The power of words


Benjamin Franklin said: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing [about].” Students have been doing both of these with aplomb this week in what has been an extraordinary and inspiring celebration of reading and writing.

I am writing this following a powerful World Book Day assembly on the transformative power of reading and libraries. Last Friday saw the inaugural House Poetry Competition in which students of all ages wowed us with a variety of memorised poetry including some that they had written themselves. It was wonderful to see Upper IIIs genuinely competing with Fifth and Sixth Formers and we saw verve, wit, fun and intelligence from all participants. A particular highlight was the accomplished alternating acting by two Fifth Formers of Little Red Riding Hood, her grandmother and the wolf.

This week has also seen the outstanding ‘Write On’ Festival in which students at the Junior and Senior Schools have been challenged to think about and put into practice different types of writing from poetry to journalism, travel to crime, and sport to one-act plays. A number of different types of sessions, including a poetry café with jazz band and a wide range of exciting workshops, offered something for everyone and it was great to welcome student participants from some of our partner schools. I have heard from a number of our students about how privileged they felt to hear from well-known poet Daljit Nagra and accomplished writers from so many different fields. Our visiting MCs, Vic Pickup and Zannah Kearns from ‘Reading Stanza’ at South Street Arts, also generated many positive comments.

Ms Craig, who created and masterminded the festival, said that she had hoped to show students that writing is about so much more than examinations and that it is something that can and should be fun. She triumphantly succeeded in both of these aims and we are hugely grateful to her and to the distinguished speakers who joined us.

There is lots of evidence about the power of applied and ‘real-world’ education. This week our students were active participants in their own learning and really got a taste of the many different paths on which reading and writing can take them. It made me think about the meaning and etymology of ‘education’ and in particular the idea of leading or drawing out: e (out) + ducere (to lead/draw). For it to work really well, education is not passive or about simply acquiring knowledge or skills, but something much more active. All of the events around writing and reading this week embodied that approach and the underlying truth that you can make anything by writing it.

Sarah Tullis, Deputy Head Academic and Staff Development

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