Page 10 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 10

The importance of the arts in education
One of the great pleasures in
my  rst year as Headmaster
at Abingdon has been the opportunity simply to soak up what is going on around the school on a day-to-day basis. Abingdon is known for its Other Half – our term for the formidable extra-curricular offer here – that sees our pupils taking part in
over 120 activities, ranging from bell-ringing to lacrosse, from robotics to sailing. All part of
our commitment to developing character, to allowing pupils to  nd their niche within the school and discover the best vehicles with which to establish and express their own personalities.
The arts are a cornerstone of
our Other Half programme, and indeed they play a key part in the development of all our pupils. There are manifold reasons why we feel that it is important
that our pupils have a strong grounding in the arts. A starting point might be the potential boost given to mental health. Psychologists have written of
the bene ts of achieving a state of ‘ ow’, when you become so absorbed in the activity that you are undertaking that you lose all sense of yourself. Involvement
in art, drama or music is a great way to achieve this ‘ ow’ and can offer a welcome release from pupils’ day-to-day pressures - as well as an opportunity for them to escape from the tyranny of the mobile phone and social media.
The arts obviously also offer wonderful outlets for self- expression while at the same time providing a useful vehicle
for pupils to consider complex issues. One way this happens
at Abingdon is through the
Film Unit which assembles a team of industry professionals who work alongside Abingdon pupils to make a diverse range
of productions from animations to documentaries on location
in Cambodia and Moldova. The results are extraordinary, as the pupils produce work of great maturity and style, often taking on demanding subjects. A recent  lm by two Year 10 pupils, Fade Away, captured the experience
of living with dementia in a powerful and thoughtful way that won them the Best Young Filmmaker Award at the National Student Film Festival. As the best art does, the  lm captured the emotions around dementia far more effectively than a factual description could convey.
There are also wonderful opportunities in the arts to learn about leadership and teamwork.
A coaching session by the Fitzroy String Quartet earlier in the
year encouraged our musical ensembles to think about how they interact in rehearsal and how they can listen to one another more effectively. Of course, the arts provide fertile ground for friendships to form, and this was apparent on our orchestra’s recent tour to Germany. The camaraderie is also apparent in a group like the Big Band, as pupils encourage one another and respond to
their colleagues’ solos and improvisations.
Involvement in the arts contributes positively to building
the community within the school, not least as it engenders interaction across the various year groups. It also allows our pupils to look beyond the school walls. For example, members of the Film Unit recently produced an exceptional short  lm for
the Sobell House charity to use in their fund-raising. This was
a challenging assignment that required the young  lm-makers to show great sensitivity and maturity, with uplifting and heartening results.
This sense of stretch and challenge underpins all that we undertake in the arts. Our recent production with St Helen’s and St Katharine’s of the musical London Road presented cast, crew and band with signi cant musical, dramatic and technical challenges, which they responded to superbly.
A singing workshop with the opera singer Richard Burkhard earlier this year placed real demands on the young singers involved but the improvement that they showed was remarkable. The growth in their con dence was palpable too.
Although we want to make sure that there are opportunities for pupils of all levels of ability to get involved with the arts, I believe strongly that we do need to present our pupils with challenges in their cultural life at a young age. I want them to take on
tasks which may not come easily to them at  rst but which can leave them fearless in the face of challenge while learning too to embrace all forms of culture.
The rewards will sustain them throughout their lives.
Picasso famously said that art ‘washes from the soul the dust of everyday life’. But this sense of spiritual nourishment and invigoration is only one of the bene ts of a rich cultural life in schools. Michael Windsor, Headmaster of Abingdon School, Oxfordshire, discusses....
The Creative Arts Department at Slindon College, Sussex, presented a showcase of their diverse
work from pupils across all art disciplines and year groups. The work included Year 7 Textiles
in the form of Lino Cushion Covers along with watercolour painting, Year 8 Distorted Self-Portrait drawings and Year
9 3D Dazzleboats. The Upper School presented work of Year
10 Graphics students and Year
11 and A level textile, graphics, photography and DT. David Quick, Headmaster said “The work produced was truly spectacular and illustrated the very high standards attained by the creative minds of our pupils.”
10 Independent Schools Magazine
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