Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Creativity all around

Creativity all around

Things have been hectic in the Art Department here this week. Today sees, of course, our now famous Private View when A level and GCSE (mainly) artwork is on display all around the school in an astonishing exhibition of installations, films and every other kind of art you can imagine.

I love it. I love the buzz and the excitement, and the chance to congratulate our students who are rightly proud of the amazingly original and creative work they produce.

Those adjectives are key, because we want every student to display such qualities in all their work. They can seem harder to achieve in other subjects: in art, by definition THE creative subject, it's - well - kind of obvious!

But let's not take it for granted. Recently I had the pleasure of showing some colleagues from a nearby maintained school around RGS. At one point the head became green with envy. No, it wasn't our wonderful new swimming pool, nor all the other facilities around: splendid as they are, they are not unique to RGS.

What really struck my colleague, almost painfully, was the space and resources given to art, and our concentration on it. It contrasted strongly with the maintained sector where the government's obsession with 'core' (or EBacc) subjects threaten to squeeze out of the timetable what are now termed, by harsh and exaggerated contrast, the creative subjects. While constant financial cuts makes it harder than ever to fund those that don't form part of the government's core. In both senses, it's a slow death by a thousand cuts.

In effect I'm only repeating my theme of a few weeks ago, when I was inspired by the A2 exam drama production (the AS piece was stunning a couple of weeks later too). Government is right to push the importance of STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and maths are indeed vital to the economic future of the country. We are not producing enough engineers, and that should really worry us. I'm so proud that in 2015 we sent more students into university engineering courses than any other, a first and a landmark.

But we need engineers to be creative. What they design and build mustn't just work: it should be original, ground-breaking and, dare I suggest, beautiful. Just as the architect or fine artist needs to create structures or designs that stand up, work and function as well as delighting, so the scientists, engineers, technologists and medics of the future - those whom we are turning out of RGS in good numbers - must understand creativity.

The point is that it's not an either/or option. Or it shouldn't be: any implied divide is a false one. Education always was about both/and: it still is, I'm proud to say, at RGS. But let's not take it for granted.

In the meantime, I know that this evening I'm going to be bursting with pride yet again - and inspired by the sheer creative genius of our students, and their teachers.

Enjoy!

Bernard Trafford
Headmaster