Photography, drama, music and design technology are all subjects that should be given as much credit in the secondary school syllabus as the more traditional ones says Karen Johnson, Head of Media Studies, at Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar School. The Times spoke to her to find out more . . .
Last week Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys (TWGSB) held a special social event which marked the diversity and breadth of the artistic talent in its sixth form.
Parents, friends and pupils were invited to view the impressive work of Year 13 students in the fields of Art, Design Technology, Drama, Media Studies and Music.
Karen Johnson, the school’s Head of Media Studies and the evening’s organiser, has put on this ‘Oscars Style’ ceremony which showcases the various print and film projects completed by GCSE and A level Media Studies, for the past ten years.
This year however Ms Johnson also wanted to emphasise just how important these particular areas of study are in the secondary school curriculum.
“The principal aim was to highlight that although traditional, academic subjects are important, opportunities to develop practical skills and creativity are also vital,” she told The Times in an exclusive interview.
“For some students this is their opportunity to thrive in an academic environment and in light of government changes to education and the demotion of creative aspects to subjects in the curriculum I decided that a more expansive, cross-curricular event was a good idea.”
The evening featured work by A level Art students who exhibited a variety of interesting pieces using a range of both traditional materials and multi-media. Some explored social and political themes while others’ work concentrated on consumption and body image.
The Resistant Materials exhibition featured a range of ingenious products with highly practical benefits such as a moveable medication trolley suitable for use in care homes; a refrigerated picnic basket that allows the transportation of food and drink at the correct temperature, and a weather resistant storage box for Land Rover Defenders to hold recovery and tyre changing equipment.
The design and mechanics of these products demonstrated a range of skills employed by the students using metal, rubber and wood.
“The research and drawings used in the planning stages also gave insight into how problem solving and making mistakes is such an important part of the creative process,” revealed Ms Johnson.
The school’s music department featured a set on the night from its resident soul band The Groove Merchants, who sang numbers including Mustang Sally; Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Lovely Day which demonstrated their vocal range and musical expertise.
The band members vary from ages 14 to 19 and in addition to playing a number of concerts in school, they also perform at other local venues in order to raise money for charity.
Three of the TWGSB Year 13 leavers are going on to study music at university and have been inspiring role models for the younger students throughout the school.
Its Media Studies A level currently enables students to work in groups on the planning, filming and editing of films, music videos and print work.
“This process reflects real practice and students thrive when given autonomy and guidance and the skills in camera work and editing to turn creative ideas into reality,” said Ms Johnson.
The Drama department were also involved in the show last Tuesday evening showing three short performances from younger students.
“These demonstrated the confidence and self-esteem that performing in front of an audience can bring to young people as well as the innate humour which children possess,” added Ms Johnson.
“The school doesn’t currently run an A level in Drama due to the low number of students currently choosing this option so part of the message from Tuesday’s event was to highlight how creative subjects have been side lined and downgraded by successive governments.
“The over-riding message seems to be that academic subjects are what the workplace requires and that creative ‘softer’ subjects have little merit. As educators we try to confront this myth and promote every child’s unique talents, unlocking the creative potential of all students.”