The education system has failed creatives

Journey Further’s Ben Ducker argues that the current approach to education leaves little room for exploration and experimentation

Ben Ducker

Executive Creative Director Journey Further


Creative is our country's biggest export but it’s not taught in schools.

Like many ‘creatives’, I struggled in the traditional aspects of school. I was going to be held back a year due to being behind in Maths. I’d like to say English was better but apparently, those descriptive stories I would happily scribble down were in fact pretty poor (I was later unofficially classed as dyslexic).

What I’m trying to say is creative thinkers are often misunderstood and it starts with school.

As Sir Ken Robinson said in the most watched TED talk of all time, “schools kill creativity”, arguing that “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it”. He then goes on to remind us that “creativity is as important as literacy and we should afford it the same status”.

I guess Rishi Sunak doesn’t tune in to TED talks as in his first speech of 2023, he declared war on creative minds, pledging that all students in the UK will study maths until 18. I was horrified as during Covid homeschooling I found my daughter, only in year 4, was already doing Maths that I don’t use or need in my life as an adult working in the creative industry. This whole agenda seemed to miss the point that our biggest export as a country is ‘creative’.

The current approach to education leaves little room for exploration and experimentation. The emphasis is on getting the right answer, rather than exploring different possibilities and developing new ideas.

Ben Ducker, Executive Creative Director at Journey Further

To talk numbers, recent data shows that the creative industries contributed £109 billion to the UK economy in 2021 and the industries employ millions of people annually. Advertising specifically has landed an annual export of services reaching £15bn in 2021, up 32.5% year on year – our industry is now one of the UK's strongest exports and a critical driver of economic growth.

Creativity is a vital component of economic growth, especially in a knowledge-based economy such as the UK's. The academic school system has long been criticised for failing to recognise and develop creative thinkers, and for prioritising rote learning and standardised testing over creativity and innovation. Kyle Fedyszyn, Group Chief Digital Officer at Learndirect commented, “We’re seeing that Gen Z are feeling let down, with 61% of learndirect learners aged between 18-25 claiming that the current education system in the UK fails to cater to everyone.”

It was only at a recent parent's evening that I sat and listened to how my daughter was struggling to keep up in the traditional subjects of Maths and English. History repeating itself. I had to proactively ask about her abilities in other areas such as art, music, drama and her ability to communicate her ideas. Then they had nothing but praise to say. However, this clearly wasn’t a priority for the school and how they viewed my daughter's ability to succeed. If we created an education system that encouraged creative strengths to be seen and valued on the same level as the traditional subjects, it would give students better confidence and a sense of achievement.

The current approach to education leaves little room for exploration and experimentation. The emphasis is on getting the right answer, rather than exploring different possibilities and developing new ideas. Students who are focused on achieving top grades may be reluctant to take risks or explore new ideas for fear of making mistakes.

To address this, the academic school system needs to place a greater emphasis on developing creativity. This should be spoken about with the same importance in parents evenings, reports and school introductions as traditional subjects. The curriculum should take greater inspiration from actual career skills needed in the creative industries such as the stages of idea development, how to spot inspiration, what is it and how to then translate it into something final. Even confidence to present, talk to camera, get familiar with video and storytelling formats (beyond written story) to allow children who see writing as a barrier to explore their ideas in physical and visual styles.

Kyle adds, “the average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life, those in the education sector need to have the tools at their disposal to connect with people at all stages of their academic and professional lives. These tools are born from creativity, so if younger generations are encouraged to tap into their creative flair in school, then these minds will help drive the future of education, ensuring that it is inclusive and accessible to all.”

While many schools are realising the importance of a more fluid and modern approach to learning, there is still some way to go before it truly reflects the real world. From the clothing you choose because of its style or branding, to the car you love, the entertainment and escapism of TV, social, music, even the food and drink you select because of the powerful branding and elegant packaging. Without creativity we have nothing and it’s time we gave it the spotlight it deserves when educating and encouraging the next generation through schooling.

Guest Author

Ben Ducker

Executive Creative Director Journey Further


Ben is the Executive Creative Director at performance brand agency, Journey Further. Ben has over 11 years of experience and has previously executed campaigns for brands including Carlsberg, O2, Ben & Jerry’s and more. Ben believes that by combining creative experimentation with data insight, we can drive performance and fame for brands.

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