By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools
Amongst the good places to be in Britain, the National Theatre and the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon are up there. What I see or do when in these places is almost secondary to being there. Soaking it up in the National Gallery is a close second.
Why? Because being in places which celebrate the creative power of the human spirit heartens. Knowing that this country once had the courage to provide the necessary subsidy to create a national theatre; it is daily fillip to see what a beacon our two great theatres are for work that makes us think about how we live.
This feeling is compromised by knowing what is going on in maintained schools at the moment. Why are we squeezing creativity out of our schools? Asks Director of the NT, Rufus Norris, in The Guardian. I would add to Norris’ hard-nosed statistics about the benefit to the UK economy of the creative industries (which are of greater value to the UK economy each year than the automotive, oil, gas, aerospace and life sciences combined) the view that a major factor in keeping Brexit-sensitive highly paid jobs in London will be the strength of the capital’s cultural life, as well as the quality of its independent schools.
The practical benefits of the so-called creative industries in the world after school are mirrored in schools. In thinking about what schools should offer, it is fun/scary to imagine a school stripped of something so central and life-enhancing that we currently do: so imagine a school with no music, art, dance, design or drama. No bewitching glimpse yesterday of the forthcoming Dunhurst Blocks’ play (Curious Children) as the stage heaving with most of its 100+ actors brimmed with life; no Daniel Preece art master class on cityscapes; no stream of potential designers heading off to art and design schools; no scholars’ concert; and no musical performances at assemblies and Jaws. It’s a dystopian vision akin to imagining a school without Maths and Science. In short, misery!
Here is Yeats to sum up:
Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
– W.B. Yeats Among School Children