It has been a Summer break full of affirmation for those who care about educational principles and practice (amongst so much more), thanks in the main (but not exclusively) to the Olympics and Paralympics. The grand plans laid by umpteen sporting, artistic and creative groups, of the variously abled in our country have been brought together by Locog into a series of dazzling spectacles in diverse and equally stunning arenas and venues across the country. I won’t be the only one thanking the prescience of John Major for ‘inventing’ the National Lottery, because it is really so clear just how well the funding it produces is used for public good.
Those that know me understand that I strongly believe in the value of educating all, not just those who are deemed more able at age 11, such that they are capable of exceptional performance, and I find it difficult to understand how those of more modest achievement can understand what that means unless they have role models in school to give example. And it works both ways, because the arrogance of the early high achiever needs tempering by working with those who need to learn in different ways. This summer’s visual feast has reminded us of the capacity of all mankind to achieve, my highlight being the mesmerising dancing of double amputee David Toole at the Paralympic opening ceremony, defying the witness’ understanding that dancing needs legs!. I love the fact that Jonnie Peacock (paralympian gold medallist 100m) trains and shares the same coach with Greg Rutherford (Olympic gold medallist Long Jump), both affirming just how helpful it is to have that synergy brought about through collaborative working.
Past pupils such as Michael Sharkey, who represented GB in Goalball, one of the paralympian disciplines held at the Excel centre in the city, contributed massively whilst at CC, an able and intelligent boy whose blindness meant that our smaller classes and scale met his needs so very obviously. Michael and his sister Anna, who also plays Goalball for GB and fellow paralympian this summer, both have very poor sight, which seems to have brought them both to the calling of Physiotherapy, and I for one certainly would trust their hands to really ‘see’ how best to treat my aching limbs! One of the next generation of parlympians is Ben Sneesby, whose spinal injury resulting from Neuroblastoma, meant that life at school; with us was on occasion in wheel chair. Ben’s performance as Joseph Merrick, in his group’s GSCE performance of Bernard Pomerance’s play of ‘The Elephant man’ was all the more amazing not because Ben’s walking movements are severely impeded by his disability (because in truth they are not), but because his acting was so powerful he needed no make-up to capture our belief that he was facially disfigured (and he is the most handsome of men). Ben is one of the best swimmers and basketball players of his generation, but his current focus seems to be to make the Ski team!
It’s my belief that in every child there is something magical to uncover, an easy one to hold as every parent would agree with me, and the tragedy unfolds all too often as the constraints of society regresses a child to the ‘norm’. Once again, this summer our art work has been on display in one of the closed shops in our Town centre, and through the vitality of the work shown therein we seem to breathe new life into the precinct around, perhaps most obviously when our art workshops are in session. It is through that unrestrained hands-on activity that the possibility of new painters and craftsmen are formed in the minds of children who otherwise had yet to discover their creative side. As Pablo Picasso once said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”