Saturday, 1 December 2012

School Masterclass

      One of my passions is that young people are encouraged to use their hands and minds at school. I originally trained and taught as a Handicrafts teacher in London. Over my career I have seen the demise of the practical arts in schools yet the creative arts generally are a huge national asset.
     Early in 2010 I received an invitation to teach a Saturday masterclass at Eggars comprehensive school in Hampshire. It was a very successful day involving a team effort of staff at the school with yours truly heading the project I had devised and the mostly 15 year old boys and girls took home to mum a useful artefect which embodied equally useful woodworking and life skills. 
Jeremy Broun teaches a woodworking masterclass at a Hampshire comprehensive school

 It is vital young people develop their potential fully through using the incredible gift of hands irrespective of whether they get a job as a carpenter or brain surgeon. That is to the point.  Education through the use of materials is what a few of us called in the 1960's and served as a vehicle for fostering self determination, acountability, stamina, visualisation,  interpreting abstract ideas into three dimensional objects, numeracy skills, not to mention motor skills involving the senses of touch, sight, and sound, muscle memory.
     Despite throwing 'craft' out of the curriculum the most enlightened teachers in the 1960's were doing all of this in an integrated way, (teaching design as part of making) but the now established Design Technology curriculum, passes over many of the essential 'making' skills, not least through a basic misunderstanding that the prime purpose of teaching eg. woodwork at school is to train a carpenters. That is the role of post school specialist education.
  With the increasing uncertainty of what jobs we are training young people for (and questioning whether university should be the default route) there is ever more need to teach them resourcefulness through making things and designing what they make. Anybody daring to claim it is too expensive to provide practical education, go raid a skip and use some valuable secondhand wood that is thrown out daily!
   I am course honoured that my skills have not been dumped on a skip and that a school like this invites someone like me to pass on my skills and experience. There are plenty of exclusive and very expensive masterclasses for older people, many switching careers from 'The City' and encouraged to use equally expensive tools but our obligation is to future generations and give all young people an equal opportunity to develop through their hands.
   The last time I worked with young people (before the Eggars Masterclass) was at my local technical college teaching acoustic guitar making to a group of errant 16 - 19 year olds, some in trouble with the Police and all lacking in any numeracy or literacy paper qualifications from their secondary schooling. It wasn't easy and only three survived out of a group of six but they made their guitars and will probably always look back on this achievement with pride.

A simple leaning bookstand exploiting a dovetail designed by Jeremy Broun and presented to 13 year olds in 1963 made by 15 year olds at a Hampshire comprehensive School in 2010.

Teaching acoustic guitar making on an 'Education to Employment' course in 2005