Creative curriculum implementation in primaries

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What is a creative curriculum and how can we implement it? The National College report, Lifting the Lid, says that a creative curriculum makes creativity central rather than a bolt-on. We link to case studies from Leading Aspect Award, and programmes such as Creative Partnerships.

Defining a creative curriculum

Lifting the Lid on the Creative Curriculum was a landmark 2007 report from the National College for School Leadership (NCSL). It focused on four primary schools, each of which emphasised the importance of a creative curriculum in a different way.

The report proposed that creativity should be seen as central to the curriculum, and to the process of delivering and absorbing the curriculum, rather than as a bolt-on.

Lifting the Lid defined educational creativity in the following terms:

  • Connecting: seeing relationships and combining in new ways
  • Risking: having the self-confidence and freedom to fail and keep trying
  • Envisaging: being original and imaginative about what might be
  • Analysing: asking critical and challenging questions
  • Thinking: taking time for reflection and soft thinking
  • Interacting: sharing ideas and collaborating
  • Varying: testing options and trying different ways
  • Elaborating: exploring, fiddling, doing the unnecessary

Designing a creative curriculum

Lifting the Lid proposed six key messages for creative curriculum design:

  • Focus on curriculum creativity by:
    • Encouraging imagination and originality
    • Making time to reflect critically
    • Allowing space for thinking and choice
    • Giving freedom to fail with the confidence to try again
  • Create a culture of collaboration by:
    • Sharing values and ethos with the whole school community
    • Promoting the importance of talk and collaboration in consolidating learning
    • Ensuring everyone has the opportunity to learn from others
    • Promoting teamwork and detailed planning
    • Developing a distributed style that shares ownership and draws others into the organisation
  • Emphasise cognitive approaches by:
    • Advocating a range of teaching strategies and learning styles
    • Promoting the importance of learning across the curriculum
    • Encouraging teachers to make children active partners in their learning
    • Encouraging teachers to structure tasks and pace of learning to make it challenging and enjoyable
  • Make a real commitment to the community by:
    • Promoting the importance of dynamic partnership
    • Involving parents and carers at every opportunity
    • Focusing on the importance of the learning environment
    • Extending involvement into the local community and beyond
  • Balance continuity and change through:
    • Positive and productive performance management
    • Inspirational and interactive professional development
    • Making staff feel valued
  • Promote child-centredness by:
    • Promoting personal, social and spiritual aspects of the curriculum
    • Encouraging teachers to develop each child’s confidence, self-discipline and understanding of their learning
    • Encouraging teachers to make learning vivid, real and meaningful with many first-hand experiences

The report suggests that staff need time to teach and enjoy a creative curriculum that allows them to use their imagination and feel more motivated. Senior leaders should:

  • Think with staff about how children really learn best
  • Decide which curriculum model best promotes creativity in children and staff
  • Try individual initiatives to excite learners and staff
  • Reclaim time and space in the curriculum for creative thinking
  • Be brave and individualistic

Implementing a creative curriculum

Below is a case study from the Leading Aspect Award, which shows how a school has interpreted its creative curriculum, focusing it towards developing enterprise skills.

Creative curriculum audit

North Somerset Council gives an outline of a creative curriculum, showing its core principles and characteristics. This can be used as a simple auditing tool.

The core principles include:

  • A thematic approach to teaching and learning
  • Working in depth to give children the time they need to consolidate learning
  • Placing direct experience at the centre of the curriculum


Creativity Culture and Education delivers Creative Partnerships. This is a learning programme which has been running since 2002, and brings creative workers (e.g. artists, architects and scientists) into schools.

These practitioners work with teachers on creative problem-solving projects and techniques to help engage learners, improve behaviour, teach skills, and drive academic performance. The programme is delivered through a range of organisations which work locally.

Lancashire Grid for Learning runs courses on creative curriculum design to help schools develop:

  • Creative teaching
  • Creative ways to plan the timetable or school day
  • Enrichment activities

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