Cultivating Creativity: A study of the Sydney Opera House’s Creative Leadership in Learning Program in schools

October 2020


Cultivating Creativity: A study of the Sydney Opera House’s Creative Leadership in Learning Program in schools is the result of a research partnership between the Australia Council for the Arts and Sydney Opera House. 

The report provides powerful evidence of the ways in which creative learning approaches can build confidence, improve academic engagement, positively impact the culture of a school and enhance a sense of community.   

The research also demonstrates the value of arts and creative activities for anticipating times of challenge and change. Creative methodologies can equip both students and the teaching community with the skills and capabilities required to meet difference, difficulty and the previously unimaginable with confidence.  

Cultivating Creativity comes at a moment when the need for agile and creative thinking is critical. 

It identifies new areas of professional and creative engagement for artists and their work, while also pointing to new and vital areas of activity for cultural organisations, and the role of creativity in future educational and community contexts.   

Cultivating Creativity is an optimistic, exciting and hugely useful document that will help schools and cultural organisations adapt for the 21st century. 

‘I commend the Australia Council and the Sydney Opera House on partnering to deliver this report, which offers valuable insights into the crucial role of arts and creativity in equipping our young people with the resilience and confidence they will need for the future.’

- Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher

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Creative Leadership in Learning (CLIL) is an innovative Sydney Opera House program that embeds creativity in schools.  

CLIL aims to increase the capacity for creative learning, supporting schools to develop the skills and knowledge required to increase engagement, build resilience, and equip students and teachers for future social and professional contexts.   

CLIL is an example of how the Opera House is creating new relationships and connections with the publicmoving into more educational work, and reimagining itself as community hub active in building civic capacity. 

This move is also seen more widely across the cultural sector. Many organisations that were previously focused on performance are expanding into this kind of community-engaged work.

‘We’ve become very mindful of the need to be ready for this future world, this unknown future world … and so creativity is such a key skill.’ (School principal)  

Key points

  • The CLIL program is having extremely positive impacts – on teachers, students, families and on the culture of participating schools.  
  • For teachers, the program has increased engagement with their teaching practice, enlivening the curriculum and leading to new flexible experiences with students. Through participation in CLIL’s ‘teacher professional learning’, teachers have enjoyed increased support and collaboration between colleagues, resulting in improved health and wellbeing. 
  • Students are experiencing increased engagement with the curriculum, and increased excitement for learning. Engaging with creativity at school has encouraged students to take risks, share their thoughts, and try new ideas.   
  • Principals and teachers spoke about how applying creativity has the potential to impact the whole child – academically, socially and emotionally. 
  • CLIL has led to increased parental engagement with both their children’s schoolwork and with the school more broadly, enhancing a shared sense of community.  
  • Within schools, CLIL has changed the meaning of creativity and its significant potential for learning across a range of academic subjects, not only those typically associated with the arts. The program is enabling schools to spark a conversation with families, students and other educators about the value of creativity in building new skills such as resilience and adaptability, which will be valued in a new, complex world of work. 
  • For participating artists, CLIL has presented new horizons and stimuli for creative practice. Artists have experienced new contexts for collaboration, and even new concepts of what artistic collaboration might mean.  For many artists, CLIL has also provided a new professional context for their practice, and an important new source of income. 
  • CLIL has also promoted a new relationship between schools and the Opera House – one that is based on collaboration and a connection that lasts over timeFor many who might not have previously attended a performance at the Opera House, CLIL has cultivated a feeling of belonging and connection with this icon of Sydney's cultural life. 

‘I have seen the program take giant risks, and I have seen it change young people’s lives.’

- Artist.  

‘It was great to just spark a new love of learning in them, and not stick to our old ways of teaching and find those creative paths that we can take with them.

– Teacher

Case studies:

Click on an image below to enlarge.

Contributing to a new kind of school

Focus on teacher development

Using creativity to have big conversations

Learning in the time of COVID-19