Pupils – ‘the reason we are here’

7 December 2017

Greg Klerkx summarises the first Cultural Leadership Community (CLC) session of 2017-18 and reflects that, despite our different contexts, we have many ideas in common.

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Honest, passionate, dedicated. Challenged, concerned, exhausted. Energetic, ready to fight… committed to change.

Though coming from a wide range of backgrounds, boroughs, and types of school, at the first Cultural Leadership Community (CLC) session of 2017-18, held at the Donmar Warehouse Studio, we learned that we had the above ideas very much in common.

Our CLC cohort this year is more diverse than ever. It represents inner and outer boroughs; primary and secondary schools; academies, free schools, state comps and private schools. We have different experiences and perspectives, which makes for a potentially rich learning experience for everyone, including us.

And yet, the headline of this post (a quote offered through one of our exercises) captures what most of us voiced at least once during our session on 28 November. Whatever our context – and despite systems, politics, tests, Ofsted, money and more – we’re committed to creating the space for young people to have meaningful experiences with the arts, whether for their intrinsic value or as powerful drivers for more effective teaching and learning. We all want to do more, to the best of our circumstances and abilities.

Our first session was about us coming together as a group, as from experience we’ve learned that the CLC ‘collective’ is perhaps the most powerful leadership development tool in our arsenal. As a collective – a term that conveys power, passion, and experience – we unpicked our motivations, practice, and aspirations through a number of different tools, drawing from business (the U-Process and Lean Canvas, for instance) and also from hybrid arts-led practice, including our illustrated ‘network map’ and of course that drama warm-up staple 'Anyone Who/Fruit Salad', which was so wonderfully co-adapted and co-led by two of our CLC colleagues!

This is how CLC sessions will work going forward: as a collective and individually, in small groups and as a whole cohort, drawing from business, government, NGO and arts practice, and from wherever else suits us. The tools used at our Donmar Warehouse session are open source to the entire CLC cohort: we’ve adapted them considerably, and we always encourage teachers to do the same (and to let us know if that happens, as we love discovering how such activities expand and grow). We want questions, challenges, or ways to improve our sessions voiced loudly and without hesitation, as this feedback helps shape future sessions to ensure they’re relevant and responsive to the needs of the group, and to hot-button issues in teaching and learning.

As our first session hopefully demonstrated, the Cultural Leadership Community programme views the idea of leadership organically and individually, as underscored by the video project presentations in the 2016-17 CLC Yearbook. We are mindful of the heavy demands on teachers these days: of how much time and energy they already apply to the vital work of educating the next generation. We hope that CLC will prove to be a beacon amidst challenge; something to unify not only those on the programme, but everyone they work with.

Some of the cohort have already been in touch regarding possible projects, which is fantastic. CLC is about looking to the future and gaining knowledge and skills for leadership. In that regard, here are a few sites you might want to tap into (most have free newsletters) to begin to build your forward-thinking mind-set:

  • A New Direction: Seems obvious, but have a deeper dive into the AND website, which includes a huge range of research, resources and advocacy tools focused on London, the arts and education.
  • Quantum Run: ‘Snake-inspired skin’, ‘The AI-only web where humans aren’t allowed’…and these are only a few recent top-lines on this wide-ranging, truly provocative website. There’s also a Future of Education thread, including ideas like ‘Degrees to become free but include expiry date’. Discuss!
  • Edutopia: A site/blog from the George Lucas Educational Foundation with practical tips from teachers (mostly American) and lots of interesting reading and research. Sort of the American answer to TES.
  • Futurism: A bit like Quantum Run though an amalgamator rather than a host of original content, it pulls in articles from across the web. There’s plenty on education if you keyword-search within the site.
  • Cultural Learning Alliance: Probably the most significant NGO in the UK advocating for a strong presence for the arts and culture in our schools. Their ImagineNation report is a great resource to help convince sceptical colleagues about the power and value of the arts in education.

What other sites/reading would our CLC hive-mind recommend? We’ll post lots more here in response to your interests, but please use Basecamp (totally closed site, only us here…) to share knowledge, resources and ideas. Happy holidays to all of you, and we’ll look forward to connecting again early in the new year.