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Lessons UK schools can learn from Ken Robinson and Mary Tyler Moore

Like many elite thinkers, Ken Robinson is a scouser.

You may have heard of him. If not, and if you have 18 minutes to spare, google ‘Ken Robinson Ted talk.’ I did. His views on education, creativity in schools in particular, are spot on.

Born in 1950, he is one of seven children brought up in a close, relatively poor, working class family in Liverpool. He now lives in Los Angeles, unlike many scousers.

‘Ted’ (or rather TED) is a phenomenon - a non-profit organisation dedicated to sharing ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks given at events worldwide called TEDx. We need one in Crosby.

After 35 years in education, mostly youth arts projects, Ken Robinson’s TED talk in 2006 made him an overnight success. It’s been watched 25,843,386+ times online - in fact, it’s the most watched TED talk ever. Some achievement.

Ken, who was knighted in 2004 for services to the arts, poses the question: Do schools kill creativity?

The answer is probably ‘no’ but there is no doubt that we marginalise creativity in favour of traditional subjects that have little prospect of ever shaping our future lives, or perhaps more importantly of shaping or improving other people’s lives.

UK schools dance to the ever-changing tunes of the day dictated by politicians. Education Secretary Michael Gove’s latest focus is to ‘make state schools more like private schools’ with a heavy emphasis on academic achievement paving the way for university. But not necessarily life.

Creativity is tricky to quantify so in today’s data driven schools it can easily get pushed out. Something for after school clubs perhaps? Or at least keep it away from SATs years.

In his TED talk Ken says: "Picasso believed that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it."

Twice over the last few days I’ve seen the importance of creativity in our local schools.

As a governor of Sacred Heart Catholic College, Crosby, I watched in awe as young dancers and gymnasts performed with joy and confidence in their annual display for their families.

And last Thursday I was privileged to compere the Diversity 2014 concert at The Atkinson, Southport, featuring ten Crosby schools. What a showcase of fearless exuberance and youthful imagination.

Such events are vulnerable at times of cutbacks, yet their value is immense.

Performance whether it is dance, drama, music, singing or sport belongs at the heart of school life. Not algebra and indefinite articles.

As American actress Mary Tyler Moore told us - ‘Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow.’

• This article by Tick Media director Peter Harvey was first published in the Crosby Herald, 3rd April, 2014.

Posted by Peter Harvey: Tuesday 08th April 2014