RSA Fellows and RSA Academies collaborate: the Weston Beamor jewellery design project

July 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

This is a guest blog from Chris Smith, Maths, Science and Technology Lead Practitioner, STEM and IBCC Coordinator at RSA Academy in Tipton.  Chris explains how RSA Academy in Tipton have played a key role in the success of this inter-school competition. 

The winning team from Broadway School with the judges and their teachers

The winning team from Broadway School with the judges and their teachers


Back in January 2013 a number of RSA Fellows met at Weston Beamor in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter to look at how 3D printing is being used by Weston Beamor in the production of their jewellery products.  They wanted to find a vehicle to promote this new technology and extend its use in schools, after numerous meetings it was decided that RSA Academy in Tipton would coordinate a jewellery design competition for the RSA Family of Academies and those looking to become part of the RSA Family.

Whitley Academy, Arrow Vale RSA Academy, RSA Academy and Broadway School were invited to the launch on 21 January 2014 at the RSA Academy.  The brief was to design a lapel pin/badge suitable for the Principals of the RSA Academies to wear – therefore it had to be suitable for both men and women to wear.

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Power to create taken literally at the RSA Academies Arts Day

Booom, booom, booom, bom, bom, bom

Hats off and thrown wildly up in the air to all the students, their parents and teachers from RSA Family of Academies who raised the roof at the RSA yesterday with the infectious sound of pounding drums to conclude the RSA Academies Arts Day.

The loud, booming, warm, rhythmic sounds of these drums resonated throughout the RSA.  I wish you had been there to marvel at the confidence of these students and their parents who wholeheartedly (and with an understandable amount of jitter) embraced the ‘get involved’ element of the day and breathed in the energy.  They were an absolute credit to themselves and their schools.  I even surprised myself during the drama workshop, getting in a sweat chasing parents around the Great Room to catch their ‘tails’ wasn’t exactly in the brief.  But it was all gloriously creative, and in this creativity emerged discipline, listening, mindfulness, consideration, friendship, bravery, confidence, leadership and imagination. What a heady mix. Read more

RSA Academy and Sky News – A Conference with John Ryley

June 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

This is a guest blog from Laura Guest, a Year 12 student and a Senior Lead Learner at RSA Academy in Tipton.


Students from RSA Academy, Tipton with John Ryley from Sky News

Students from RSA Academy, Tipton with John Ryley from Sky News

On Wednesday 11th June, ten students from the RSA Academy (including myself) attended a conference in the RSA building in London. The conference was with John Ryley, the current head of Sky News, and we learnt about his vision for the future of Sky, TV Broadcasting and journalism as a profession.

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Can you help broaden the horizons of RSA Academies students?

Question WebAre you interested in helping young people realise their potential?

This summer we are launching an ambitious new project that seeks to improve the career prospects of RSA Academies students – and we need your help. Read more

The forward rush of time: fatherhood, fun and facilitating fellowship activity

May 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

The impending adventure of fatherhood will soon be upon me which seems to have caused a certain rush of blood to the head.  Like chalkboard_logomany soon to be fathers I seem to be trying to get everything done before our addition arrives including a 175km bike ride around Pembrokeshire in gale force winds and hail.  This particular activity was most definitely on the edge of type three fun but that’s for another time. Read more

Student Leadership Conference: tips from the top

December 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

20. group shot outside JAS jumping_2 blog

The end of November saw RSA Academies hosting the Student Leadership Conference for Year 12 and 13 student leaders from Arrow Vale RSA Academy, Whitley Academy and RSA Academy, Tipton.

Here are some of the TOP 5 TIPS from the students and the RSA Fellows who joined in for a day of inspiration and conversation.

Marie Nixon, Chief Executive at Sunderland University’s Students Union starts us off.

1. You’re a leader all the time. You don’t have to wait for the ‘big’ job or opportunity to start being a leader. You can be a leader in your community, in your area of interest, in anything. Get on with leading and the big leadership opportunities are more likely to come your way.

2. Don’t be scared of ‘don’t know’. One person can never know everything. Surround yourself with brilliant people and together you can know all sorts – and work out the answers to what you don’t.

3. The power of the unthinkable. Don’t be afraid of ‘mad’ ideas that might seem beyond the realms of possibility. It’s a great spark for exciting conversations which help you decide on ambitions and exciting things you want to change and do.

4. The boldest measures are the safest – changing something a tiny bit usually requires exactly the same effort as changing something radically. Be bold, be brave, attempt to do what you really want to do rather than what you might get away with. It’ll take the same effort and you might as well go for what you want.

