The difference is making - not just watching

30th March 2007 at 01:00
In a room dominated by dressmakers' models and a spectacularly sprawling cactus plant by the window that catches the afternoon sun, vivid designs for the summer fashion show are being conceived in young minds and crafted by young fingers. Creativity is clearly at home here.

Even in the art and design department, creativity can still be enhanced. A new heat press, bought with School of Ambition funding, is allowing pupils to make, where once they could only stand and watch. The scarf a sixth year student is producing in seconds, by pressing his own designs into fabric, would once have taken a whole day using screen printing, explains Gerry Kelly, the principal teacher.

"I would have been working with him while classes were in and out all day.

But it is not just about time. The quality is better, and they can get more intricate with their designs."

While arranging his multi-coloured Japanese designs cut from heat press paper, before lowering the lid that will bond them to the white fabric, Paul Hamill explains the appeal: "I like the quality of the colours you get with heat press. I also like screen printing, to get that contrast."

In the music department, the creative and learning benefits of the new technology - midi sequencing - also acquired with School of Ambition funding, are so great that the old way is already a memory. "They used to have to write their idea down or sing it me," says Julie Smart, joint principal teacher of music. "Then I would interpret it for them on the computer. Now they play it straight in themselves on any instrument, listen to it, try something else if they want to."

The new ideas and technology are enhancing learning as soon as pupils come to secondary school. "We are going into the primary schools and working with the kids there," says Ms Smart. "The earlier you get kids to be creative, to work on their own invention, the better. If it was up to me, we would be taking it into the nursery."

Catching them young is central to the vision of creativity across the school, says Charles Rooney, the headteacher. "We are running seminars so that pupils can look at their own learning styles and creativity. A group of first to third years is on the Columba 1400 programme, which develops their leadership and creative thinking."

Pupils who could find themselves not in employment, education or training (Neet) are being targeted through projects and groupwork in art and design and home economics. "These interventions are having a positive impact on attendance and behaviour," he says.

"But being a School of Ambition is not just about new resources," says Elizabeth Curren, the principal teacher of home economics and health promotion. "It's about the support that goes with them, the guidance that teachers get in using those resources effectively. It is not just 'Here's a computerised sewing machine - now you can be creative'. There is much more to it than that."

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