Out of Our Minds - A Call for Creativity

I love this picture. Maybe, if our school leadership team had got together when they were three years old rather than now when they're in their forties and fifties, this is how it would have looked. The guy in the black and white stripey top is the one who, forty years later, will become the timetabler; the lad with the fair hair who's just sitting there on the floor, chatting to his mate, will become the Pastoral Deputy. I think the young lady with the strawberry on her T-shirt is probably the Headteacher-Elect as she has the air of a strategist poring over a battle plan, a bit like Winston Churchill did in World War II. And the other two girls? Well, they're just making a mess. Or are they designing a knowledge-based curriculum, working on the school prospectus or rebranding the school uniform? Who knows. But one thing is clear. They are totally absorbed whatever they're up to.

Fast forward forty years and the mess has all gone. Once a week they come together in their smart suits for two hours of dry debate and dreary decision making. The paints are off the table, replaced by a pot of Bic biros; the guy in the black and white stripey top doesn't paint trees any more, but he's a whizz with Excel and PowerPoint. As for the forty-three year-old headteacher, she hasn't got huge colourful canvases out on the board room table any more; just a copy of the School Development Plan. And the guys sitting on the floor are still having a chat about the football results. Dullsville United are going to get relegated again this season, it seems.

What's happened to creativity? Are we too tired? Too embarrassed to get the coloured pencils, the scissors, glue and paints out now we're adults? Is it all a waste of time, a distraction?

Certainly not in our house where, after thirty years, my dear wife has finally resigned herself to the fact that my head is always buzzing with ideas. She knows that she's quite likely to get a text while shopping, asking her to buy things that will attract strange looks when she gets to the checkout. "What does a middle-aged woman want with 200 coloured lollipop sticks and slab of Plasticine?", they wonder. "It's for my husband", she'll explain, "he's a teacher."

Now, more than ever, in the face of this awful virus, we need people to be creative and not defeatist. Be innovative, Engage. Be brave. Be aware of the dangers by all means, but go into battle. Above all, please don't fold your arms like a disgruntled three year-old and refuse to co-operate until someone else sorts it all out for you.

The shepherd boy, David, was probably only primary school age when he killed Goliath. He was fed up with listening to this nine-foot giant boasting, But he didn't take him out with a lever-arch folder which contained his 500-page copy of Israel's Anti-Philistine Policy. No. He got creative. He made do with what he could find. Five smooth stones and a sling, so we are told.

So, if you're a school leader today who is trying to get your head around staggered break times while installing foot-operated hand sanitisers and dustbins in all your classrooms and who's just had a member of staff turn up at your door with a 'new and persistent cough' ... sit down with a coffee. Get some Play-Doh, finger paints, some cocktail sticks, marker pens and sugar paper out. Then call all your friends in leadership to come and sit around your table - at a social distance, of course - and make a real mess. You'll enjoy it enormously. And you might even be able to think a whole lot more clearly as a result.

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