THE ‘SIZZLE’ NOT THE ‘STEAK’
Inspirational teachers, with an array of talents way beyond their core subjects, are making a huge impact on young pupils at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall
After another high calibre performing arts production at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall (SMH) recently, one enthusiastic parent told headmaster Ian Murphy that it was the ‘sizzle’ not the ‘steak’ that made SMH such a compelling school.
In other words, it is the inspirational teaching staff that makes the school so vibrant and unique.
“It was a great way of describing what we have here!” says Mr Murphy, who is in his fourth year as headmaster.
“The teaching staff at SMH are totally dedicated – they are the people that really make an impact. We have pupils from a young age so it is about recognising and drawing out their talents. We have a breadth and richness to our international curriculum that really enhances a child’s formative years.”
“Our teachers have masses of experience and particular skills that are exclusive to them – this is not run of the mill teaching.”
A diverse enrichment programme has long been a tradition at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall giving young children opportunities that they may not otherwise have experienced.
One of these is an annual trip to the battlefields of the Somme in France, run by history teacher Paul Garlington, who has been a part of the Stonyhurst community for more than three decades.
With in-depth knowledge and a personal passion for this historic era, he has inspired generations of children through the trips that take pupils across the Channel to the battlefields and cemeteries where thousands of WW1 soldiers are buried.
Prior to the trip the 12-year-olds learn about the history behind the battles, the politics and tactics and, most importantly, the soldiers involved. Each child is given the name of a different soldier, who had attended Stonyhurst College, and was killed in action. Over the course of five days in France and Belgium, they will find his name on a grave in one of the many cemeteries or, if he was never found, on a memorial to the missing.
“It becomes very personal for each pupil, they see it as a right of passage,” says Mr Garlington, who first became interested in WW1 as a child, when he discovered that a family member had fought and been killed in the war.
“I found out more and more about it and became totally fascinated. Before each Somme trip the children research their particular soldier, they become very involved. So when they are actually at the cemetery there is a real sense of anticipation – and a real sense of emotion and closure when they find his name.”
With WW1 artefacts dotted around his office, Mr Garlington brings history to life for these youngsters, who begin to understand the impact the Great War had on families.
Similarly, Director of Music Greg Mann, who formerly taught at Stonyhurst College, is passionate about introducing music to children of all ages in order to excite, engage and inspire them.
“I like to think we take them on a journey, where at first they may be uncomfortable having to perform and play an instrument, but with time they grow in ability and confidence,” says Mr Mann, who joined SMH three years ago to teach from Year 2 and above.”
“Working with younger children needs a certain skillset – I have worked in the secondary sector for 32 years and to be working with younger children at the beginning of their journey is an absolute joy and a privilege.”
“Children are all musicians – it is very much part of the Jesuit tradition. Music is not an elitist skill – everyone can have a go. Whatever their age, I tell pupils they will end up being able to play a musical instrument. It is all about working with the child,” says Mr Mann, who with Ian Murphy, was instrumental in setting up the SMH music centre with its state-of-the-art sound-proofed keyboard and drum studios.
Each year the school holds an inter-line music competition involving hundreds of pupils and members of staff.
“It is important to see things through the eyes of a child,” adds skilled musician and multi-instrumentalist Mr Mann, who plays various instruments, including piano, organ, trumpet and drums.
“The children are with us for a long time so we get to know them and find their talents. I am a firm believer that if we challenge children, while keeping them at a comfortable level, they will succeed.”
While Mr Mann and Mr Garlington are passionate about their core subjects, their skills extend way beyond music and history.
Technic Lego, bike-riding, bee-keeping and running are listed among Mr Mann’s interests while Mr Garlington, who takes under 12s rugby and first team cricket, is also a skilled guitarist – playing his Telecaster on stage was a revelation to young pupils, who are able to aspire and relate to those teachers, who can call upon their more hidden talents to inspire youngsters.
Mr Murphy concludes: “Our teachers have such a range of other skills and an array of passions, which are all vital. Teachers like this are very much part of the independent school tradition. They truly give of themselves and they are inspirational role models. They set a great example to young pupils, who suddenly realise they can grow up and become a great deal more than they ever thought they could be.”
Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall
Stonyhurst, Clitheroe BB7 9PZ