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Into the woods. Nature or nurture?

April 27, 2013 Leave a comment

On Thursday evening I was lucky enough to see the latest school production. This time it was Sondheim’s “Into the woods”. Not a show I’ve seen before, or knew much about. All I knew really was that it was by Sondheim, and I like his other work, “Sweeney Todd”.

The show was phenomenal. (You may have read my blogs about other school productions, if not they are here:https://cavmaths.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/elegies-for-angels-punks-and-raging-queens/) My dad said to me afterwards “I don’t think the show itself is a good as cats, but I think the production and the performances are definitely as good, if not better.” I’m not sure I agree with the first bit, I think the show itself was great. I think the story is far better than cats and it has more dimensions. Cats is a collection of phenomenal songs with great choreography, but into the woods is a full show, with humour, a story and some great songs along the way.

I’d be very inclined to agree with the second part of my dads comments though, especially the last bit. I think it was a better production than cats. Which is really saying something, as Cats was brilliant!

It’s incredible to see these pupils, from these deprived areas, coming together and putting on something amazing. The star role of the witch went to a year 11 pupil. (A great achievement in itself, given she was up against many performers from y12 and 13!) At other schools, she may have fallen by the wayside, but here she has shined. In year 12 we have a male ballet dancer who played the wolf and the hind legs of the cow. He was amazing, before Thursday I would have thought it impossible for the hind legs of a cow to be a show stealing part, but now I know it is!

One of my year seven pupils was playing little red riding hood, and it was amazing to see how she shone. It was an incredible performance from a young lady with a great voice, great acting ability and seemingly no nerves, despite being considerably younger than most of her costars.

These weren’t the only pupils who shone, the whole cast were amazing, and I now can’t wait for the next production. Not just the cast though, the set design team, the lighting, the sound, the band everyone came together to make a fantastic show.

On the way home, my partner asked “how come your school has so many talent pupils?” This got me thinking. It is unlikely that the people if the surrounding area are just giving birth to a higher than normal amount of talented performers, so it must be something else.

I’m a rugby fan, and over the years have wondered how such small towns as Wigan and St Helens have consistently produced some of the best rugby players in the world. I think that in their case it must be the nurturing and coaching that the professional clubs put in place with their local amateur clubs. Likewise, I think that there must be something in the culture if the school that enables these pupils to reach their potential.

I think the drive and commitment of the staff rubs off onto the pupils. I think caring that they do well, instills in them the desire to do well. I think that is very evident in the shows, but I also think it is endemic across the school. It is a culture I am proud to be part of.

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Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

December 19, 2012 6 comments

Last night I attended a school production of Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens. It was a production put on by pupils in Y11 and the 6th form from my school to raise awareness of AIDS and to raise money to fund a trip they are undertaking to Malawi next summer to help with many projects out there. The production blew me away, the talent and the passion shown by the pupils was immense.  This is the third school production I have seen since arriving at this school, and probably the best, although all three have been superb. The first was a whole school production of Cats last year, as far as I’m aware it was the first ever sanctioned amateur production of Cats, and it blew my mind how a school production could be so good, it was as good as some professional productions I’ve seen. Last week I went to a foundation school (Year 7 and 8) production of Bugsy Malone, that was superb. The head of school asked me afterwards what I thought and the first sentence that came to mind was “Imagine how good they’ll be in Y11 if they can do that now.” Last night though, was the pick of the three.

Before I started at this school I’d been to many, many school productions, at leafy lane suburban schools, at sixth form colleges, even some at the local grammar school where pupils are steeped in privilege. Most had been decent, some good and the odd one truly shocking. So the productions here were a real eye opener to how good school productions can be. Our catchment is one of the most deprived in the city, when the y11 and sixth form pupils started our school was in special measures (a lot of hard work from staff and pupils alike has meant we were judged good with outstanding leadership at last years Ofsted), these pupils are the life blood of the school. They have refused to conform to a stereotype that would see them become forgotten. They have worked hard to turn the school around and to turn their own lives around.

Watching these productions has reminded me how lucky I am to be in this profession, to be in this school, to work with such amazing pupils.

My year 13s say I’m well rounded because I love maths, music, theatre and rugby. They are my four principle hobbies, and here, at this school I have the opportunity to do them all. I teach maths, I play in the staff band performing at assemblies and the like, I get to see some awesome productions and I get to run the year 8 and 9 rugby training. There is no other job in the world that could be more perfect.

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