MODERN ART IN SCHOOL
" SOME CATHOLICS WILL SAY THAT THEY ARE MAKING A SACRIFICE IN SENDING THEIR SONS TO A CATHOLIC SCHOOL.
" As a matter of fact they are making no sacrifice. Our schools are the best in England; the teaching and training are of the highest. Children at Catholic schools have a better chance than elsewhere. The teachers are not only fully qualified; but their religion teaches them to give of their best."
So writes the Rev. Richard Spittle, parish priest of the Annunciation, Burnt Oak, a parish just ten years old, of which our Special Correspondent gives some account below.
By a C.H. Reporter
Eleven years ago, in 1927, the L.C.C. Watling Estate was opened.
Thousands of houses in four types were to become the new homes of people from all parts of London. They came from Paddington, Islington, the East End; they paid rents to the L.C.C., rates to the Borough of Hendon.
There was a station, shops and houses; there were no churches, and no schools. The station was called Burnt Oak, and the Watling Estate became the new township of Burnt Oak.
There are over 4,000 L.C.C. houses and the population today is over 19,000.
Ten Years' Progress
One year later, in 1928, the parish of the Annunciation was founded. The church, a pleasing brick structure, romanesque in style, standing rather far hack on a commanding corner site, was built in 1929. There is still a heavy debt on it.
Ten years ago there was no parish, today the estimated Catholic population is 2,500, served by three priests in a live and active parish.
All the usual guilds are established and flourishing. The Legion of Mary, the bulwark of Catholic Action in new parishes, is conducting a house-to-house census.
When the church was visited two guilds advertised notice of meetings," re Catholic Action." The parish priest told me that he hoped to have an Action Group in being before the end of the year.
No " Suburbanitis " at Burnt Oak
There are no lonely wives in the parish of the Annunciation. Burnt Oak tackled the " Lonely Suburban Wife " problem before suicides brought her into the headlines. The Catholic Mothers' Guild. established three years ago, besides its religious practices, deals with this very problem by regular meetings of a social kind.
1,000 Children in Three Schools
Two-thousand-five-hundred and eight children have been admitted to the schools in seven years. A month ago this was an average of one child a day admitted for every day the schools had been opened.
Now one thousand children attend three schools—the Primary Junior School of the Annunciation, St. James's Central School, and St. Rose's Secondary School for Girls.
The School of the Annunciation opened in August, 1931, with a roll of 180; in three years the number was 600. Another school was imperative. Not waiting for time and Act of Parliament to force his hand, the parish priest invited the Dominican Sisters, who had opened and conducted the School of the Annunciation, to open a senior or central school.
Model for County
Foresight and courage have their reward. St. James's Central School has an attendance roll of 400. and has become a model for the county in lay-out, method and curriculum. The local authority sends its teachers to study the methods of teaching, and the Board of Education has nothing but praise.
On four sides of a central oblong lawn, intersected by concrete paths, is a raised verandah-like gallery, giving access and covered way to the classrooms. The effect is extremely pleasing.
The architect, Alderman S. H. Egan, J.P., the present Catholic Mayor of Hendon, has achieved an almost ideal school lay-out. The whole building is on ground level.
THE CENTRAL SCHOOL IN ACTION Art Fundamental in Education
The headmistress, a Dominican sister, very modern (in the best and exact sense of the term), a trained and practical psychologist, told me that the school was run on modern psychological lines, and that Modern Art, which was self-expres sion, was fundamental in the training. In all departments the children did what they wanted to do in the way their expert teachers led them.
For their science and biology they collected whatever they were interested in. They choose the most diverse things, from horns to caterpillars; from bones and skulls to leaves and shells.
" Nothing is Locked Up "
In Art they were encouraged first of all to draw what they liked. Then with plenty of colours, thick brushes, plenty of paper —" this room is always open and nothing is locked up," said the headmistress; to paint, to express themselves in composition, figure or design. They have no technical instruction except for the school certificate course at a later age. The results are astounding in form, colour and problem.
Modern Art Trains Character
Their characters are formed, the headmistress urged, their inhibitions released, their moral qualities trained as truly as their appreciation of life, colour and harmony was widened and made actual for them.
These modernist, surrealist creations are character problems dealt with by the patients themselves. Here in a Catholic atmosphere, under religious guidance, appears most surely the intrinsic value of Modernism in Art.
The central school is frankly vocational training, at St. James's, Burnt Oak; it is vocational training which is become true education. The classical notion of education as preparation for the use of leisure is often vitiated by the intrusion of the new principle. Here the modern version of education justifies itself.
Music is an important item in the school and the school orchestra accompanies the school singers and actors in the bi-annual production. The last was The Bohemian Girl.
FREE SELF-EXPRESSION Planned to Useful Ends
The free self-expression of the paintings are transferred to potato and lino cuts. These are used to print stuffs and the stuffs made into curtains, dresses, ties.
Many boys of the school are wearing ties of their own design and printing.
Many girls wear dresses the stuff of which has been printed with their own design and made up in their dressmaking classes.
Education for Making a Living
Designs and patterns arc used in the bookbinding and woodwork sections. The woodwork and metal work are surprisingly excellent in finish and design.
Music, art, housekeeping, cooking, laundry-work, woodwork, metal-work, typewriting, shorthand, bookkeeping, the School Certificate Syllabus, and a Civil Service Examination Class, these are some of the subjects. All are useful subjects, taken only by those who have a desire or an aptitude, according to their abilities: a modern training for life in a modern world : a preparation for making a living.
Attendance at Mass Doubled
Training in religion is extremely thorough, a notable feature of which is the weekday school Mass. At this the priest explains from the pulpit the actions of the celebrant as. or before, he does them. He makes comments, reads prayers aloud and so instructs in all the details of this central act of Catholic life. The parish priest told me that since this method of instruction had been introduced the attendance of children at Sunday Mass had been doubled.
Under the circumstances the humble boast of the parish priest seems justified, though he was referring to a Catholic body as a whole.
" It is high time we told the world that we have something to offer that it lacks."