Here’s how a creative school becomes a creative city (2)

Impresa and Coletta’s Tool-Kit for Cities suggests that cities:

* Deliver an ‘appealing reality’, because ‘young people are very savvy in assessing cities’;
* Put values on display, demonstrating how the city ‘welcomes newcomers and new ideas’;
* Keep in touch with former residents, and find ways to have them ‘return to your city’;
* Create opportunities for civic involvement, deliberately seeking out the opinions of young people;
* Use internships to connect with young adults;
* Survey young adults regularly, including ‘exit interviews’;
* Celebrate young entrepreneurs and civic contributors;
* Communicate development plans to young adults;
* Promote your city: ‘place marketing works best when it is based on authentic stories that people are willing to tell about their cities’;
* Promote a young adult lifestyle, particularly ‘active nightlife’, and do not be fearful that this might ‘scare off the soccer moms’

Mapping out these criteria for creative cities against schools OfSTED reports offers some tentative support to the notion that schools, rather than places of teaching and learning actually are better described as creative cities.

According to OfSTED, Fichte Nursery School in Hull for example delivers an appealing reality as what pleases parents most about the school is that Children are expected to work hard as well as have fun in the nursery and this leads to good progress.. The teaching is good and staff have high expectations as to behaviour and the children’s response…

The school also can demonstrate that it puts its values on display, demonstrating how the city welcomes newcomers and new ideas as The nursery classes and corridors are full of attractive displays and a wide range of artifacts that children can see and handle at any time.

The school also demonstrably keeps in touch with former residents, and finds ways to have them return to the city through parents evenings, governors meetings as well as through the development of the Fichte Parents Writers Group (FPWG): a group of parents who, through a creative writing project researched the experiences of previous attendees of the school and encouraged them to share those experiences and stories through that project.

Furthermore, the school creates opportunities for civic involvement, deliberately seeking out the opinions of young people through its involvement in several local and government initiatives such as Sure Start and the building of the new Children’s Centre which aims to support parents and their children in close partnership with the school. It uses internships to connect with young adults by playing host regularly to trainee student teachers and research students. It can also be seen to survey young adults regularly (through regular parental consultative processes) and celebrates its young entrepreneurs and civic contributor’s as: the children’s work is always celebrated by displaying it very effectively across the school.

According to these criteria then, Fichte Nursery School qualifies as a creative City. The implications for this shift are manifold. Membership of school communities becomes more explicitly transitional and relationships between members more based on qualities of corporate society than the kin relationships of community.

New definitions of community consequently emerge in which whilst there are new spaces for diversity and difference to be explored also lend themselves for surprising new conflicts to emerge.

Simple causal relationships between landusers in the city of Fichte Nursery School can not easily be demonstrated; they become spaces in which minor events have major, surprising and unexpected consequences and if Eve Miteldon Kelly is right: when one entity tries to improve its fitness or position, this may result in a worsening condition for others. Each ‘improvement’ in one entity therefore may impose associated ‘costs’ on other entities, either within the same system or on other related systems. Mitleton-Kelly (2003)

This has significant for the successful (or otherwise) implementation of school improvement agendas. Complexity theory would suggest that the emergence of winners brings about the emergence of losers. When schools are engaged in competitions for pupil numbers, for positions on a league table, for higher CVA ratings, it is not as if they are running on an Olympic race track with competing athletes to see who can run 100m the fastest: in the competition that Nursery School Cities are part of, the ‘front runners’ are partially responsible for determining the state of the race track of those lagging ‘behind’.

More on this at

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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