Wednesday 14 September

Do It Anyway by Headmaster Phillip Stapleton


As the North Devon light drizzle falls, I duck under the sheltered pathway adjoining the 150 building and peer inside at the extraordinary creations and vibrant colours from within.  This is our Art department and one that is making waves in a corner of the UK renowned for its creative arts.  I reflect on how popular Art is at this school and with a 94% A*-B pass rate I am not surprised.

Later in the morning and I am on stage in the Memorial Hall looking over a sea of 450 faces wondering what they might be thinking at the start of this new term and what ambitions lie hidden or bubbling under the surface?  Some will go on to make a huge difference in the World, others will make new discoveries, all of them have an opportunity here and now to start this journey and discover their strengths. 

This, to me, is the real joy of teaching and as the assembly draws to a close and term kicks off, the school reflects on Mother Teresa’s ‘do it anyway’ prayer.  I return to consider the strength behind those words and the obligation we face as teachers: that the pinnacle of this education is the enabling of curiosity and creativity in our schools.

For me, creativity is as prevalent in Science and Maths as it is in the ‘arts’.  Using Maths to explain and describe the universe we see now seems prosaic but was only possible through the creation of numbers and application of logic.  E=mc2, gravity, zero, evolution, the internet are some examples of applied creativity. 

In my opinion, creativity is the harnessing and linking together of knowledge to develop a new expression that has meaning, purpose and relevance, and it is very much alive in education today.  Sir Ken Robinson’s belief that education stifles creativity is rooted in the concern that in an attempt to achieve better grades and end results we have forgotten to give students the space to knit their learning together.

The best schools encourage their students to explore, to question, and to challenge.  This takes considerable courage on the part of the teacher and the student, but we need to view our curriculum as a total education rather than discreet departments with no relevant interconnection.  And students need to encourage each other in positive intellectual debate where it is fine to be wrong, not fearful of making mistakes, or in the words of Henri Matisse:

‘You study, you learn, but you guard the original naivety. It has to be within you…creativity takes courage.

It is not enough to place colours, however beautiful, one beside the other; colours must also react on one another. Otherwise, you have cacophony.

Work cures everything.’