One of the joys of my job is getting to watch a range of school performances.
On Tuesday evening I went to see the Humbie Primary School Nativity at the Parish Church – a remarkable building in its own right.
I’ve been to many such nativities and I’m usually captivated by the enthusiasm and innocence which characterise the performance. But on Tuesday I watched something which had something in addition to these elements – and that was high quality performance, in fact quite exceptionally high quality. This is a school with 19 pupils – with every pupil being a member of the choir. They sang an extensive repetoire, using sophisticated singing techniques which I’d never really encountered in a primary school to such a level.
So how does this school reach such high standards? Firstly, I think it’s to do with the feeling of communty which pervades the school – “we do it for each other”, Secondly, the school has high expectations about anything with which the children engage. Thirdly, the singing tutor, Susan Hamilton is quite exceptional. Susan has been working with the school as part of the Youth Music Initiative. Susan is also a Director of Dunedin Consort and showed what’s possible when an adult sets high expectations for children and provides them with expert support to reach that standard.
The children’s response was outstanding and did demonstrate for me that we sometimes don’t set our expectations high enough – of course, having high expectations and failing to provide the support to allow these standards to be achieved can be incredibly damaging for all involved – but there was no chance of that here.