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This is a guest blog from Arvind Batra, she is the Student Leadership Co-ordinator for RSA Family of Academies and runs the RSA8 leadership programme.

Developing student leadership is a significant element of the RSA Family of Academies' strategic plan. In our classrooms young people are asked to be creative, imaginative and practical, they are challenged to be the best, and are encouraged to show initiative, enthusiasm and leadership skills.

The RSA8 programme is a bespoke programme for Year 8 students designed to run across all the academies as well as an opportunity for the students to interact with each other, and come together under a common framework.  

The aim of the programme is to generate an interest in leadership, especially in students from a disadvantaged background, from a young age, with a view to inspiring these young people to become the leaders of the future.  

Each session takes place in a different RSA Academy; Whitley Academy in Coventry, RSA Academy in Tipton, Ipsley CE RSA Academy in Redditch, Holyhead School in Birmingham and now Church Hill Middle School, also in Redditch. Students visit each academy for a different leadership skill element of the programme. With the training completed, a residential weekend at the University of Warwick takes place in order to put together a social action project that will have a wider impact on their own school community, and test their newly gained skills. We then hold a formal celebration at the end of the programme where students from each of the academies are encouraged to evaluate and present the outcomes of their project to their peers, parents, principals, governors and RSA Fellows. 

Student voice is an important element across all RSA Academies and it’s these young leaders who will be represent the views of others in the future, bring about social change and be leaders of organisations and companies.  So how do we equip them with the necessary skills in order to achieve this and incorporate these into the RSA8 programme?  What are the skills required for a young person to become a good leader? That’s where we called upon the RSA Fellows network.

The programme was designed in consultation with all of the RSA academies with the proviso that Fellows would be able to support the programme in a number of ways.  At an RSA Engage Event in Birmingham, the Head Boy and Girl from RSA Academy in Tipton pitched the following:

  • As part of the programme we need leaders of industries, of organisations, of charities, who can come in and inspire young people and demonstrate the qualities of what is required to be a leader in the real world.

  • In the age of the selfie, Instagram, Twitter and blogging, how can young people capture and evidence their leadership journey? How has blogging helped Fellows and why is it important?  Can you help to inspire students to blog?

  • Many students are great at communicating to their peers, but what about a more formal audience? How can they present themselves in different situations and to differing audiences within the realms of public speaking? Can you offer tips and ideas?

  • The art of arguing and debating is a skill in itself.  It requires great skill to persuade people to come around to your way of thinking, or agree to disagree. We need Fellows who can facilitate a debate on a current topic or issue and give feedback to the students participating. 

  • How important is team work within leadership? The aim of this session will be to highlight the importance of how a team can work together to achieve successful outcomes, and how every member of the team can contribute to the success or failure of an end goal     

Through the RSA Engage event, Lorna Prescott, an RSA Fellow from Dudley, offered her services and delivered a blogging session at the RSA Academy in Tipton at the launch event.  Rich Pickford, RSA Regional Manager, put us in touch with Matthew Green of Uprising Birmingham.  The organisation was a perfect match for the programme and delivered the social action planning element of the whole programme at the University of Warwick residential.  Uprising have subsequently worked alongside RSA Academy in Tipton supporting the REAL projects in Year 7, Summer School transition in Year 6 and have supported P16 Leaders with their Pass It On training, with immense success, both pro bono and commissioned. In Year 2, Uprising launched the programme and as well as delivering the Social Action Project again, they will be working with the students in order to evaluate the success and impact of the social action projects. Having left Uprising, Matthew Green continues to support the programme and was involved in a prize-giving ceremony this summer.  

Paul Monaghan, an ex-Vice Principal at the RSA Academy in Tipton and RSA Fellow, delivered a fantastic session entitled First Best Loud Proud encapsulating the importance of body language, speech, awareness of persona and how to display themselves publicly as a leader. Eleanor Bernades from LMKco and a Fellow facilitated debates on other important topics and articulated methods of debating. 

In all, over 90 students have benefited directly from the expertise offered through the Fellows on just one project. The impact, although difficult to measure, has been much wider if we look at the social action projects from each school:

  • Ipsley CE RSA Academy encouraged more students to participate in drama and performed at their local theatre

  • RSA Academy, Tipton held a poetry slam competition promoting oracy and encouraging Year 7 students to speak publicly with 100 students taking part

  • Whitley Academy led a campaign to bring music onto their curriculum by first staring an after school club, and were successful 

  • Holyhead School led a campaign to encourage more students to participate in opportunities and enrichment club    

All of the projects reflect the ethos of the RSA to bring social change to our communities, and to inspire a new generation to become socially conscious individuals with the skills to support this change.  Who knows, these could be the RSA Fellows of tomorrow!

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On behalf of all of the students we'd like to thank all of the Fellows who have given their time, knowledge and expertise to the RSA8 students – and don’t forget, if you have a story to share about how Fellows have supported your project or perhaps you’re looking for some support of your own to shape or develop your own idea then the RSA is here to help. 

Please get in touch with your RSA West Midlands regional manager Rich Pickford or Roisin Ellison at RSA Academies for advice and connections.  If you are interested in the future of education and learning you can sign up to the RSA's Innovative Education Network.   

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