Greetings from me, Jeremy Harvey, a trustee of PETT. I wish you, all at PETT, & all whom we are in touch with a good year. May we flourish!
I first visited PETT in May, 1992 as a guest of Craig Fees. We had got to know each other through, among other things, our interest in George Lyward and David Wills, both inspiring educational pioneers, who created their own kinds of Therapeutic Communities (TCs).
That May day at Toddington I spent with Craig, and with the children of New Barns school. I remember especially the order and peace of lunch and the variety of the curriculum on offer, including things to make and do. What I experienced I wrote up and took back to my work as Head of Bishop Fox’s Community School in Taunton.
Fast forward to the present, twenty years later. I am well retired, enjoying the third phase of my life, still living in Taunton, still a churchgoer; a grandfather; still studying, following my interest in writing and art (where, with others, I am working to enable Taunton - one day - to have a major art gallery). My teaching side is satisfied by the talks I give: I’m currently preparing one on 'Rembrandt’s Late Self-Portraits'. I’m not directly involved in education, though I read the papers and follow the news.
But in the last six months I have felt constrained to write letters to our MP, letters of polite protest. The first was about low teacher morale, and the teachers known to me, or friends who have had enough and are leaving the profession early. The second letter was about Mr. Gove’s plans to change yet again the school exam system by introducing an EBAC exam. For this pupils would be examined only on some core subjects and have far less chance to learn about, and practise, the arts, crafts and creative subjects - the ‘hands on’, making and ‘being’ parts of school life. There’s an online petition of protest about this - click here.
Such a reducing of the obviously creative side of school life is educational madness because it ignores, certainly plays down, the potential and creativity of all young people. For many youngsters their strengths lie more in making and doing. They are not naturally academic, they may be very motile (great movers). But give them a task, a problem to solve, or invite them to design and make something, and they are off. They come alive. If schools are to succeed as places where the young learn with enthusiasm, then they have to make every child feel valued; and there have to be opportunities for their various gifts and talents to flourish.
I have yet to have my letter acknowledged, though I am sure it will be. What disappoints me is that senior politicians say they listen, which they may do, but do they take any notice after that? Sadly, in educational matters rational argument and alternative ideas do not appear to change much at the controlling centre.
My letter made one further point. We all know that 2012 was a remarkable year for the UK. It gave us much to celebrate, and we provided outstanding Olympic and Paralympic games through which our strengths and talents came to the fore. We really are very creative people with much to give to others. We can run ourselves down at times, but when we pull together it is astonishing what we can achieve.
Accordingly, I suggested to my MP that the success of last year shows that the UK could play a worthwhile role as promoters and partakers in sporting, cultural, and key leisure activities. Instead of trying to be a powerful military nation we could be peacemakers and reconcilers, not invaders. We will not make the world safer by renewing Trident. We could take climate change as a creative challenge to be properly met. We could promote festivals and fashion, our artists and photographers, dancers and designers, musicians and writers, alongside all the engineering and scientific, medical, IT, technical, business and trading things that we do so well. We could, if we so chose, grow our creativity and create a happier and more peaceful world in the process.
You get the idea. Does any of this chime with you?
Jeremy 30 January, 2013