This fantastic and slightly ethereal picture of the chapel at Exeter College, Oxford, by the artist John Piper is a fitting place to start this entry. Not only did it form one of the essential steps on our day’s visit to Oxford on Wednesday, but it also is by an artist whose work we were studying in the Ashmolean Museum (his June Landscape) earlier in the day.
The decision to take last year’s School Council to Oxford was partly inspired by the hope that the scale of Oxford colleges, the unremitting grandeur of its architecture and the fact that everything built was to advance learning, might somehow inspire the councillors to think about academic life as a serious option.
Adding in the Ashmolean Museum gave us the opportunity to add a cultural element that was extremely important in the context of the day’s learning, as it honed observation skills and introduced children to art from the Renaissance (Uccello’s Hunt in the Forest, 1470), from French Impressionism (Pisarro’s View from my window, Eragny, 1888), and from modernism (David Bomberg’s Procession, 1912-14; Vasily Kandinsky’s Murnau-Staffelsee I, 1908; John Piper’s June Landscape, 1964).
But actually, the visit was mostly driven by a real desire to bless them, to thank them for the time and effort they have put into building relationships with children from other schools, to helping plan and make important decisions about the layout of the playground and the structures we have erected there, and for their growing leadership and initiative in myriad ways.
Where you see their real strength is in the fact that four trained councillors from last year have become an essential core of this year’s, and that this year’s group is that much stronger and wiser for it.
Even after two meetings, all the functions of the council were well established and there is going to be a real sense of the children taking the school forward in 2013. Taking children’s ideas seriously is not easy, but this lot are going to make it as easy as it can be!