This review forms the initial foundation for a piece of work commissioned by the Mercers’ Company designed to help school leaders in secondary schools in England make creativity central to their students’ lives. Across the world the importance of creativity is increasingly acknowledged in education systems. But though leadership in schools is well-researched in general terms, leadership for creativity is not. In this review, we chart the establishment of a robust definition of creative leadership in schools, summarise the case for its importance today, and illustrate what it looks like in secondary schools.
The review builds on the first report of the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education in 2019 and research by the OECD published in the same year by analysing the opportunities and challenges that secondary school leaders face if they truly wish to focus on developing the creativity of their students.
From our reading of the literature, both scholarly and ‘grey’ sources, ‘creative leadership’ is the term we believe best encapsulates a kind of school leadership that explicitly develops the creativity of all of its members, staff and students alike. The concept of creative leadership and research relating to it is underdeveloped in education, while in other fields there is more consensus.
Our understanding of ‘creative leadership’ in its broadest sense suggests that it is a helpful way of capturing the essence of school leaders’ role, and a starting point for considering how the sorts of challenges identified by the Durham Commission might best be met.
Our review of the literature suggests that we need to reimagine the kind of leadership that will develop creative students (and creative staff) at a theoretical level, as well as clarifying the practical implications for leaders’ practices. Creative leadership will explicitly seek to cultivate creative habits in teaching staff who can, in turn, model these with their students. Creative leaders ensure that there are multiple opportunities for developing the creativity of all young people while at the same time recognising that for a school truly to be a creative organisation then developing the creativity of its leaders and staff is important both as a means to an end and as an end in itself.
Leading for creativity is likely to mean setting an agenda for change that involves prioritising practices that develop creative leaders through collaboration within and across professional communities, that promote the development of creative cultures and structures and that utilise creative pedagogies. Creative leadership is a concept whose successful application in schools could benefit from the development of a range of professional learning resources for senior leaders in schools.
This review aims to provide a basis for the development of a leadership toolkit that can be trialled for further development with leaders in English secondary schools, used to support a new professional learning community and, potentially, adapted for school leaders across the world.
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