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  • Photo: Caroline Heron

Pledging support for the Durham Commission

By Nicky Dewar, Learning & Skills Director, Crafts Council

At Crafts Council we read the  Durham Commission on Creativity and Education report with interest. Our commitment to creative education strategic goals is matched by how we support maker-educators. Our call to action asks everyone to commit to one action above and beyond what they already offer. This way we can create a grassroots movement of craft activity. These pledges can be small – an hour of a maker’s time talking to their local school about their career journey, or more ambitious – schools committing to setting up a craft club or investing in specialist training for staff. All matter.

The Commission’s document considers the broader agenda and case studies alongside the recommendations emerging from its consultation exercise and research undertaken over the last two years. Of the ten recommendations, the key drivers for change focus on the skills and capacity for teaching creativity, in the context of bigger picture changes such as the call for a DfE backed and funded National Plan for Cultural Education and the need for UK schools to participate in the PISA 2021 evaluation of creative thinking.

It’s clear that for any real change to happen all recommendations need action. This need for change on all levels—from policy to the classroom-- that mirrors our experience of producing Our Future is in the Making: An Education Manifesto for Craft and Making in 2014. Our calls for change needed systemic action from key bodies alongside support from the sector; undoubtedly the Manifesto galvanised pockets of great action but craft in education is still fighting to hold its corner.

We’ve not let that dampen our spirits, five years on our experience of delivery and our plan for a wider-reaching education offer is shaping up. It is here that our thinking resonates with a lot of what the Durham Commission calls for – the suggestion of Creative Collaboratives reflects the place-based school hubs created through our Make Your Future programme, in which teachers collaborate with universities and makers through a programme of CPD and workshops for students; we’re debating the best way to utilise digital learning to ensure equality of access; our starting point of secondary school is being stretched so we can support all phases including better awareness of craft careers; and we’re ensuring our thinking converges with the other leading voices to influence policy – being part of the joined up conversation. Importantly our role in this bigger picture is as a flag-bearer for craft specifically, with much of the current lexicon focused on ‘creativity’ across the curriculum and ‘cultural’ – important we agree - we’re ensuring what is unique and special about making, materials and hand-skills is championed.

Our friends at the Cultural Learning Alliance have reminded us of the initiatives and reports that have gone before, especially as the publication of this report marks 20 years since All Our Futures was shared. So, the challenge to the Commissioners of this report is how to move recommendations into action – how to make a lasting difference?  It is our call for action - encouraging everyone connected with craft education to make a pledge - this grassroots movement, that can help spark the energy we need to take forward recommendations from the Durham Commission.

The Crafts Council is a registered charity (280956), set up in 1971. We are the leading voice for craft in the UK. Through our exhibitions, shows and events, we inspire people to engage with craft. Through our advocacy, we champion craft and make the case for craft education at every level. We believe the contribution of making is paramount in delivering a successful education system; a vibrant economy; and the we