Welcome to the website of Susan M. Coles, Artist & Arts, Creativity & Educational Consultant.

Posted in Education Education Education

I’m spending a lot of time thinking about creativity at the moment because that is a focus for some project work I have been doing. I am helping the Creative Arts team at Burnside Business and Enterprise College (Wallsend) to try and define the subject succinctly enough to be able to assess and to track progress within it. This school has done what we all dream of, it has given the “permissions” for a group of teachers to teach a lesson of “Creativity” to all key stage 3 pupils in the school.

NEATEN (North East Art Teacher Educator Network) is a superb learning community and we share our experiences and our successes, but are also honest when things don’t go well. So, Art staff from Walbottle Campus are sharing their system for tracking progress in Art and Design with Burnside staff. This is also reciprocal, as Burnside staff will be sharing their ideas for teaching creativity as a distinct area-something that Walbottle want to do within their Art curriculum.

I have really enjoyed being in some of the year 7,8 and 9 Creativity lessons at Burnside, it’s great to see and hear enquiring minds at work. I also love the fact that these teachers were prepared to take a risk and that they model those creative ways so well. I had an “away day” recently with the team and explored the notion that some people see the definition of creativity as like nailing jelly to a wall. That then starts the problem solving dilemma of can you actually do this? The answer being that you can- if you have a structure- putting the jelly into a shape that holds, using a mesh or structure within the jelly etc. It then starts people thinking that something that seems to be hard to nail down, can be…so helps us to know and to believe that creativity CAN be defined and structured without losing it’s character.

There is still a lot to do but we are travelling along a path which seems to have direction and I will keep you up to date as decisions are made about how we “solve” the problem.

Then, I went to Rotherham on May 4th, to visit the St Bernard’s RC School Learning Community (twitter hashtag #stblc). This was a training day for a secondary school (St Bernard’s Catholic High School) and it’s primary feeder schools. The intention is to develop a strong collaborative learning community and community of practice, who share an ethos and a culture for working effectively with young people. Looking at ways of teaching creatively and teaching for creativity were the focus of the day.

My keynote “speech” (or ramble) followed a video by Sir Ken Robinson, which is a bit daunting to say the least. But anything Ken can do I can do better…. well, maybe not…. but I had a try. I constructed a session which had some creative and fun tasks in it too. I talked about the current political scenario in the ever moving landscape of educational reforms and what the future might or might not hold. I talked about the real need to embed creative learning into our teaching to engage and motivate young people but also to give them the chance to thrive and not just survive in this fast moving and unpredictable 21st century. I talked about the difference we could make to children’s lives by giving them opportunities other than an exam certificate to take them through life.

Nailing jelly to the wall got another outing in Rotherham, because being able to show a clear definition of creativity is what this large and diverse group of educators needed to enable them to use it in their own contexts and subject specialisms. The practical activity of making the paper hat at the end of the session was hilarious. The presentation of the ideas at the end was one of the highlights of my insets this year. Fun, humour, creativity, collaborative group work, testing, shaping, thinking divergently,solving problems, feeding back and presenting back- all done in about ten minutes. This was the illustration of the creativity structure- purpose, originality,imagination and value.

What helped was the willingness of the staff to listen and to have a go, and the vision of the headteachers to make this the focus of a training day. I am encouraged by positive feedback which suggests that they will continue the debate and share good practice. I really look forward to hearing about how this develops.

Thanks so much to Debbie Hepplestone, Art and Design teacher and AST and Community Arts organiser at St Bernard’s, because she has such a strong belief and passion for creative learning and brought this all together for everyone to enjoy. The breakout sessions that followed looked exciting too, sharing different approaches to learning. I only managed to attend my own one (well, you would wouldn’t you?) which was a whizz through using effective questioning based on Bloom’s taxonomy to get those young people using higher order thinking skills. You can’t do a lot in 40 minutes but you can give a flavour and I think I did manage that.

Debbie and I also hosted a meeting for Rotherham Art and Design teachers the night before and were joined by Susan Young, subject advisor for Art and Design at Edexcel. Susan made a long and non linear journey to get there for which we are most grateful and her input was invaluable to the session. I did an update section for everyone and summed up the recent Ofsted report for Art Craft and Design. It was a revival of a network which will now continue, and there is positive support for this to happen from a group of dedicated teachers. We need an acronym for them, I think maybe we should avoid RAT, so send in your answers on a postcard please!

Burnside school site
St Bernard’s school site


Juliet Bravo

4319 days ago

enjoyed this blog again, always keen to hear where initiatives are going on to support creativity and the Arts.

Amie Leigh

4319 days ago

I wonder if that wonderful Mr Gove has any idea at all what part creativity plays in good educational values? What’s the point of learning facts? Where does it get people?

Debbie Hepplestone

4316 days ago

An inspiring day full of creative possibilities!!! Early feedback from our staff and the wider schools is extremely positive and people really enjoyed your valuable input and feel refreshed to pursue the educational direction that they know is so vital for well rounded, thinking, feeling, empathic human beings and successful minds!A busy time ahead now making this a reality! I love the idea of a creativity lesson in KS3 by the way – Burnside. Maybe we can delve into this idea??? Thank you Susan for your energy and passion for creativity in all its forms. You have made us all question our practice and explore ways to inspire our 21st century students.


4316 days ago

We can certainly connect you with Burnside if you like Debbie. I’m ever so glad they enjoyed it and that you will continue to wave the flag for a creative teaching model that really makes school fun and important for teachers and students.


4284 days ago

Thanks for your Rotherham input which has got people thinking. We enjoyed the presentation and we loved the fun practical part as well.

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