Memorandum submitted by Professor Anne Bamford, Director, The Engine Room, University of the Arts, London
Creativity Matters: A comprehensive partnership project for developing the creativity of 0-6 year olds in the London Borough of Ealing
During 2006 Ealing Council partnered with The Engine Room, Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts, London to develop 'Creativity Matters', a pilot test within four Children's Centres to determine the impact of embedding creative professionals in early years education. Each centre received professional development into issues surrounding children's creativity and the multiple languages of children. An artist (or team of artists) was placed in each setting for approximately 2 days per week to work with teachers, children's centre professionals, the children and their families and communities.
The project was designed to promote the creative capacity of children, and increased access and engagement in the arts, whilst providing high quality participatory arts and promote children's cultural citizenship. Involvement in the project acknowledges the experiences, skills, passions and gifts of children, practitioners, artists and other creative and education professionals.
Rather than accept existing definitions, Creativity Matters, tried to 'unpack' notions of creativity to determine the fundamental (and observable) aspects of creative development in young children. This led to the formulation of a detailed mapping instrument for measuring creativity and determining changes in levels of creativity in young children within early years' settings. We discovered that could broadly be termed 'creativity' could itself be broken down into 9 key areas and so we gathered evidence about observable changes and development in the areas of:
3. Independence as Learners
4. Problem Solving
5. Children's 'sense of community'
6. Changes in children's languages
7. Children's sense of identity and culture
8. Children's sense of space
9. Children's concentration within the learning environment
The findings indicated that substantial benefits were received by the children, young people, practitioners and artists with some impact on family and community. The summary of findings shows that there is evidence to conclude that:
Impact on Children
- The project has increased children's levels of curiosity.
- Children's engagement moved from curiosity to initiative and ownership
- Children's increased curiosity resulted in increased sharing of learning with parents
- Children participating in the project have shown increased levels of confidence
- The children have developed their initiative and engagement in making experiences.
- The children are demonstrating and increased initiative toward interactions with adults.
- The children have made connections between experiences including the memory of previous experiences and the linking together of ideas and concepts.
- The children are initiating collaborative experiences with each other.
- The children are engaging in an increased amount of making at the Nursery and in the home.
- The children are more purposeful in their making. Before the project they had independence within a directed task, now they are planning and designing the task.
- Increased sense of community
- There have been changes identified in children's use of multiple languages
- The children indicate an increased sense of cultural understanding and diversity
- The project has provided collaborative experiences for children to develop their sense of self, and an understanding of their peers.
- Children's sense and exploration of space has developed
- The children have demonstrated high levels of concentration in their participation in the project.
- The children have demonstrated an increased ability to remember previous experiences and to link together ideas, making connections.
- The children are demonstrating increased amounts of sustained shared thinking
Impact on the adolescents documenting the project
- Links with the local high school has challenged perceptions of gender at the centres involved.
- Links with the local high school has provided a tangible, cost effective link between the two educational institutions and supports the opportunity for role modelling and 'sense of community'
- The experience of the local high school students has evoked a desire to have their art making critiqued professionally, seeking advice on how to improve.
Impact on Practitioners (i.e teachers, early years' workers)
- There has been a re-igniting of self-interest in the arts and practitioners own approach to creativity within and across the curriculum.
- Staff demonstrated increased enthusiasm to initiate, offer and implement creative ideas.
- The practitioners showed an increased enthusiasm to support and collaborate with each other
- Some changes were identified in the way practitioners view the availability of resources
- Working collaboratively with artists has impacted the way practitioners see and relate to - and plan for - the children.
- The staff recognize that 'artists' have a different way of seeing the children.
- Consciousness of the project being part of a research pilot highlighted self-protection around existing practice.
- Methods and articulation of reflective practice at an individual level varied and were difficult to capture. Ways to document individual learning is an area requiring development.
- Practitioners viewed the project as a successful and connected means of delivering the whole Foundation Stage curriculum
- Across all centres there was a unanimous preference to employ an artist over a practitioner (teacher) if given the choice
- Practitioners had an expectation of what the artist would 'bring' to the centre
- Practitioners measured their own thinking and abilities against those of the artist.
- Learning between the artists and practitioners was reciprocated
- Practitioners had an expectation of how the artist would relate to the children.
- Across all centres there was a unanimous perspective that the project was not 'more work' but a more interesting way of work that they would like to sustain.
- Practitioners valued the days in between the artists' visits as an opportunity to sustain and extend children's experiences.
- Practitioners are concerned about the future of the children experiencing creative possibilities of this kind, and how children's approach to learning might be received by teachers in the primary school system.
- Staff have made voluntary changes to the hours that they work
- Staff have made voluntary changes to their own life long learning
- Staff have demonstrated higher levels of enjoyment in their work
- Staff have made voluntary changes to increase their own interests in the arts
Impact on Artists
- The artists developed new models of collaborative practice
- Through engagement with the children, the artists began to question notions of materiality and performativity in their art making practices
- The artists responded positively to prolonged engagement with the early years settings and have continued to collaborate with the centres after the final ending of the pilot period
- The artists have developed greater levels of reflective practice and expanded their research and documentation skills
Impact on Parents
- Parental involvement at three of the four centres was less than practitioners had anticipated. Ways to move from informing to involving parents need to be explored further.
- Some parents have linked Art experiences to 'Creativity' and consider this as a survival skill and see this as important for their children's future
- Some of the parent community is concerned about their children's ability to navigate through life's challenges in the context of high crime communities
- Some parents recognized the efforts for regeneration through building development but questioned the impact
Creativity Matters was a highly effective way to improve children's creativity, learning and social skills in the early years. Furthermore, the project has had generally successful outcomes for early years' practitioners and artists and improved links to other educational providers, especially the links between secondary school, higher education and early years' centres. The project encouraged greater use of cultural and community facilities and made some improvements to models of family learning and community sustainability.
Future directions should highlight greater community involvement, recognition (and accreditation) of practitioner learning and opportunities for sharing of practice, especially for artists and practitioners.
An extensive report on Creativity Matters is available on request. The project has been extended into an additional 6 settings and the research programme is continuing. Currently, a training programme is underway to equip artists to work in partnership with early years' and school based educational settings. I am happy to present to the Committee on the detailed evidence of this research that shows the development of creativity in young children.
Professor Anne Bamford is Director of the Engine Room at the University of the Arts London. Anne has been recognised nationally and internationally for her research in arts education, emerging literacies and visual communication. Through her research, Anne has pursued issues of innovation, social impact and equity and diversity. As a World Scholar for UNESCO, Anne researched and wrote "The Wow Factor: Global research compendium on the impact of the arts in education" published by Waxmann. She has conducted major national impact and evaluation studies for the governments of Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium and Australia. Anne was awarded the Australian Institute for Educational Research, Outstanding Educational Research Award for 2002 and short listed for the British Female Innovator of the Year in 2006.