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☰ A Creative Approach

Head's Blog

A Creative Approach

Posted on May 03 2017

The date was 10 October 2006, a time I remember fondly and very well.  It was partly due to the fact that West Ham United had successfully maintained their Premier League status after an impressive promotion the year before.  However, the main reason was a teaching experience that I will never forget.  I was in my fourth year of teaching at a state primary school in Warrington and was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to go out and teach in Ontario, Canada for a month as part of a research project initiated by the British Council.

I joined a team of ten teachers from Warrington and travelled to Ontario to observe, teach and learn about their creative arts curriculum, something that the UK was looking to improve. The premise was to learn about creative resources and initiatives and implement them into schools in the North West of England.  Looking back, I gained so much from the experience and I learned, first hand, just how important a creative curriculum and a positive approach to learning is when inspiring young minds.

The creative arts are central to the academic education that we provide at Forest Park Preparatory School and at the heart of what we do to inculcate confidence and resilience in our pupils. The esteemed author and government advisor, Sir Ken Robinson, quotes “Creativity is as important now in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

That is exactly what we do at Forest Park; we want our children to be innovative and creative thinkers, at ease with unexpected perspectives and fresh ideas.  Our pupils are avid speakers and debaters, keen to express their view of the world, but the arts offer them the opportunity to work collaboratively to express ideas and feelings.

In particular, the arts allow older and younger children to work together in the camaraderie and excitement of putting on a play or concert and younger pupils are inspired to emulate the older ones who are exceptional pianists, nerveless soloists or talented lead actors, knowing that their time in the limelight will come as they progress through the school. Year 6 act as role models to the younger pupils, choreographing dance routines for their shows, mentoring children in dance club and leading small guitar and violin ensembles.

Public performance develops confidence and the ability to take a risk and stand in the spotlight as an individual or as part of a group.  These are essential qualities and skills for the young adults who wish to make a successful career in the modern world where articulacy and presentational skills are prized attributes and the capacity to work well in a team is always listed as a key requirement for most grammar school entrants.

At Forest Park, creative arts are not simply bolt on extra-curricular activities, our whole approach to learning is inherently creative. In our school, the learning in the classroom is enriched through an immersion in language – through story-telling, creative writing and drama. As part of the cross curricular programme, pupils work closely with LAMDA professionals to learn the art of poetry, prose and acting. Words and ideas are at the heart of all we do to stimulate the children’s curiosity and imagination through diverse programme of visits, activities and festivals. In the EYFS and KS1, dressing up is a visual expression of a child’s vivid imagination at work – as is richly evident in the Indian dresses and character costumes during ‘RE Enrichment Day’ or ‘World Book Day’ or the costuming of the huge range of plays, concerts and productions each year.

The Government’s most recent educational initiatives – the lack of recognition of arts subjects, the attempt to remove art history from the curriculum, the constant constraints of the new funding formula for state schools – all point to a tendency to undervalue the arts in favour of traditional subjects or much promoted science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. A recent survey by the Guardian revealed that one in ten schools (9%) had dramatically reduced the teaching time of art, music and drama in their schools, a figure which is likely to increase.

Of course, we sympathise with the drive to open up the world of science and engineering to young pupils.  We encourage children to engage in a whole range of STEM activities – recently our whole school entered a paper plane competition via science and engineering week and, just last term, we had class visits to Jodrell Bank and Museum of Science and Industry as part of our science curriculum in school.  But, more accurately, our emphasis is on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths.

This is a complex, unstable, exciting world where our young people will need to blend technological understanding with creative energy and intuition if they are to become the leaders of the second half of the 21st century.  We feel, confidently, that the children at Forest Park are best suited to the trials and tribulations of the new exciting world that lies ahead.

Nick Tucker

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