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We need Creative Leadership

We need Creative Leadership

Notwithstanding the current international pandemic (Covid-19) Wales faces the most challenging changes to its educational system since devolution in 1999.

In 2017, Education Minister Kirsty Williams MS, launched Education in Wales: Our national mission. (WG, 2017a) This was an action plan, a major shake up to transform the education system in Wales. To date there has been a major overhaul of Initial Teacher Training, the establishment of a National Academy for Educational Leadership, a commitment to equity, excellence and well-being along with the co-construction of a new curriculum and assessment process. As we await the Royal Assent and the passing of the curriculum and assessment bill into law, I ask: how can we ensure that this does make a difference to our learners and young people? And how will this be any different to other ministerial initiatives? We must ensure that the new education system is designed in such a way that it meets the challenges we face now and that it is adaptable to future challenges.

At the heart of Curriculum for Wales (WG, 2015b) sit the four purposes, which aim to support our learners to become:

  • ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
  • enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
  • ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
  • Healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.

These purposes are relevant to the development of all learners from early years to adulthood. After all, are we not all lifelong learners? These purposes can be transposed into our working life and roles and are especially relevant to those in educational leadership positions. All leaders should be healthy, confident individuals who are ambitious and capable, ethically informed, who are enterprising and creative.  All four purposes are essential to a leader’s practice, but the enterprising and creative purpose is the key to ensuring the success of the transformation of the education system and its curriculum.  There are some excellent examples of creative leadership in our educational settings across Wales and the current crisis has certainly pushed the boundaries – if not in some cases, burst the boundaries- to explore new and innovative practice. To do this in a coherent and collegiate way we must develop creative leadership and in doing so, support the successful implementation of Curriculum for Wales.

De Bono (2007) states that ‘without creativity there is only repetition and routine……creativity is needed for change, improvement and new directions.’ We are facing dramatic change as we proceed in a new direction towards a new curriculum in 2022. A new direction requires a new and different approach and therefore, we cannot continue to apply the same ways of Professional Learning to its design and, more importantly, to its delivery. We must avoid continuing to apply the same default approaches and we must avoid following the same routines. For example, why do schools still have three terms with a six-week summer holiday? A few schools in Wales have been pioneering in their approaches to structuring (or re-structuring) the school week (Evans 2021). This was done with the intention of creating additional space and time for professionals to consider their own well-being as well as time and space to access highly effective Professional Learning opportunities.

So, is this the time for our leaders to be ‘taking measured risks’ and ‘thinking creatively to reframe’ (WG, 2015b)? Robinson (2017) suggests that creative leadership needs to be nurtured in a culture of innovation which he says is dependent on cultivating three processes: Imagination, Creativity and Innovation.  He states that innovation might be the aim, but it must begin with imagination and creativity is the process before putting the innovation into action. Now is the time to imagine how Curriculum for Wales could provide an education which is dynamic, exciting and engaging! How can the climate and conditions be created to allow this to happen? Innovation is one of the five standards included in the Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership (WG, 2017c) but interestingly the words imagination and creativity do not appear in these standards. But the approach to developing innovation as Robinson suggests, is to have the right climate, the right conditions. Leaders need to be responsible for strategically developing the conditions for Imagination, Creativity and Innovation to flourish.

Robinson (2017) further suggests that a creative leader strategically plans to facilitate the creative abilities of every member of the organisation and that they form creative teams to collaborate and strategically promote a culture of innovation within the organisation. Creative leaders need to provide the environment and climate for creativity and innovation to thrive.  Practitioners need to be freed from repetition and routine to allow for enriched learning experiences which will allow them to imagine. Where this culture exists, leaders and teachers can ‘take measured risks’ and ‘give of their energy and skills so that others might benefit’ (WG, 2019)

To implement and embed Curriculum for Wales we certainly need strong visionary leadership, but we also need dynamic and creative leadership to ensure we deliver a curriculum which remains focussed on providing an education which is future-proofed.

Tegwen Ellis, Chief Executive
National Academy for Educational Leadership Wales

This blog was written for the British Educational Leadership, Management & Administration Society (BELMAS). This is the first BELMAS blog to be published bilingually in Welsh and English.


De Bono, E., 2007. How to have creative ideas. London: Vermilion.

Donaldson, G., 2015. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 April 2021].

Evans, G., 2021.The Value of Asymmetric School Weeks: Lessons Learned from Schools in Wales. Swansea: National Academy for Educational Leadership and UWTSD.

Robinson, K., 2017. Out of Our Minds The Power of Being Creative. 3rd ed. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Welsh Government, 2017. Professional standards – Hwb. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 April 2021].

Welsh Government, 2021. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 April 2021].

Welsh Government, 2021. Written Statement: Curriculum for Wales 2022 (30 April 2019) | GOV.WALES. [online] GOV.WALES. Available at: <> [Accessed 16 April 2021].