`Creativity hit by curriculum'

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The Independent Online
A FORMER adviser to David Blunkett says the national curriculum should be cut in half to allow pupils more time to think creatively.

Tom Bentley, who used to work for the Secretary of State for Education, said organisational and interpersonal skills were more important than a string of qualifications in conventional subjects. In a book, The Creative Age, Mr Bentley, director of the left-of-centre think-tank Demos, argues that the current national curriculum in effect prevents teachers from fostering creativity and other attributes essential for the economy of the future. The ability to learn and "top up" knowledge will be essential in an economy based more on intellect than traditional skills.

Mr Bentley and Kimberley Seltzer, his co-author, argue that the national curriculum was crucial to the Government's drive to raise standards, particularly in the Three Rs. But, they say, the curriculum's demands "are in danger of becoming a brake on progress rather than a guarantee of high and consistent standards.

"The central danger is that the curriculum will become too heavily defined by content at the expense of depth of understanding and breadth of application. In many cases the need to cover the minimum requirements and meet standard targets militates against forms of teaching and learning which encourage students to apply knowledge in relevant and unfamiliar settings."

The book's conclusions follow repeated complaints by teachers that the Government's highly detailed strategies for improving standards in literacy and numeracy in primary schools has squeezed out creativity by reducing the time available for subjects such as history, art, music and sport.

Ministers have insisted they increased flexibility in the revised national curriculum, published earlier this month.

The Demos report, based on studies of schools, colleges and companies in the United States, Canada and Britain, warns that "those unable to update their knowledge base fast enough both on the job and on their own time are increasingly at risk of marginalisation. School education must be restructured to ensure that every individual has the skills and confidence to make full use of the opportunities that a knowledge-based society presents."