The life of the father of English choral music Thomas Tallis is an enigma. Historical documents that reveal his character and thinking habits are like finding a needle in a haystack. What does survive in abundance is the huge volume of musical scores that illuminate many of our inferences about the qualities he must have displayed during his 45 years of working for four Tudor monarchs at the Greenwich Palace of Placentia.
With so little to go on other than the musical scores, how was the History Department going to conceive of a celebration of his life in the form of a KS3 visit and historical enquiry? Where should we go? What might we see? What would we ask the students to consider? What use might it be today as the school that bears his name celebrates its 50th Anniversary year?
In an attempt to solve these puzzles, staff members made their way to the Church of St. Alfege and the Old Royal Naval College Visitors' Centre in the heart of the world heritage site of Greenwich in the summer of 2021 and from there the vision began to take shape.
The wonderful staff of St Alfege Church would help illuminate the artefacts in their Tallis corner and a visit to the crypt using torches to investigate further. Similarly, colleagues at the ORNC Visitors Centre would reveal evidence of the former Greenwich Palace of Placentia where he worked for the best part of five decades. The aim? To exercise student inquisitiveness and consider the relationship between Tallis the man and the place where he worked. Furthermore, to explore the connections with the character and habits that the school encourages the students to develop in their journey through Thomas Tallis school, in the 5 decades of public education provision it as provided in this part of southeast London.
The result? Ten consecutive days of trips for the whole of Year 7 and 8 that witnessed the collaboration not only of our school with external providers but the invaluable contribution of staff from pastoral, special needs, administrative and kitchen staff ably supported by our Senior Leaders Team, too many to mention.
The legacy? Our students know who he was, where he worked and the incredible character and habits, he maintained throughout his time here in Greenwich 1540-1585. Our students understand the reason these characteristics and habits remain of such significance in their own journeys in life, wherever they may lead. A webpage documenting the visits can be viewed here. And, thanks to colleagues and students in the media arts, here's a film version of our shared adventure:
Here's what some of colleagues had to say about the experience: