This paper draws on the work of Basil Bernstein to offer a (re-) conceptualisation of creativity for the English further education (FE) sector. It begins by locating creativity within the political economy of FE and argues that teaching and learning is constrained by an instrumental remit for the sector, which prioritises perceived economic needs over broader conceptions of education and training. The paper goes on to analyse the FE curriculum, relating Bernstein's work on generic modes to critiques of competence. It proposes a central role for knowledge and broad conceptions of skill in FE in order to contest an instrumental approach to teaching and learning arising from official discourse on competitiveness. The paper uses Bernstein's typology of vertical and horizontal discourse to argue that creativity needs to be re-defined in a way that recognises the value of principled, conceptual knowledge in vocational education whilst acknowledging the socially constructed nature of creativity and knowledge.