Creativity takes courage

Angela Drew, Headmistress at Bromley High School, explains why the school puts arts at the heart of their curriculum

The creative arts are central to the academic education that we provide at Bromley High School and at the heart of the work we do to inculcate confidence and resilience in our students. 

Our Head of Art, Becky Shepley, quotes Henri Matisse: ‘Creativity takes courage.’ 

We want girls to be innovative and creative thinkers, at ease with unexpected perspectives and fresh ideas. Our senior girls are avid speakers and debaters, keen to express their view of the world, but the arts offer them the opportunity to work collaboratively to express ideas and feelings. In particular, the arts allow older and younger girls to work together in the camaraderie and excitement of putting on a play or a concert and junior girls are inspired to emulate the older girls who are exceptional pianists, nerveless soloists or talented lead actors, knowing that their turn in the limelight will come as they progress through the school. Sixth formers act as role models to younger girls, choreographing the dance routines for their shows, mentoring girls in art club and leading small cello and flute ensembles. 

Angela Drew: ‘Our emphasis is on STEAM’

Public performance develops confidence and the ability to take a risk and stand in the spotlight as an individual or as part of a group. These are essential qualities and skills for the young woman who wishes to make a successful career in the modern workplace where articulacy and presentational skills are prized attributes and the capacity to work well in a team is always listed as a key requirement of any post.

At Bromley High, creative arts are not simply bolt-on extra-curricular activities, our whole approach to learning is inherently creative

At Bromley High, creative arts are not simply bolt-on extra-curricular activities, our whole approach to learning is inherently creative. In the junior school, the learning in the classroom is enriched through an immersion in language – through story-telling, creative writing and drama. As part of the co-curricular programme, girls work with a professional storyteller to learn the lost art of telling folk tales. Words and ideas are at the heart of all we do to stimulate the girls’ curiosity and imagination through diverse programme of visits, activities and festivities. Dressing up is a visual expression of girls’ vivid imaginations at work – as is richly evident in the saris and sunflower dresses on India day and ‘Swinging Sixties’ day or the costuming of the huge range of plays, concerts and productions each year. 

The government’s most recent educational initiatives – the lack of recognition of arts subjects in the E-Bacc, the, thankfully abortive, attempt to remove History of Art from the A-level curriculum, the constraints of the new funding formula for state schools – all point to a tendency to undervalue the arts in favour of traditional subjects or the much-promoted STEM subjects. Of course, we sympathise with the drive to open up the world of science and engineering to young women. We encourage girls to engage in a whole range of STEM activities – recently Y8 and Y9 had a flight engineering workshop with the RAF and our robotics team reached the National Finals of the VEX Robotics Championship. Yet, more accurately, our emphasis is on STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. 

This is a complex, unstable, exciting world where our young people will need to blend technological understanding with creative energy and intuition if they are to become the leaders of the second half of the 21st century.