Fashion and the Illiterati

Creative teaching for the 21st Century


My key learning from this conference can be summed up in these 3 points:


1. Don’t be lazy: be literate.

2. Arts and culture education is important.

3. Change for creativity takes time.


I arrived at the conference at 10 past 10, not quite realising that it was a national thing. My vaguely formed expectations were around the normal conferences and courses put on by Birmingham LA. I suppose I was expecting conversations during the day to linger on the depressing notions of potential cuts in the authority and to hint at rather negative thoughts of what the next few years in Birmingham schools might be like. I should prepare better.


It was a real treat to be given a flavour for the national picture on creativity in English schools; to be invited to subscribe to a new body for creativity (SCNAG) and to speak to colleagues from all over the country.


Don’t be lazy: be literate



The challenge from Ewan McIntosh was to not be illiterate with new technologies. I’ve always prided myself on being able to pick up new technologies with ease but I have to admit to falling within a certain comfort zone over the past couple of years (and that’s partly why I’m writing this post today). I’ve settled with my phone and haven’t changed it for over 4 years now, so completely missing out on the revolution in ‘apps’. I started to blog and then I stopped again. I use Facebook a bit. I thought it would be a good idea to use Twitter, but I never did.



And I’m the ICT co-ordinator at school.



Mind you, it has become more and more difficult to use technology within school. Facebook and Twitter are inaccessible due to restrictions set by the local authority. Youtube was also banned by the LA for a while (but isn’t now). Policy Central runs on the school system taking snapshots of any ‘illicit’ activity (which has included such things as a worksheet on capacity with the word ‘jugs’ on it). While Policy Central doesn’t directly affect the use of new technologies it does take up considerable time to monitor it. Time that could be spent developing use of new stuff instead.


It was especially encouraging to here Ewan talking about the kind of skills that would avoid making ICT gaffs. When he talked about the young lady who had slated her boss on Facebook only to find that her boss could see everything she’d written, he (Ewan) made the point that the young lady should have been taught to keep a learning log at school. The type of log where she might have recorded 2 stars and a wish in a review of how she was getting on. Then she would see the need to write constructively whatever the mode she was writing in.


I liked the bit where he talked about the kind of spaces people communicate in:


    1. Secret spaces (like e-mail and text)


  • Group spaces (like Facebook, Twitter and VLEs)



  • Publishing spaces (like blogs, Youtube and newspapers)



  • Participation spaces (I can’t remember what these were)



  • Performing spaces (can’t remember these either)



  • Data spaces (like that online mapping project)



  • Watching spaces (where you just watch what other people are up to in all the other spaces).



As you can see I’ve still got some words to learn to regain my literacy.


Arts and Culture Education

It’s important – really important. Professer Anne Bamford talked about arts and culture education. I tried to mnd map some of the important facts (see inset).


Some of the key facts included:


  • Fashion is the 2nd biggest industry in the UK.
  • You pay £4.00 for a coffee in a posh coffee house, but only £1.50 for the same coffee in a polystyrene cup on a train. That’s over a 150% mark up because of design.
  • Children who are taught arts and culture have better brains.
  • An Arts-rich 26 year old is 5 times less likely to be dependant on state assistance than a non-arts-rich person of the same age.
  • Schools with an arts rich education have better standards. They have a shared identity and ethos and perform better in the ‘soft measures’ that are increasingly being measured.
  • Teaching arts badly actually stifles creativity. It’s better to not teach arts at all than to pay lip service to it and do it badly – this places the teacher as the person of primary importance.

Change for Creativity Takes Time

It was really encouraging to see schools who are already doing what I’d like us to be doing here at Paganel Primary School.

Well actually I felt really envious initially.

But then, when I discovered that these schools had been working for 8 years on developing creativity I felt really encouraged. Affirmed even. We’re only 18 months into our change school programme. Already we have seen some great things happen although it wouldn’t be fair to see yet that we’ve achieved complete culture change. Ewan McIntosh said that risk-embracing teachers using new technology achieves real social capital. I agree with that – it just takes some time to get there.

With the election to come there may be some unsettled times ahead. With the huge budget deficit there will certainly be some cut backs to face. The lessons that I’ve learned from this conference won’t change – cut backs aren’t going to stop me using Twitter and neither can they stop me talking positively about the benefits of arts and culture education. And me a mathematician too…




Next time…

In my next post I will discuss how the original National Numeracy Strategy devised in 1995 and 1996 under the last Conservative government stifled the creativity of the nation.

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