Former Blackpool deputy headteacher's view over proposed cuts to the arts

John Topping
John Topping
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John Topping, is a former deputy headteacher of Greenlands High School for Girls and former acting headteacher of Bispham High School Arts College and Collegiate High School.

He said a long history of nurturing creativity must not be allowed to disappear.

Speaking to The Gazette, he recalled when he came to Blackpool 21 years ago it was an exciting time for schools schools working hard to achieving Arts College status.

He said: “Local schools were all bidding for extra funds and capital projects to develop their particular specialism and premises.

“We were extremely fortunate at Greenlands in being able to attract the £100,000 cash sponsorship that the Government demanded at that time which was then subsequently matched by them.

“We were granted Arts College status, being one of just 32 schools nationwide to secure the title.

“With industrial partners and sponsors we developed a state of the art music and recording studio and school radio station alongside a superb large dance studio.”

He also pointed to research commissioned at the time that said Blackpool had “five times the national average of employment opportunities in the entertainment and associated industries”.
“Many students went on to TV fame and hopefully fortune in the performing arts,” he added.

“About nine years ago Bispham High School-Arts College (formerly Greenlands) was approached by Lord Andrew Adonis to partner with The Royal Ballet School, which is still working with five local primary schools to develop its exciting PrimarySTEPS programme.”

He praised to programme for offering a “first class experience” to youngsters across Blackpool.

He added: “It is my personal view that the demise of specialist schools over recent years coupled with considerable curriculum change has contributed to diverting student learning away from the arts and creative subjects to a regime of maths, English, science and the other so-called academic subjects.

“There is so much creativity and academic learning that youngsters can be involved with if schooling was to integrate creativity with engineering, science, technology and mathematics.

“It is time in my view to say we value creativity, we value making things, designing and doing things and we value our children before much of what we have taught over many years is finally squeezed out of a child’s schooling.”