Inspiring creative, happy children (and where the Tories have got it wrong)

Labour Party

Since I lead on Early Years Learning in the EU for the European Parliament, I’m always delighted when I hear that the Working Group on the Quality of Childhood has organised a seminar in Brussels. These events, which take place every few months, provide a fantastic opportunity to look at childhood in a new light or from a different perspective.

Yesterday, renowned British Professor David L. Brierley was invited by the Working Group to give his take on creativity in contemporary education. David Brierley is no ordinary speaker. He has spent over 40 years as a teacher and is passionate about education’s power to inspire creativity. This comes through clearly in his delivery. David is someone who can clearly inspire others.

His view, which I agree with, is that passion is a necessary quality for all those who want to teach children. Each individual, including each child, has what he calls a ‘unique inner nature’. The task of school, and of teachers, is to develop this.

The big problem is that across Europe there is now far too much testing of young people. Endless examinations are demoralising for pupils and they’re demoralising for teachers. David is right when he says it’s the role of the teacher to motivate children and to give artistic shape to ‘a confusing and fragmented world’. This philosophy, he thinks, will have a strong influence on teacher reforms in the future.

During his insightful presentation David came back time and again to ‘happiness’, and what it means. There’ve been lots of debates in the UK recently about what happiness is and how we can create it. David Cameron PM first floated the idea of a ‘happiness index’ in 2005, when he was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, later pledging to invest £2m into the project. Most people, rightly so, argued that his suggestion was woolly and impractical. Happiness is not something that can be measured so easily. As David Brierley put it yesterday, happiness is linked to the ability of a person to put their footprint onto the world. It is unique, personal, and also changeable.

As I continue to work on early years education issues in Europe, I look forward to seeing many more motivated speakers at the Working Group on the Quality of Childhood in the near future.