RSA Academies’ Approach
RSA Academies is founded on the basis of a partnership of equals between the RSA and the schools in the RSA Family.
The ‘power to create’ is central to the relationship between RSA and the schools in the Family, and also to our wider strategic partnerships. Through these partnerships we hope to give the widest range of people working in and with our academies – teachers, pupils, RSA Fellows, RSA colleagues and those working in partner organisations – the opportunity to develop and turn into action ideas that will benefit children at our schools.
The relationship with the RSA brings the opportunity for RSA academies’ pupils and staff to work with some of the RSA’s 29,000 Fellows. Over the last three years more than 100 RSA Fellows from the West Midlands and beyond have worked with the academies in a wide variety of ways, including as school governors and Trustees, as mentors for pupils, by giving careers talks and delivering creative projects and by contributing to our student leadership programmes. The relationship has also enabled RSA academies to work with the RSA’s Royal Designers for Industry (RDIs), particularly benefiting art and design pupils and teachers.
RSA Academies has formed a number of strategic partnerships. The partnership with Warwick University has provided opportunities for pupils from age nine upwards to visit Warwick University and to participate in projects that open up the possibility of higher education as a future option. RSA Academies are also benefiting from an ESRC funded PhD post jointly supported by Warwick University and RSA Academies, which will look at the impact of friendship groups on pupils’ aspirations.
We also have a developing relationship with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and we are facilitating links between a number of arts organisations in Birmingham and the RSA academies through the establishment of a Performing Arts Hub. Supported by the Comino Foundation, and in partnership with the Black Country Atelier, our ‘manual of modern making’ project is helping schools to make the most of new digital fabrication technologies. We are proud to be pioneers of the RSA Pupil Design Awards, inspired by the RSA Student Design Awards, a competition that explores the role of social design and how it can be used to improve the lives of others. A programme that we hope will be extended to other schools in the future. We also hold an annual RSA Academies’ Arts Day and award the RSA Academies’ Art Prize that celebrates arts and creativity in the schools.
What makes our approach different?
Bringing together students from across the RSA group of schools has provided new opportunities for the pupils to learn from other schools and develop their leadership skills, influencing not only their own schools but also the RSA Family and, indeed, the RSA itself.
There is also the opportunity for our schools to influence the broader debate on education through the RSA networks, public events and on-line platforms – for example, Charlotte Townsend, a teacher from Arrow Vale RSA Academy spoke in a panel at a teacher recruitment and retention debate held in November 2015, students from three of the academies spoke at a climate change and youth voices event, and whose ideas were later featured in the Money Talks: Divest Invest and the battle for climate realism report by Dr Jonathan Rowson in December 2015.
Parents are seen as crucial partners in their child’s education, and also as potential contributors to the life of the school through their knowledge, skills, experiences and contacts. This resource is largely untapped, and over the period of this plan we will seek improve our ways of working with parents to secure the best possible outcomes for their children and others in the school.
The substantial majority of a school’s budget is spent on staffing, and the teaching and non-teaching staff are the people who can actually deliver RSA Academies’ vision for an exceptional education. An important element of our vision is to unleash the ‘power to create’ amongst teachers as well as pupils, enabling staff to turn their ideas for improving outcomes for children into action.
Central to our approach is a robust programme of research-informed enquiry, innovation and evaluation. An important element of the RSA Academies’ approach is to explore what might work as well as to learn from evidenced best practice. Our model of ‘disciplined innovation’ recognises that it is essential that encouragement to experiment is balanced by a rigorous approach to the collection and analysis of evidence. This means that we are able to celebrate and share information about what works but also remain objective, and only pursue initiatives which are demonstrably having a positive impact on children and young people. This evidence-based and enquiry-led approach also links to our interest in promoting the development of a broad range of competences alongside knowledge, including developing pupils’ questioning and critical thinking skills.
We will continue to be outward-facing, drawing ideas and expertise that might be relevant to work with RSA Academies not only from other schools but also from other sectors, and not only within the West Midlands region but nationally and internationally.