“I am always doing that which I cannot do in order than I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

Whether you are Picasso or Rodney Mullen, you know you have had to try things you can’t do in order to grow and develop– fostering prolific ingenuity purely for passion’s sake, not because a victory or defeat is at stake.

The world education community is waiting with bated breath for the release of the latest world statistics on school educational achievement of 15 year olds – such is their anticipation, they have set up a unique website – Pisaday– so that when the OECD release the data on 3 December, they can cover the broadcast and make commentary.

The world rankings from PISA have driven national government policy across the developed globe for years, and given that the OECD doesn’t have an axe to grind, irrespective of whether the tests or methodology are in anyway proven, (read recent critique here), it seems sensible that nations use it to check their educational pulse at this school teenage threshold. What I think is remarkable about the work of leading western nations in this regards (Finland, our commonwealth cousins, Norway and Belgium spring to mind), is that they don’t have the feeding frenzy of compulsory early education, school achievement tables and the politicisation of education that we see in both the UK or the States).

You don’t see that feeding frenzy in the UK Independent Sector either – read anything any one of our Independent school leaders in the UK has written about policy and practice in our schools, and you’ll see we stand by the almost absolute requirement that children must be given the opportunity to do it all, without fear and pressure. One can only read the BBC education headlines on any week, and recognise the perceived weaknesses of the UK state system per se (and damns so many great state schools into the bargain of course), whilst highlighting what our private sector does so well and has been renowned for over the decades. great athletic, artistic, musical and science educations (picking up on this week’s soapbox of the nation), and in the main (particularly across the middle years) across the width of the ability spectrum. It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the great schools for specialist learning differences and difficulties are also fully independent too, though drawing their funding through local authority statement from the exchequer.

Whether you are an artist or a skateboarder, your direction of travel will vary hugely (pardon the metaphor). There’s no right way to learn either craft skill, and what we know is that engaged learners will fail time and again until they master a specific skill. When my sons were a lot younger, and in charge of a gameboy, I learned and mastered SuperMario4. I’d like to think that the persistent effort needed to learn the mechanical skill to hop, ski and jump to reach the final level and glory made me a better person. In reality, it reminded me just how tough learning something new is.

I remember a few years ago attending in Islington a training day for both state and private school mentors for new teachers, and arguing the toss for my approach to what made a great lesson. In the video clips, of a good teacher aspiring to be great, and the same teacher at now elevated guru status, the difference seemed to be that in the latter, because the teacher was so pushy and focussed that all should stay engaged, that meant ‘outstanding’ could be seen. My take on the day was that great learning is not linear, so approving that an outstanding lesson could not show 1 or 2 children failing was beyond my ken.

I’m raising this now because it’s that time of year where much of our activity is at make or break point. How does a rugby team give up its county title – reluctantly I’d guess? What precisely does an ocarina choir look like in festival mode? Our authors across the school are writing for ‘Scribblings’, our magazine that showcases the English department’s work- who says their work is good enough to be published? How do you console a child (and family) now they have learned that 11+ success is not for them this time around? Switch to our main school website at clairescourt.com and you can check out our diary for the next month. Looks madness perhaps, but the sheer scale of our ambition for example to ‘Caballerial‘ (a 360-degree ollie while riding fakie) means we will and hopefully learn lots from that considerable practice activity.

I had the privelege to attend a private viewing on Tuesday evening of the work of two artists who teach in our school, Frances Ackland Snow and Mavis Barber. The children know them as teachers, but they are just so much more than that. Mave paints the London cityscape, and she captures the vibrancy and plurality of city architecture amazingly well. Frances transports us in a Turneresque way to the big skies of East Anglia,  and her pictures sit so well alongside Mave’s bricks and mortar. Their work (for sale) is on show at the Norden Farm Arts centre this week and next, so do pop along to have a look. I have reminded Frances that she should take her stuff to Burnham Market, where I feel the Chelsea set-by-the-sea will snap her up, and Mavis that Upper Street is the way forward for rapid sales in N1.  And as the title of this blog says, and my colleagues know only too well, I spend much of my life bossing people around. They might say I am still in my early Picasso stage, getting it wrong most of the time. I might say that I couldn’t possibly learn how to do it better, without plenty of practice. So what I have completed my 10,000 hours and haven’t made expert yet – I can but keep trying. :o)




About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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1 Response to “I am always doing that which I cannot do in order than I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

  1. Esme Bates says:

    Boys working on powerpoints in pairs and then presenting to the class seems to be “trending” this week, as does the reward of sweets from teachers on a Friday! The rowers are doing well and all in one piece. Ocarina choir- credible, cute and creative at a local level but questionable on a national platform up against a Catholic church choir (in latin). Although if done well maybe…? Scribblings- there is a ten point plan to decent storytelling mastered by some English teachers and mastered in Speech and Drama lessons in a two to one format . Values that form the foundations of excellence. However, with national boards who consider texting as a genre to be studied “in depth” one ponders…. Is Scribblings a document by children and for children or is it a marketing tool to showcase traditional values such as outlined in 11+ Common Entrance by other schools? If the “by children, for children” approach is followed then identity, context, readership and purpose to be stated before each piece? Or jmaybe ust a fun little poem from each pupil is popular and easy to manage? Maybe they could do a drawing each to go with their poems as there are lots of Picassos’ pupils waiting in the wings.

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