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Creativity and constraint in the classroom: what’s happening next year?

Unprecedented. Unparalleled.  Extra-ordinary.

These are all part of words and phrases that we’ve heard a lot over the last 3 months or so since the COVID-19 lockdown. And it’s not wrong. We are in really strange old times and it may well be that way for a while yet. Shops opened yesterday and people have been out to ‘enjoy’ it. It’s not particularly my thing, but I am totally stir-crazy and cabin-fevered up. Social distancing is doing my head in (don’t like it but still doing it!) and I am pretty desperate to see more real people who aren’t in the internet. And what of schools?

I feel for kids. It’s just pants for them at the moment. There is no clarity on what’s happening next year, who will be where, what they’ll be doing and how they’ll get there. I feel for them. I mainly work with secondary students and it’s years 10 and 12 that are going through the mill at the moment. They don’t know whether they’ll have exams, how they’ll do school next year  and what on earth the road to uni looks like. That sucks and it’s stressful and oppressive, and pretty darn depressing.

We’re constrained by a curriculum and syllabi that we don’t know will hold moving towards September. And that sucks.

But it doesn’t need to.

Curriculum managers, exam boards and qualifications verifiers, in collaboration with professionals and ministers could redo a whole host of stuff. Exams could be replaced by teacher grades, then moderated each year, not unlike what they do in Finland. Exam styles could be altered, allowing students a choice of questions in all papers, rather than just a few, so they can show their knowledge well. For some subjects, course work could make up the lion’s share of assessment protocols. We could teach skills that are transferable rather than just knowledge

I am not the most creative of creatures, but I know that people can do more- so much more- when they are given some wriggle room around their professional activities. Teachers are granted so little of that.

Perhaps if we were, we’d be more creative in the classroom and less constrained.