From Gaudi's art comes a mosaic of ideas

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
The decision to twin a Scottish town with a foreign counterpart is, I'm sure, a good one. The concept also carries a real charm and an intrinsic enrichment in expanding people's visions well beyond their own boundaries.

Social, cultural and economic factors will feature in any twinning arrangements and the spin-offs and benefits are clear.

Glasgow has strong links with a variety of towns and cities worldwide but the area of Pollok, which St Paul's High serves, claims no such direct links. That, however, is about to change.

Barcelona has been chosen as the focus for our bright, new dawn. Our school already has a tradition of taking pupils to the city every second year, alternating with Paris. In fact, right now Pollok pupils will be enjoying its sights and sounds.

Given the popularity of city breaks, the draw of Barcelona needs no embellishment. St Paul's focus, however, is precise. Our third year art pupils study the work of Antoni Gaudi. The originality of his architecture has inspired a piece of creative work in our school that now brings Gaudi into the heart of Pollok.

The first link in our creation, notably between the famous Guell Park and the fact that our school is set in a country estate, was parkland.

The vision of our art department took it a huge step forward. Its drive and commitment was taken further by the energy and willingness of our S3 art pupils to move learning well and truly beyond the classroom.

A courtyard, previously barren and underused, has been transformed. We took inspiration from Gaudi's great serpentine bench in Guell Park. In the past year a smaller scale interpretation has been designed, built and decorated with the dazzling mosaic style that Gaudi employed.

To say it has been an ambitious project is an understatement. Pupils and staff have worked together to create the bench. It is a considerable size and our team did not have the benefit of the Catalan climate.

They have battled the elements to reach this conclusion. Their triumph is not only in the collective expertise, vision and effort they displayed; it is also in doing so against the backcloth of a typical Scottish year. They worked in the cold and the rain, on dull days more than bright ones. They persevered.

They also struck a cord. Throughout the past 18 months, pupils and staff have been releasing cash from our school fund to make the school a better place for all of us. The art department's efforts sparked others into action.

Our drama colleagues, with the opportunity for some lateral thinking, suggested an outdoor stage. It was an outrageous idea, they admitted, but at least worth airing. Enter the technical department.

After months of feverish activity, combined with a winter shutdown when progress was impossible, our own mini Guell Park cum outdoor auditorium is about to be officially unveiled.

It has been a monumental piece of work which required colleagues to display the ability to look well beyond the classroom walls, to have substantial belief in the school, allied to self-belief, and to trust pupils to become involved. This last piece of trust ensured the finished article is not flawless. Pupils' learning lies at the centre of the tasks and mistakes are allowed.

The official opening - on June 29 - will have a distinctly Spanish theme.

The Spanish consulate is invited, tapas will be on offer and music and art from Spain will grace the school. The first production in our open-air theatre will also be Spanish in its theme, but I'm sworn to secrecy on this one.

Next session, I foresee assemblies al fresco, departments being invited to show initiative in using our new creations in the curriculum, services being shared between our lovely oratory and the great outdoors. The possibilities are limitless.

From Barcelona to Pollok: a year ago all this was not even a dream.

However, with teachers who place children at the centre of their work, there are no limits. Our own Gaudi courtyard will be a testimony to that fact for years to come.

Rod O'Donnell is headteacher of St Paul's High, GlasgowIf you have any comments, email

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today