Attending the IB Visual Arts exhibition at the end of last week and the West Road concerto concert this week, I was keenly aware that I teach in a remarkable school. It may be an extreme thought but I confess that I find myself musing whether there is actually any point to studying subjects other than the creative and performing arts!
Of course, I am only saying this for effect and, whimsically, I must say that I would not want to do without my own subject of Geography nor a few others!
Nevertheless the creative arts have a special place in our curriculum. If students don’t study them, they can at least all try to appreciate them, for it is really only in these subjects, arguably, that students have the chance to present something of themselves in the fullest sense with no restriction on style or medium. The fact that they can take the ideas of others, reflect upon them and reinterpret them or fuse them with original ideas that makes the creative arts just so powerful.
Knowing our own students helps to me place their art and performances in context and this is probably one of the reasons why I always find these events so powerful. Knowing that the same student has spent many of the previous weekends writing history essays or rehearsing for a cadets’ parade or finalising their maths coursework means that their efforts in music rehearsal and art presentation are all the more laudable. The ability to maintain the mental agility to handle knowledge-intense subjects such as Biology or Economics together with the creativity and thought that is required for the arts is a worthy combination which chimes with what many employers are looking for. In fact, one recruitment consultant told me exactly this only last week.
Before you ask me, ‘but what about sport?’, I am not saying that the student who prefers to be involved in sports teams is somehow less thoughtful! The teamwork and camaraderie of sport as well as the need to practise and maintain fitness and expertise are admirable and highly attractive in the workplace. However, it is sometimes just worth making a shout about the arts, possibly in a provocative way, perhaps because they don’t have the money and resources thrown at them beyond school in our society. The arts also have the potential to help us to slow down and think which is, I believe, something of value in its own right - just like reading deeply, for pleasure and curiosity (see an earlier newsletter from 25 November 2016 on why it is so important).
As this Easter vacation comes upon us, there is very much to celebrate and be grateful for in the 6th form. Our final assembly of term concluded with the acknowledgement that it was the last assembly for all the U6th to be together prior to their study leave commencing. We also noted that preparations for the Leavers’ Service at Caius Chapel on 3 July and the Leavers’ Dinner at Girton College on 4 July are well underway, as indeed are the plans for next September’s Induction Dinner at St John’s! There seems to be a never-ending spiral of activity and work that we probably all need to slow down and take stock on occasions!
Examination preparation is also ever with us especially, of course, in the U6th but also for many in the L6th who will take the final modules in the few, unreformed, A Level subjects. The danger could be that we see this time of year as being all about examinations and university decisions. These are extremely important but they have to be placed in a wider context of what is important and valuable in life so if students (and may be parents) find it useful to try to slow down a little and to pause and think this is probably a very helpful thing to do. Perhaps it will be by reading a book or watching a film or listening to a concert or attending an art exhibition or play that we can be rejuvenated and enthused about the tasks that lie ahead. Some would challenge this and say that a good kick of a football or a run (I continue to be impressed with Dr Tustin’s 6th form running club!) is the tonic that is required. I guess, in the end, as long as we all have something that helps us to keep things in perspective and allows us to be challenged physically and / or mentally that is probably actually what we should be pleased about.
So, a final offering of best wishes to everyone for a happy Easter break and many thanks to the students and staff for the very many activities and events that have taken place over this term. Even just this week alone we have had a lunchtime talk on STEM careers and Canadian Universities from alumna Imogen Coe and a super afterschool Medical Ethics by Dr Julian Sheather from the BMA. We have a multiplicity of trips going out over the holiday including to Spain, Germany and to Ukraine. My thanks to the teachers for their hard work in making these possible.
Finally, Physics and Chemistry teacher Catriona McKnight will be leaving the Stephen Perse Foundation at the end of this term to pursue new challenges. We wish her all the best for the future.
Head of Sixth Form