the model as if it were a football and chosen a graphic icon for each habit. These are prominently displayed in classrooms and the icons can be used to create stickers to help pupils (and their parents) recognise aspects of their creativity as they are developed.

NECCN five-dimensional model.png

What are we exploring?

The North East Creativity Collaboration aims to:

  • Build a regional network to explore and test approaches to embedding teaching for creativity across the curriculum with a particular interest in non-arts subjects e.g. Maths, English, Humanities, Science, Engineering etc
  • Explore how the Creative Habits of Mind can support wider development of transferable skills and cross collaboration between subjects
  • Work with leaders to explore approaches to embedding creativity so that the creativity of all children and young people is developed
  • Work with schools and their teachers to explore, support the development of leadership for creativity and creative teaching and learning strategies
  • Raise children’s aspirations, capabilities and traits to support learning and development outside formal educational assessment.


In Year 1 our main aim was to establish ourselves as a network and build capacity for what is now, our professional learning community and understand more fully, our definition of creativity within our schools and network. As a collaborative of schools who had never previously worked together, establishing our vision, goals and ambitions felt a little slow at times. But that’s ok! Creativity isn’t defined or clear cut, nor is there an established model we could work to - we needed to spend time, probably more than we initially thought, really understanding what we wanted to build, to establish and fundamentally embed. That approach has been fundamental to building trust, establishing our professional learning community values, whilst maintaining our individual ambitions within our own schools and developing an open dialogue with colleagues across different sectors, schools and partnerships. Working with Professor Louise Stoll, Professor in Professional Learning, based at the Centre for Educational Leadership at UCL, helped us to establish clear frameworks for working collaboratively and begin to shape our roles as catalysts for moving to Year 2.

Year 2 is about growth. It’s an exciting phase to be entering as we move to establish our Theory of Change and start longer enquiry projects with practitioners to support colleagues in their journey to understand what creativity and teaching for creativity explicitly looks like in their settings. Year 2 is an important step for us as lead school too. Our initial plans have had to be adapted and changed due to Ofsted. As our understanding of creativity has evolved, deepened and we have begun to overcome the barriers to understanding creative teaching and learning or rather the lack of understanding that creativity exists for us all and it’s as appropriate as literacy and numeracy to be taught within our curriculums as an essential part of learning and communication.

Perhaps understandably headteachers and senior leaders within our network have been cautious in their investment. Yet those who have been brave in affirming their belief in the transformative nature of teaching for creativity and the doors it unlocks for children and educators, have helped to move the sceptics into more proactive and dynamic roles within the network. It’s an exciting journey we are on. With each network gathering and school visit, we grow in confidence and understanding and as a network we look forward to sharing this journey further through Creativity Exchange.

Ruth Brown is Faculty Lead for Creative Arts at DCHS and NECCN Creativity Collaboratives Lead

Twitter: @NECCNetwork