5. Telling it like it is. Feedback is super powerful and it takes a bold soul to give it. Feedback is essential to make sure you’re getting to where you want to be. When you’re giving feedback make sure you do it with accuracy and kindness and that you’re doing it for the good of the person affected or the project. It’s NEVER a chance to be mean.


Followed by Prince Chivaka and Cynthia Ariana, Head Boy and Head Girl at Whitley Academy in Coventry.

• Communication is key

• Develop confidence in the role

• Be very firm, but friendly and be assertive and considerate in a team

• Plan an agenda for each half term and  meet with Student Leadership Group and the Principal

• Encourage others to become leaders, be a role model


And Rick Hall from Ignite’s 5 Rs: the characteristics of creativity… and leadership

1. Resilience – be determined and learn from your mistakes, this is part of the process of getting towards the solution

2. Resourcefulness – working out what to do when you don’t know what to do

3. Referencing – see something is like something else and make the connection, learn from this

4. Reflection – step aside and observe, use mind mapping as a technique to help

5. Risk taking – pushing the boundaries, going outside your comfort zone


And lastly from Andrew Watts, Head Boy at RSA Academy in Tipton

• Plan, plan, plan – set goals, what do you want to achieve?

• It’s crucial to talk to people – what do students want from you? Expect the unexpected.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help – you don’t have all the answers and learn from the example of others

• You have to make big decisions – consider everything, sometimes what you want isn’t best

• Be willing to get involved – you have to be in it to win it


Duncan Piper at the Young Leaders Consultancy has the parting shot.  He encouraged us to think about self-less leadership: how can I help you get to where you need to be?

35. workshop Becca action planning_2blog


The power of potential: Warwick University and RSA Academies partner up

October 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 
Students from RSA Academies with RSA Chairman Vikki Heywood

Students from RSA Academies with RSA Chairman Vikki Heywood. Credit: Pete Marples

Within the RSA Family of Academies many families of pupils do not have strong networks with employers or universities.  Recently schools have had to take on new responsibilities for careers information, advice and guidance.  It follows then that one of our priorities is to ‘connect learners to people, places and issues beyond the school gate’ – something we are working towards with a new Warwick University and RSA partnership.


Students from Ipsley CE RSA Academy. Credit: Pete Marples

Last Thursday night students from the RSA Academies joined with their teachers, academics from Warwick and the RSA to celebrate the launch of this partnership.  It is aimed at increasing the student’s knowledge about what a university education involves and helping them to develop skills, knowledge and experience to gain a university place.

For the partnership to have real impact, we need to consider the perceived barriers of going to university.  Practical concerns about how students would manage, including anxiety about the financial implications; a sense that it is ‘not for people like me’; a lack of knowledge and confidence in going through the application and interview process, have all informed the planning so far.  The partnership will generate:

  • opportunities for the students to attend the ‘Experience Warwick’ summer schools
  • support with the university application process
  • advice and guidance sessions for the students and their parents about going to university
  • visits to the schools by the academic staff
  • taster days at the university
Sixth former from Arrow Vale RSA Academy

Sixth former from Arrow Vale RSA Academy.  Credit: Pete Marples

And more than this, there will be a programme of activities for the schools that is focussed on raising aspirations and increasing awareness of different university options.  There is plenty of potential for projects between different academic staff within Warwick and the schools that will bring to life some of the more esoteric sounding disciplines – theatre productions about the financial crisis that allow you to explore economics and the relationship between human behaviours – it’s about finding ways to engage and excite students with new subjects and ideas, and teaching staff and academics in return.

Head Boy at Ipsley CE RSA Academy

Head Boy at Ipsley CE RSA Academy. Credit: Pete Marples

Student focus groups carried out by RSA Education Intern Lisa Hevey showed the importance of talking about university as an option at an early age.  At Year 8 students were talking about adults who had influenced their future plans and career aspirations, so getting in early with a range of potential career possibilities is essential.  Importantly role models also have a clear impact on students.  Some students do not have older siblings at university and putting these individuals in touch with university students or adults who may inspire them could have enormous effect.

So this partnership offers potential.  And when you feel you have potential, the sky’s the limit.


What’s the secret to learner engagement?

At the RSA Family of Academies we are working with four schools in the West Midlands who are about to embark on an arts audit.  By reviewing what activities are already taking place across their schools they will be able to examine the ways that the arts and arts experiences could be woven through the curriculum and the school day.

