In the next couple of weeks I hope to unveil a new format for my blog. As well as linking to all my favourite bloggers and making it much easier for people to make comments, I want to be able to cover both current affairs and news from the RSA. I promised on Tuesday to update readers on the Academy launch but then, like everyone else, I got caught up in Obama fever. My new blog will contain a reserved space for news about the Society.
So with apologies for being one day late I can say that the launch was a big success. Prince Philip was on great form with the pupils loving his characteristic no-nonsense style. HRH’s opening comments included the line ‘I was amazed when they said the RSA was going to run a school. Frankly I didn’t know they could run anything!’ The visitors for the day included local dignitaries, sponsors of the Academy, local people and many RSA Fellows. There will be another grand opening in 2010 when the new school building opens for business but, despite being in the old premises, Mick Gernon, the Principal, and his team had clearly achieved great progress in just a few months.
New uniforms, school bags and signage spoke to the sense of a fresh start, while the school’s organisation, its practical learning opportunities, five term year and application of Opening Minds underlined the Academy’s commitment to innovation. The RSA wanted to sponsor an Academy not as a status symbol but to develop innovative new ways of schooling. I firmly believe that soon the RSA Academy Tipton will be known across the UK and beyond as a symbol of what 21st century schooling can be at its best.
And while I am on the Academy I should pay tribute to Penny Egan, my predecessor, and her Trustees for having the vision and determination not only to commit to the Academy but to choose such a great place for it. We have ambitious plans for further development on the Academy campus and to use the school as a hub for community engagement. For an organisation like the RSA to be so engaged with a community like Tipton (and in it for the long term) is fantastic, and the fact that most of the pupils support my beloved West Brom is the icing on the cake.
The Academy is one part of our ever more ambitious education programme. This week we had some good news on the funding of our progressive education alliance, of which more news soon. And Louise Thomas, a member of our education team, has undertaken a comprehensive review of OFSTED inspections of Opening Minds schools. Her conclusions are incredibly encouraging with over 90% of comments made by OFSTED about Opening Minds being positive. The full draft report can be read here.
One place I will be making sure to send the report is Conservative Central Office. Michael Gove and his team continue to portray Opening Minds as wishy-washy liberal nonsense. This is a blot on an otherwise thoughtful Tory education platform. I have been trying to get a meeting with Michael for several months. I’m still hopeful that we can find a time soon as I’d hate to conclude that what Michael is trying to avoid us – in Thomas Huxley’ phrase: his beautiful hypothesis being challenged by some ugly facts. It would be disastrous if schools were discouraged from a curriculum that is getting great results and which – above all – enthuses the pupils who study it.
I had a very interesting conversation about policy making with Michael Blastland (a former speaker at the RSA) on the Today programme this morning. Here is the link.