As the Spring Term comes to a close and staff and girls enjoy a well-deserved break, I have considered the diverse ways in which we all view the traditional Easter holiday. For younger girls the holiday is the opportunity to spend time with family and friends; to enjoy chocolate eggs and other Easter treats. For our older students the Easter holiday symbolizes days of making revision notes, finishing off Controlled Assessment projects and preparing for GCSE, AS and A2 examinations. Easter is often the most varied in weather terms; we never know if we are going to enjoy warm sunny days or even experience a late flurry of snow.
The last half term at Saint Martin’s has been packed as ever with a wide range of trips and activities. For those of you who follow Saint Martin’s on our News Room or “Facebook” pages you will be aware that our sports teams have been incredibly successful. This term our Year 6, Year 8 and Year 11 Netball Teams are the Borough Champions. The Year 6 Netball Team are also GSA Netball Champions, the Solihull League winners and the runners up in the Regional Games. Our hockey players have also enjoyed success as the Year 7 team won the West Midlands Hockey Championship and Year 11 won the Solihull Hockey League. I am delighted to report that the following girls and teams represented the school at the Solihull Secondary Schools’ Sports Federation evening and are mentioned in the Roll of Honour 2015. Congratulations go to Alice Glover (County Swimmer), Megan Stretton (County Hockey player), Maria Lyri (County Swimmer and selected for the National Championships) and the Under 16 Netball Team who are the Solihull Girls’ team of the Year and have been undefeated for 5 years. Well done to all of our sportswomen who have represented the school. It seems only fitting that we end our term with a celebration of sport in our end of term assembly.
I recently read an article in a school leadership magazine entitled “Can you teach creativity?” It is becoming more and more evident that employers are looking for graduates with creative minds, graduates who are creative thinkers. It has become a valued skill, leaving educators to ask – can creativity be taught? Research has been carried out at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where academics defined creativity as the ability to make non-obvious connections. They sampled a range of people, from all walks of life, and asked them to draw a perfect circle without any apparatus. All took part in the task and drew a circle, none were perfect. 70 percent tried again, on the next attempt another 50 percent tried to perfect it, the next attempt the numbers trying to perfect it continued to drop off and by the sixth or seventh attempt less than one percent persevered. The solutions on these last attempts were the most original. They were making connections between the problem and looking for non-obvious solutions. They were being creative, finding solutions when others had given up. Creativity, to the researchers, is as much about persistence and resilience as it is about an innate instinct.
I believe as educators what we should take from this is that it is important to encourage our pupils to persist, reward them more for failing and persevering than reward them for finding the solution easily. Creativity comes with an understanding that it is the sixth or seventh attempt that leads to the non-obvious but exciting solution. History is littered with many examples of the power of persistence, you just need to think of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel to understand the resilience he needed to create such a splendid piece of work. Thomas Edison said “of the 200 light bulbs that didn’t work, every failure told me something that I could incorporate into the next attempt”.
Too often girls are afraid to fail and it is this that inhibits them, stops them from being creative and stops them from wanting to solve problems. As a school we are becoming more focused on giving them problems to which there are no easy answers, encouraging them to take risks and, when they do not succeed, to reflect on what they have learned. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology are offering internships for pupils who love to learn, but more importantly pupils who love to learn from their mistakes. They rate this as a more important skill to determine future success than the qualifications earned at school.
To educate girls for the future we need to give them these challenges. We need to develop their intellectual character rather than cram them with content. I believe that our curriculum at Saint Martin’s does just this. This half term our Senior School musicians, artists and actors put this into practice when they spent a weekend at Ingestre Hall in March practising and rehearsing before showcasing their talents at our annual charity concert which raised over £1100 for the school charities. Sixth Form students have been working independently and creatively on their Extended Project Qualifications. Their choice of topics were varied and included creative titles such as “Evaluating the success of a charity fashion show” (Shelby Phillips) and “How does music affect children with disabilities?” (Niamh Robinson). Creativity was evident on World Book Day as girls in Alice House designed a new hat for the Mad Hatter and Junior School pupils drew a new character to appear in the story “Alice in Wonderland”. Girls in KS1 and KS2 also benefitted from illustrator Lynne Chapman’s visit to school. During the day she ran workshops on storytelling and illustrating which our girls thoroughly enjoyed.
So, coming back to the question “Can you teach creativity?” – This half term the girls at Saint Martin’s certainly have had many opportunities to develop their creative skills.
Spring is a time for reflection and new beginnings. It is a time for regeneration, hope and renewal. As school finishes at the end of this week I hope the sun shines upon the glorious yellow crowds of daffodils (so eloquently expressed by Wordsworth) and you have a restful Easter break.