One of the priorities for RSA Academies is ‘enabling learners to achieve a broad range of qualifications, skills and competences’ which poses some interesting thinking.  How do you enable learners to achieve not just qualifications but also a broad range of skills and competences – and further still, confidence.  And how do you get the disengaged interested in learning again?

A new report from the Arts Council of Wales explores arts and creativity in schools and the impact that arts experiences which take place in schools have.   The headline figures are conclusive and striking.  Of the 42 schools and colleges involved in the research, 99% said they felt that an involvement in arts activities had improved learner engagement.  Dai Smith, Chair of the Arts Council of Wales follows this: ‘teaching in and through the arts, far from detracting from literacy and numeracy should be seen as an enabler to driving up standards in academic priorities’.

The research also identified that 98% and 99% felt that the arts developed emotional wellbeing and interpersonal skills of the pupils.  The report provides evidence of the enrichment and progression of learners as a result of arts organisations coming through the school gate and through outside visits to theatres, galleries and exhibitions.

Which thinking about it, most of us will have our own experiences for which this rings true.  I can still vividly remember a trip to the Barbican to see Romeo and Juliet with Tim McInnerny just mesmerising as Tybalt.  The act itself of the trip to a big city, visiting the vast concrete megalith that is the Barbican and then to be wowed by the strange language of Shakespeare is the sort of stuff that stays with you at the tender age of 13.

Ben Kelly with Arrow Vale RSA Academy students

Ben Kelly with Arrow Vale RSA Academy students

Beyond this, the arts enables young people to explore identity and self-expression, to create and to experiment.  Last week one of the RSA’s Royal Designers of Industry, Ben Kelly joined Arrow Vale RSA Academy in Redditch for the day.  Designer of the interior of the Hacienda, Ben is a real life example of a rule breaker and innovator, and he inspired years 9 and 12 students with a new sense of what’s possible and attitude to success.

Whitley Academy head boy, Prince Chivaka leads a series of podcasts in a project with RSA Fellow Fran Plowright called Frontline Voices.  Across the RSA Family of Academy schools, Prince and his fellow students explored questions of what it means to be a young person today growing up in an uncertain and changing world.  Fran explains more about the project in her What about tomorrow? blog.

And take a look at Whitley Academy in Coventry.  Their art website, Whitley Arts was created to showcase and sell their unique student artwork.  It has also opened students’ eyes to the possibility of their work being in the public realm.  The site acts as a focal point, a potential destination of work whilst underpinning learning and personal development.

We are working to create more of these moments of inspiration and practical projects where creativity is fostered as a core skill, and where hopefully more learners become more engaged as a result.

365 days of Fellowship – from the Contemporary to the Phoenix

September 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

fellowship knotx120

So I’ve been working for the RSA for a whole year – an awful lot has happened, so I thought I’d mark it with a blog.

I owe my awareness of the role to Jason Pandya-Wood after he tweeted the job advert one sunny Sunday morning.  I was intrigued by the 100 days at the RSA blog post reflecting on the first three months in the role from a Regional Programme Manager.  I felt a bit like Alice heading down the rabbit hole when I began exploring the RSA and its multifaceted foci.  There are so many wonders and adventures you can have through the website and across twitter, LinkedIn and


My journey started in the Nottingham Contemporary.  Whilst I officially started with the RSA on Monday 10 September, I was already taking in my local patch and meeting Fellows on the previous Saturday at the East Midlands annual conference.   This year’s conference, Making a Difference, happened last Saturday in Leicester at the Phoenix.  Fellows showcased projects in their region and looked to inspire ideas and action.  Our regional digital champions live-blogged during the day and collated the online discussions.  You can read what was said by heading across to  One of our regional digital champions – Dave Briggs – talks about how he did this in his own blog if you are keen to learn. You can also view Katie Smith’s photos from the event online here.


I hope those Fellows that attended left the conference feeling the same way I did last year – excited about my new challenge and ready to get going.  Little did I know the vast distances I’d travel or the creative connections I’d make.

I’m honoured to work with so many energetic, motivated and conscientious people with the RSA.  My role keeps me mobile across the middle of Britain and I’m often off visiting Fellows from Northampton to Stoke and everywhere in between.  I’m also working across the RSA Academies network and have been supporting some exciting projects for students and teachers.  We hosted a collaborative meeting between RDI’s and RSA Academies staff before the summer and have been working with others to support the development of Fellow led work in the academies.  I’m always looking to meet with Fellows and to work with them to help develop their ideas.

Joanna Massie poloThe regional team of programme managers also welcomes two new starters.  Joanna Massie (@joannacmassie) has moved out of the House to take the reins across the East and South East and Becca Massy-Chase (@becca_mchase) has joined the RSA to support and develop Fellow-led activities in London and the South Central regions.  I know you’ll offer them a warm welcome. We are always uncovering fresh faces and have continued to grow and expand the Fellowship.  Our network has uncovered a new team member in the West Midlands and I’m really pleased to welcome Lorna Prescott (@dosticen) as the new Fellowship Councillor.  Lorna is passionate about social change and is already exploring how she can get more involved in Fellowship.  Look out for a new blogging site for West Midlands Fellows as well as social media surgeries and other activities that she’s planning.

Rebecca polo
They, like me, are always seeking to support Fellow-led ventures and will be busy working to promote activity across their areas.   Please get in touch via email or twitter, or leave me a comment below to talk about your projects and ideas whether they exist in the East or West Midlands or within the RSA Academies group.

Richard Pickford
RSA Regional Programme Manager
East & West Midlands | RSA Academies

The Big Idea: making the most of RSA Animates in school

June 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

Ewan MacintoshThe Big Idea: making the most of RSA Animates in school using a new collaborative website,, by Ewan McIntosh FRSA, Founder of

RSA Animates have proven irresistible intellectual nuggets for many “grown ups”, and evidence suggests they help us learn about topics better. But what about their potential for little ‘uns and teens at school?

RSA Animates can undoubtedly provide rich stimulus for learning, and the visual representation of abstract or complex ideas has become increasingly admired by educators all over the world. However, harnessing these clips successfully is not necessarily obvious or easy for educators who’ve not tried before.

RSA Animates have proven irresistible intellectual nuggets for many “grown ups”. But what about their potential for little ‘uns and teens at school?

What’s WatchDrawThink?
WatchDrawThink is a new RSA Catalyst-supported project launched by Ewan McIntosh FRSA and colleagues Peter Ford and Tom Barrett FRSA at education firm NoTosh. The collaborative site aims to provide a space for teachers to share ideas, example lessons or projects where students use RSA Animates for their learning. The idea is that teachers will get inspiration on how they might use a whole or part of an RSA Animate video as an initial stimulus or part of an immersive discovery session on a given topic.

Why use RSA Animates in school?
RSA Animates have tended not to be used widely in school, perhaps because they handle genuinely complex cross-curricular knowledge. But it’s the very visualisation that is so tantalising, that also makes the comprehension of these complex areas of knowledge easier, and the viewer’s chances of retaining the message so much better. Professor Richard Wiseman’s own research study of RSA Animates showed that the visualisation used could help viewers retain up to 22% more information than had they just listened to the audio alone.  You can watch Richard Wiseman and Andrew Park, the illustrator, talk about this at an RSA Event.

Support from Catalyst helped deliver an initial session with RSA Academies teachers in March, where the potential for their use within the English curriculum was confirmed. Teachers spotted relevance to the curriculum in areas as diverse as physical education (Dan Pink: The SurprisingTruth of What Motivates Us) and mathematics (Renata Saleci on The Paradox of Choice), as well as a blanket appreciation of their potential use in language arts, design and primary education.

WatchDrawThink’s first prototype

Launching as a prototype platform in time for teachers to get engaged in the last term of this school session, WatchDrawThink is crowdsourcing as many light-touch – or involved – ways as possible to harness three particularly rich RSA Animate clips in the classroom. Anyone, student, teacher or parent, can jump onto the site and add their innovative, short, sharp idea for handling a segment or whole clip to achieve a specific curricular goal or to create an engaging task with the clip.

Over time, based on how people use the site in the first couple of months, the website will also provide support from the NoTosh Team and RSA Academies with specific ideas and advice on:

  • How to plan a competence-based unit of work or set of lessons that encourages student-led research on the back of an RSA Animate stimulus
  • Different ways to use visualisation to express knowledge and understanding on a topic, à la RSA Animate.

How you can get involved

Teachers and students can get involved this term and see which of the RSA Animates might help you explain a new, complex topic in a simple way. Use the WatchDrawThink website, Twitter hashtag #watchdrawthink or Facebook page to share your own lesson outcomes (videos, images, texts, comments, blog posts) and share further ideas.

If you’re a parent or Governor, share the site with your child’s teacher.

You can visit the WatchDrawThink website, follow Ewan on Twitter @ewanmcintosh or email him at

To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit

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