Enacting ‘creativity’ in a neoliberal policy context
: a case study of English primary school teachers’ experiences

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Creativity is very important. It is at the heart of transformative thinking processes, explaining why we have achieved so much as a species. The role of education in developing creativity has been debated for centuries, although this has been complicated by the varying definitions and applications in both academic literature and policy. The increasing dominance of neoliberal ideology across multiple social structures has caused further complications. Twin neoliberal policy emphases on managerialism and marketisation require schools to conform on the one hand and innovate on the other without clarifying how they can accommodate these contradictory demands in practice. Enactments of creativity in schools are therefore complex. This is an in-depth ethnographic case study of such enactments in a school in South East England, focusing on the experiences of the headteacher and three of the teachers over the 2012-13 academic year. Methods include observations, interviews and document analysis, employing a Bourdieusian analytic framework to conceptualise how values and practices are shaped by individual and personal experiences, as well as the system of interactive social, political and institutional ‘fields’ in which staff are situated.

Creativity was presented as a priority in this school’s local policy but, in practice, staff had little time to develop shared understandings due to contextually-determined constraints and much depended on their individual interpretations. Enactments were shaped by several interlinked factors; firstly, personal beliefs about creativity and its value; secondly, the ways that creativity related to their pedagogical values; and, thirdly, the extent to which staff had assimilated neoliberal policy dispositions into their practice. This research demonstrates that education professionals need a supportive environment in which to develop and enact creative practice and the current political climate is far from it. Over the year, this school’s attempts to comply with shifting neoliberal policy frameworks overshadowed their efforts to engage in creative teaching and creative learning.
Date of Award5 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorGill Crozier (Supervisor) & Pat Mahony (Supervisor)


  • Creativity
  • Creative learning
  • Creative teaching
  • Bourdieu
  • Neoliberal
  • policy
  • ethnographic
  • Teachers
  • Case study

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