Preparing to Launch

December 19, 2022
Miles Openshaw
Steven Laing

Creatives Names: Miles Openshaw      

Creative Practise: Drama / Storytelling / Multi-disciplinary

School: Clarkson Community High School

Teacher:  Steven Laing

Year Group: 9

Number of students: 20  

Main Curriculum Focus 


Project overview 

They are a good bunch of students, but there is a large range of capability and confidence in their capability, a fair degree of cynicism, a few high behavioural needs, and a fairly significant degree of disengagement. (Teacher) 

Collaborative / Persistent / Disciplined 

It was clear soon after the start of Creative Schools that we were going to have to spend the majority of this term on getting this group of students more engaged with the idea of learning and school-life. We set our aims accordingly and focused on the following; 

improving collaborative working practices,  

increasing camaraderie in the classroom,  

improving their ability to stick with a task 

introduce time to reflect on achievements, challenges of each session and assess how to move forward with tasks.  

We are keen to demonstrate that creative activities make learning fun and enjoyable.” (Creative Practitioner)  

We have focused on the Creative Habits of Learning, bringing them alive through tasks drawn from variety of sources; theatre games, corporate team-building exercises, science challenges and children’s party games. Our activities ranged from scavenger hunt to egg drop challenge and tunnel ball to building the tallest structure from spaghetti and marshmallows.   

The sessions built confidence in the students to work as a group, to challenge their comfort zones and instil a sense of achievement and pride in their abilities.   

How did we activate student voice and learner agency? 

We spent time introducing ideas around reflection and feedback and have set up a ‘yarning circle’ to enable this to happen in a structured way. Over the course of the program students have started to share thoughts and discuss challenges. Towards the end of the sessions we noticed students moving their chairs into a circle, without instruction, in preparation for the circle.

In the final sessions of Term 4 students were asked to build an erupting volcano from dough, paint it and then mix bicarb and vinegar to create the eruption. The dough making and modelling session was led by a student teacher at the school on prac. Ordinarily with this group of students a situation like this could have ended very chaotically but, with minimal instruction, they all mixed the dough and created their volcano models. The impact of Creative School in their attention and behaviour has been considerable.


The students have noticeably become more engaged with the class. They are enjoying the activities that we are doing and when faced with a challenge or difficulty are more prepared to work through it. 

The students are becoming more productive and receptive in the other science classes that Steve teaches them in the week. He has noticed that they are getting through more of the work, are more tolerant of working with others and are more positive.

They're all here and they all want to get into class before the bell even goes. This is brilliant. That is a first. The biggest problem is engagement. Teachers don't do the creative stuff in classrooms, because students lack the skills. We've been working on building these creative skills in students. We're starting to see a massive shift in the kids now. I chose the hardest class so that we can see the difference and we are seeing it. We have one student with autism who is normally very withdrawn. There has been a massive shift for her; she has started coming out of her shell. Last week she presented in front of the whole class and now we're seeing a shift for her in her other classes too. This is massive. Because the student behaviour is so much better in the creative learning lessons, which is carrying over to their other lessons, I get through the curriculum content so much quicker. We are focusing on the Creative Habits of Learning in the sessions, and it is enhancing their ability to focus and be engaged, which means my curriculum coverage is quicker. Investing time in the creative skills therefore pays off. We don't lose time, we gain time.” (Teacher)  
“It has taken a little while, but the kids are actually getting together and working together well now. Across school there is a difference in the students and how they interact and engage. I go with these students to different classes, and I notice the difference. Across the whole school their behaviour is changing. They are starting to engage positively in the classroom, even in different classrooms. I'm particularly seeing a difference for the kids who were disengaged or negative. There is one student with autism who is now standing up and talking across the whole classroom, telling others what her group is doing. That is huge. She would have never done that before. I absolutely love it. I think it is fantastic. I would love to introduce it in Year 7 to build the skills for learning and engagement in students from early on.” (Education Assistant)

“Creative Schools has started well. We have been challenging the students to develop their cooperation and collaboration skills by asking them to work with others they wouldn’t ordinarily choose to. This has been difficult for some but by practicing and reflecting week on week we are slowly beginning to see more tolerance in this area and more appreciation of others’ skills and knowledge.”  (Creative Practitioner)

Observational changes in student behaviour from Teacher, Creative and Education Assistant

The positive change created in CS classes started to leak into the “normal” science classes. Students would:

Rearrange room on request into team set-up without complaint;  

Make greater effort to complete all questions in tests rather than give up at first challenge;

More positive atmosphere in classroom;

Students would move away from more rowdy students or ask them to “be quiet”


Internal class survey:  

ALL students recognised and agreed with the proposition of developing the 5 Habits.  

All but one agreed that after Creative Schools exposure they were now happier to work in teams with other students.

All but two agreed that their attitude to their classmates and their teacher had improved since Creative Schools.

Our hypothesis and future suggestions:

Students want to work in groups but social anxiety in high school appears to have become a much greater impact in preventing this taking place effectively.  

This issue may be greater in low SES areas where students are less likely to be involved in out-of-schools activities requiring the skills of building relationships with new people, coupled with technology advances ensuring students are rarely bored and feel the need to go out and interact.  

This is particularly noticeable when students start high school if not enough time and attention is devoted to building positive student interaction outside of their primary school social groups.

Finding opportunities to break down barriers between students and teacher through games and other activities (focused on building the 5 Habits) and clear opportunities for teachers to listen directly to students (e.g. yarning circles) help build the trust that makes a more effective learning compact between students and their teacher.

Investing time at the start of Year 7 to break social barriers using CS based activities seems the most logical focal point for building positive creative learning habits.

Student quotes:

 “It’s so cool that you guys come here and teach us. You make learning fun. We get to talk and we get to express everything.”  

 “That I’m working with people that I don’t know very well. When I don’t know people I usually don’t like them. But I’ve discovered we actually get to know each other and I find out I like things about them.” 

“The whole classroom is enjoying what they are doing. It’s making the curriculum more interesting. It’s not so formulated like normal lessons.” 

 “Creative Schools is different because we do activities and work on resilience and also find ways of doing work in different ways. I’ve noticed it’s got less structured, in a positive way. It’s not an exact formula. It’s much less repetitive. You don’t know what’s going to happen next.” 

“It is different to other lessons. We just sit on the computer and do lessons online in other classes, except for special subjects, but in Maths or English we just sit and work alone. You just have to go on Connect and do your work. I definitely prefer this style of learning.”