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Roland Martin - Issue #42


Roland Martin

January 31 · Issue #42 · View online

Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London; Chair - Society of Heads - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

#cityschools; #cityfamily; #cityconference; #creativeschools.

First City Conference
Brainchild of Mark Emmerson - CEO of the City of London Multi Academy Trust and Education Strategy Director - 20 January witnessed the first City Schools’ Conference, an afternoon gathering colleagues from across the growing City of London schools’ network: #cityfamily. Three Independents (Boys; Girls; Freemen’s); three Academies (Hackney; Islington; Southwark); Three Primaries (Sir John Cass’s; Redriff; Galleywall); and four new additions (Newham Collegiate Sixth Form; Islington Primary Academy; Shoreditch Park and Highgate Hill) all had colleagues represented in Guildhall’s aesthetically inspiring Old - actually, quite new at 1873 - Library to hear guest speakers and to participate in creative workshops led by teachers and leaders from many of the schools within the network.
Aptly, as Deputy Catherine McGuinness - Chairman of the City of London Education Board - reminded us in her opening welcome, we were gathering on a day when the City Of London Academies Trust was acknowledged as the top performer in Government League Tables, published earlier that day.
I am delighted that the inspirational speaker, recommended by my colleague Sarah Fletcher and chosen to address colleagues from across the #cityfamily on creativity, affords me the opportunity to throw in a few links to some artistic talents. So do please click on the links this week for some visual inspiration! 
Will Gompertz will be known to many readers as the well-informed, often highly entertaining, BBC Arts Correspondent and former Director of Tate; though he was further qualified to address a room full of educators being married to a teacher himself (whose parents were incidentally also both inspirational teachers well known to me) with a family of four children at varying stages of their education. 
It was encouraging to hear some messages that clearly valued teachers: ‘teaching is…the most exciting profession with which to be involved in the 21st Century’; ‘engaging with young people’s minds is a courageous and wonderful thing to do…’
'You can't just wing it...'
It would be an understatement to say I’m not a great fan of David Brent, so I was quite relieved when confronted with his image to hear that people like him will be a thing of the past in tomorrow’s offices and workplaces; the days of cadging your way through are pleasingly numbered. Gompertz had a good deal to say about digital ®evolution, not least the claim that it is not dramatically touching education which, given the fact that most schools still teach in Victorian classroom set-ups, seems true enough. Although he was concerned that we are ‘conceding our liberty to technology’, and was rightly worried that our children are ‘performing their lives on social media’, Gompertz suggested that where the industrial revolution created a middle class in society, the ‘digital revolution will create a creative class’. As ‘the unique thing that we as human beings can offer the world is imagination’ it is those who have ideas that have value, and who will be the problem-solvers most valued in the world of work. Which is precisely why the Brents and blaggers of this world are on their way out. 
With a nod to Albert Rothenberg’s sep-con articulation process, it was suggested that by colliding the old and the new through a creative force, the imaginative and creative could come into its own, which is possibly why …
'... Artists steal'
‘There is no such thing as an original idea: only ideas with origins.’ 
Marcel Duchamp rather proved this point with his Fountain, which was voted the most influential artwork of the 20th century by 500 selected British art world professionals in 2004. Why? Because this first example of conceptual art raised the suggestion that an idea is more important than an artistic process. What could we do to teach children to be conceptual in their thinking? Teach children to be skeptical (healthily so: inquisitive, Socratic) not cynical. 
In a whistle-stop tour of some interesting pieces and philosophies including Cézanne (‘We must not paint what we think we see, but what we see…’); performance artist Marina Abramović whose The Artist is Present engaged over one and a half thousand sitters at MoMA; Bridget Riley who took thirty years to find her ‘voice’ in a moment of crisis; Will Gompertz reminded us that ‘artists break rules’, ‘artists don’t fail’ (hence, Eddison’s comment, ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’) and ‘artists are enterprising’ (Shakespeare added somewhere between 1700 and 3000 words to the language, to communicate his drama). I’d probably encourage our children to consider two of these, though I might replace ‘break rules’ with ‘take risks’ …
Most inspirational of all was hearing about Theaster Gates and how creativity could do so much as a force for social change. If you don’t know the story, his TED talk - here - is well worth watching. 
The takeaway quotation of the day for me is, ‘integrity is impregnable’; an interesting one to contemplate on the day of a presidential inauguration.
'All Schools should be Art Schools'
I ought to point out that Gompertz was careful to argue a case for Science as an Art at this - and other - points in his address. Some of you will have heard me berate the ‘Arts vs Science’ agenda before; learning is learning; there is both Art in Science and Science in Art. So this wasn’t a call for us to paint and sculpt more.  However, it was a call for us to inspire children to be creative - not least in their thinking - to teach in a creative way and to encourage collaboration (‘Being an individual is useless; being collaborative is the only way to succeed in life’).
Key message for the children in our Schools? ‘Don’t regurgitate facts like Google; think like artists.’
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