Alistair Bond contributes insightful knowledge on creativity within our school settings.

Alistair Bond, Headmaster of Park Hill Preparatory School, shares valuable insights on his processes behind sparking creativity, and applying it through his everyday practices as Headmaster of Park Hill.

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So, a confession. I have a healthy obsession with creativity.



noun the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.

I am fascinated by how people and children create and invent. The speed at which ideas are formulated. The methods used to create something and, perhaps most fascinating of all, creating the environment where such creativity can thrive and flow.

I see it everyday as I walk around the school. Inventiveness and creativity abounds in every classroom, regardless of age of child or lesson. I also see it in colleagues who deftly guide and encourage our children to explore and apply their innate curiosity to a whole host of topics and areas.

It is invariably during holidays that my mind wanders. It also wanders during exercise. It was during a rather unpleasant (bordering on the enjoyable) spin class that my mind shut out the pounding music and ‘encouragement’ of the instructor to reflect on a conversation I had been part of (more an observer more accurately) between colleagues on the potential content of a recent parent workshop on how to be creative with iPad devices.

I marvelled at the flow of the ideas, each one triggering the development of another, culminating in a frankly brilliant session. Their excitement tangible and anticipation of the session thrilling. I needed to understand more.

I needed to understand the psychology of discovery and invention. Enter Lucas, Cleese, Trott and Csikszentmihalyi.

Csikszentmihalyi and his book, ingeniously titled ‘Creativity’ is quite the read. What captured my imagination was the section on the early years. He explains that some children who later astonished the world were quite remarkable right out of their cradles. But many of them showed no spark of unusual talent.

‘Young Einstein was no prodigy. Winston Churchill’s gift as a statesman were not obvious until middle age. Tolstoy, Kafka and Proust did not impress their elders as future geniuses.’

The final paragraph on page 156 made everything make sense. Sort of.

‘If being a prodigy is not a requirement for later creativity, a more than usually keen curiosity about one’s surroundings appears to be. Practically every individual who has made a novel contribution to a domain remembers feeling awe about the mysteries of life and has rich anecdotes to tell about efforts to solve them.’

It is an absorbing book. The story of Darwin in his youth discovering a beetle is inspiring. We are currently rewatching the ITV series The Durrels. It is required viewing to see how Gerald Durrel was ‘encouraged’ to develop his fascination of flora and fauna. As much as it robbed the romance of a French team winning a home World Cup, observing Rassie Erasmus on ‘Chasing Sun’ was absorbing for his critical thinking, drowning out the critical voices with grim defiance.

My copy of ‘Creativity’ is well thumbed. It accompanies me pretty much everywhere and reinforces how essential it is to foster and nurture curiosity in children and colleagues.

More recently the perfect and cheerfully short guide ‘Creativity’ by John Cleese is quite clear about his value for creativity and how it must be ‘taught’ in schools. I wonder whether ‘space’ for creative thinking in schools is a more appropriate description.

I had the very good fortune to complete my Lean Six Sigma Yellow belt training with the inspiring Anu of. It joined the dots with my reading of Dave Trott’s book ‘Crossover Creativity.’ Trott explores real life examples of creative thinking and uses an example of Jeff Bezos using the five whys to look at and solve a problem. The lesson? Stay curious, ask questions and don’t rush to conclusions.

It helped me make sense of what links many of the people and leaders that I have found intriguing for many years. As well as Erasmus how about a certain ‘maverick’ Clive Woodward whose curiosity uncovered the obvious, why not change out of your muddy, wet shirt at half time?

Bob Woolmer was similarly fascinating. Why not send out your captain to the field with an earpiece so you can advise and, um, coach? It didn’t go down well with the ECB but what inventiveness! I had the great fortune to meet him and to hear him speak. An absolute gentleman. He correctly questioned the coaching of children. Let them enjoy striking the ball, let them swing the bat, don’t stifle them with unnecessary technicalities of technique.

Bill Lucas and colleagues at the University of Winchester produce compulsory reading for school leaders to ensure creativity is placed at the heart of the curriculum. Again, well thumbed books keep being referred to and the creativity wheel is at the core of our school. What will be the most in demand skills in 2025? Well, according to the World Economic Forum four of the top five skills demand creativity-

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Creativity, originality and initiative

I was absolutely overjoyed when a parent recently described our school as forward thinking. I realised that perhaps without necessarily realising or appreciating it but this is a shared philosophy amongst us all at Park Hill. Children, parents and teachers alike. Our children will be entering work in what is described (World Economic Forum, The Future of Jobs) as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They will enjoy four or five careers. What are the critical skills and abilities that they must possess to thrive and prosper in those multiple careers? They need to be cognitively flexible and creative. Our responsibility as a school does not end at 11. We must provide them with these skills for life. We must teach creativity.

And my goodness me, do we enjoy taking this responsibility seriously at Park Hill

This week Alistair will be joining this year’s group of inspiring Independent Education sector leaders at the upcoming Independent Schools Partnership Network (ISPN) event. Alistair will be contributing his knowledge and expertise to a panel titled ‘Empowering students through a creative and expansive curriculum’. 

Find out more about ISPN here.

Visit Park Hill’s website here.