Don’t forget the fourth ‘r’

This year 6 class are in the school’s music room. It’s Monday afternoon and they are being taught by their class teacher. They have come to realise that he like them can sing with confidence, and there is a little repartee about his singing.  Should it model at the pupils’ pitch with his falsetto voice or just sing an octave lower and as he should? There is agreement that his baritone register works well.

The class learn to sing the Nauma chant in three parts before intuitively adding rhythmic accompaniments.

The teacher directs what is now a performance and creates a well-measured ending.

The music has been well made and there is an air of satisfaction.

In the current anxiety surrounding the breadth and balance of the school curriculum in the face of pressure to raise attainment in core subjects, it is commonly observed that time given to making things whether music, other art objects or whatever has diminished.

Some have derided time given to making as wasteful and there is the sentiment ‘all the rest is play’ attached to the call for an unrelenting focus on essential knowledge.

The prejudice against making, the use of the hands, the body goes deep. The ideological splitting of body and mind is used in all manner of ways. It enables the separation of the practical from the mindful, the vocational from the academic. It enables certain kinds of knowledge to reign supreme.

In the blog making and remaking I gave an example from early childhood of what I defined as nascent creativity. It would seem that it is there to be developed and most obviously through processes of making, making music for example.


The first episode of the new BBC series Civilisations shown last week revealed the existential basis of making as we were introduced to visual representations made in caves some 80,000 years ago. The presenter Simon Sharma pointed out that while he proposed we think of this as making art, others, and I imagine he was thinking of anthropologists, prefer not to. It was rather human meaning making.

Whatever, processes of making are about bringing into existence what has never before existed giving meaning to the makers and offering meanings shared more widely, that is, the making of culture. Sharma made the point that such processes of making emanate from something other than economic or material gain. Some have thought of this human propensity in terms of homo aestheticus.

I have dimly heard of the four ‘Rs’ – reading, writing, arithmetic and wroughting. (I may be making this up!) Wroughting is an idea fast disappearing from use. I think it means refining as part of the process of making. And that’s just what year 6 were doing on Monday afternoon.

Perhaps there is a new slogan to consider. Bring back the fourth ‘R’.