Imagination is a human faculty. It is an essential skill for life.
It is the conduit for creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, problem-solving and play. It leads to resilience, innovation and finding solutions, from immediate personal challenges to major world-changing innovations.
Imagination can be difficult to define; however, there is a growing consensus that all children and young people need to be equipped with creativity and critical thinking skills for a rapidly developing digital age. Automation by Artificial Intelligence and machines has the potential to radically change our economy, meaning such skills will become highly valued (Vincent Lancrin et al. 2019).
Children today face an increasingly uncertain future with growing volatile economic, social, environmental, and political challenges that require imagination to reimagine society, business and institutions. These challenges are compounded for marginalised and disadvantaged children yet the education system is failing them. In addition to foundational literacies, the World Economic Forum strongly recommends children also need core competencies and characteristics such as creative and critical thinking skills to prepare for the future, participate in a fair and equitable society, and for their health and wellbeing.
There are severe education inequalities through a narrow curriculum aiming for high exam results and prioritising high achievers which again exacerbates the situation for children from less advantaged backgrounds. It is well documented that children growing up in poverty and disadvantaged areas are less likely to do well at school. The recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2023 report confirms this stark reality as it states that “there is a gap in young people’s educational attainment by parental income across all stages of education”.
This narrow approach to education has diminished imagination and creativity not only from traditionally creative subjects like art and music but also from literacy, numeracy, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. It is an unforgiving education system where the needs of children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) and those not in mainstream education (particularly following the impact from COVID-19) have been forgotten.
Growing up in certain geographic areas can negatively influence a child’s chances of receiving a successful education, and children from low socio-economic backgrounds have less access to the tools that support them to progress academically in school.
These crucial deficits affect a child’s immediate resilience, mental health, social skills, future work potential and integration into society. In short, our children are not best prepared for life today or life in the future.
Through our vital work with primary school-aged children, we are delivering practical, scalable and transformative solutions. We have engaged with over 140,000 children since our charity was formed, and with many more parents, teachers, community leaders and other educators in England and in selected countries around the world helping transform children’s lives with fundamental skills which can help them navigate a rapidly changing world.
Like their children, parents and also the community leaders we work for also suffer from the poverty of opportunity and so our work provides them with essential resources and learning which leaves a legacy that is transformative. Within the school system there is currently a teacher recruitment and retention crisis in England. With our fast growing network of schools, we are uniquely positioned to scale the critical provision of STEAM training and support for teachers, as well as offering incentives for them to stay in the profession. Headteachers thus commend us for keeping their team members in the profession and more motivated, creative and better equipped.
Supporting children to develop creativity and aspiration must be a priority for everyone. It is especially vital for those with the poorest opportunities. Unlocking the innovator and entrepreneur within each child, and their imagination, should be a child’s right.
We understand the power of creativity, so now more than ever, we must scale our reach and be a force for change within the education system. With access to creative learning, our children will be prepared for an uncertain future and be equipped with the confidence and ambition to thrive.
We are living through extraordinary times but as we now look forward, I hope this report gives you a snapshot into the phenomenal results we have achieved and how we have evolved and developed to enable us to be so well placed for the road ahead.
We can’t do this alone, so I hope our work and ambition inspire you to join us.
Martin Allen Morales, CEO of the Institute of Imagination
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