toggle menu

our publications

our publications

OUR PUBLICATIONS > Creativity, School Ethos and the Creative Partnerships programme

OUR PUBLICATIONS > Creativity, School Ethos and the Creative Partnerships programme

CCE Research

Creativity, School Ethos and the Creative Partnerships programme

May 1, 2011

Author: Sara Bragg and Helen Manchester

Institution The Open University

Full reference: Bragg, S. and Manchester, H. (2011) Creativity, School Ethos and the Creative Partnerships programme. Final Report of the project: Evaluation of the nature and impact of the Creative Partnerships programme on school ethos, 2009-10 The Open University

Summary of key findings

This report was commissioned by Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) which runs the creative learning programme [LINK:20|CAPTION:Creative Partnerships]. Creative Partnerships brings creative workers such as artists, architects and scientists into schools to work with teachers to inspire young people and help them learn. Previous research and anecdotal evidence had suggested that an important outcome of Creative Partnerships programmes related to improving relationships between staff and students, enhancing motivation to learn, boosting the reputation of the school in the local community.

The report firstly undertakes a literature review of the research in the field of School Ethos, with the researchers defining what Ethos means to them, before they examine Creative School Ethos under three headings and discuss how Creative Partnerships supports each of them:

  • Considerate;
  • Convivial;
  • Capacious.


  • Emphasis on importance of mutual, reciprocal civility;
  • Goes beyond tolerance – stressing more strongly the need to respect students’ cultures and life experiences;
  • These cultures and life experiences can potentially make a positive contribution to their learning or to a creative process;
  • The implication is that students matter and feel they matter – they are taken into account and can account for themselves;
  • It involves reflective practice by staff.

Creative Partnerships supports considerate school ethos in following ways:

  • Commitment to youth voice;
  • Improving the material environment of a school – catering for students’ diverse needs and helping students feel cared for and considered;
  • Additional funding for projects through which students feel valued, appreciated, noticed;
  • Supporting particular student and/or staff groups that are often invisible or overlooked;
  • Valuing skills beyond the cognitive;
  • Encouraging reflective practice and ensuring it is built into projects;
  • Helping schools in disadvantaged areas to give affirmative accounts of their work, enabling students to feel more positive about their association with the school.


  • Asserts the importance of fun and enjoyment in learning processes;
  • Teachers and students can enjoy being sociable, and take pleasure in each others company;
  • Stresses interdependence and interrelatedness;
  • Requires ethical accountability for the school’s and teacher’s role in creating particular situations or behaviours.

Creative Partnerships supports convivial school ethos through, for example:

  • Offering students and teachers enjoyable and sociable experiences in its projects;
  • Legitimizing partnership working, collaboration and mutually supportive relationships between teachers;
  • Challenging traditional hierarchies and role allocations;
  • Supporting CPD on innovative approaches such as Forest Schools, which stimulate collective endeavour;
  • Enabling Projects in which teachers and students both participate as learners and share feelings and ideas;
  • Respecting student cultures and knowledge in creative work;
  • Connecting students with networks beyond the school;
  • Supporting specific whole-school consultation events.


‘Space-making’ through creative school ethos, which has several dimensions:

  • Range and ‘room for manoeuvre’ in school and in learning;
  • Flexibility and diversity in what kinds of teacher or student one can be along with what kinds of teaching are valued;
  • Idea of porousness between school and community, self and other;
  • Ability to contain more difficult emotions, which are evoked by both learning and creativity;
  • Attention to space and the aesthetic in school environments (this is an area where Creative Partnerships has made particular impact);
  • In the sense of increasing the capacity or capability of both teachers and students, the capacious insists on the educational rigour of creative learning.

Creative Partnerships supports capacious school ethos through, for example:

  • Projects that improve and enrich the environment of school;
  • Enhancing expertise about the significance and meaning of the environment;
  • Providing spaces where students and teachers can expand their sense of who they are allowed to be;
  • Supporting reflection on time as well as space in debates about the creative curriculum;
  • Acknowledging difference, drawing on creativity discourses that tend to value diversity above conformity;
  • Creative work that is demanding and yields results of high quality, sometimes surprising both students and teachers.

Although the researchers explain that it would be an oversimplification to claim that the Creative Partnerships programme has had a definitive impact on a school’s ethos, they are able to identify the additionality of the programme – in that it enhanced practice and helped ethos develop in ways it might not otherwise have done.

Research Questions & Methodology

  • The project ran between June 2009 and December 2010.
  • Literature review and qualitative studies of five schools exemplifying good or interesting practice, supplemented by the research team’s previous research knowledge.
  • The schools included a nursery, primary, special and two secondary settings.
  • The research followed the school year and tracked particular Creative Partnerships projects from start to finish. It used standard, creative and visual methods including observation, interviews, shadowing students, focus groups, photography and metaphorical thinking.

Read the report.