Launching the RSA Academy at Tipton

Yesterday was the launch of the RSA Academy. Open since September, the day was a chance to meet the staff and students, and to get some coverage for what is a remarkable school (a BBC News video here, and some press reports here and here).

The school has been entirely planned around Opening Minds from the design of the curriculum, to the planning of the building, to staffing structures this is an Opening Minds school in every sense of the word.

The highlights of the day for me were two conversations I had, one with two heads of house (the school has three houses). They were talking about the three-hour lessons. Yes, they were hard at first, but quickly they found themselves adapting and planning in a different way. Varying the pace of the lesson, the types of activity, not teaching so much from the front – the classrooms were becoming radically different.  And because lessons were 3 hours, not 50 minutes, there was room for far more complex and creative tasks. In that time teachers can introduce, carry out, and close pieces of work they would never have attempted otherwise. That means less simple lecturing from the front and more activity for students.

The other conversation I really enjoyed was with a small group of media students, preparing for an hour’s filming at the local airport for a documentary they were making. Their ownership of their learning and their enjoyment was obvious. They had one hour, and one chance to get it right. Their planning was meticulous, and it clearly meant a huge amount to them to get it right. What was the big difference, I asked? ‘It’s so much more active‘.

Active was a word I heard again and again from staff and students, and it summed up the buzzy atmosphere perfectly.

It was an emotional day for many at the Academy and the RSA, who are beginning to see the fruits of many hours of labour pay off. The staff and students at the RSA Academy in Tipton have created a new dynamism about learning.

Long may it continue.

– Ian McGimpsey

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