Performing Arts Hub Update

The RSA academies have been working to embed performing arts into teaching and learning across the curriculum, collaborating with a range of arts organisations in the West Midlands and beyond.  As well as discovering how the performing arts can support learning outcomes, we have also been investigating how the performing arts can be used to reflect on and articulate a school’s mission and purpose.  Through various different projects and activities, three thematic strands have underpinned our work this year:

Teacher continuing professional development and learning

Sustainable change in how performing arts are delivered in schools depends on developing teacher technical knowledge, confidence and capacity for innovation.  The Performing Pedagogy project has paired KS2 teachers with experienced drama practitioners over the course of the year to develop the use of drama as a tool to support children’s writing.  As well as external expertise, the programme incorporates a lesson-study process for teachers to reflect on how new strategies are working and regular opportunities to test out lesson ideas with colleagues from other schools.  RSA Academies English teachers have trained with the RSC in rehearsal room techniques that help deepen and enrich students’ understanding of Shakespeare’s plays.

Using performance to help schools reflect on ethos, identity and purpose

Theatre is a powerful mechanism for reflecting on the choices we make and the consequences of our actions. Playwrights take big political and social questions and frame them as human-scale, accessible and immediate stories.  Participating in drama or watching it played out on stage invites us to empathise with others and think about our own individual and collective responsibilities. That’s why we’ve commissioned award-winning playwright Lorna French to work with our schools to uncover how students and teachers interpret the RSA Academies’ ethos and to help develop and articulate their collective sense of mission and purpose.  Three unique world premieres of the play, produced by staff and students from Arrow Vale, Whitley and RSA Academy Tipton will be performed at Birmingham REP in July, to invited audiences from the schools and their communities.  The play invites us to reconsider what makes for a successful school and a successful student and whether we need to broaden our definition of “success” if we’re to really understand the value of schools in their communities.

Raising aspirations and broadening horizons

Students have performed at Birmingham REP and the Upton Blues Festival, as well as seen their written work adapted into a new play by professional theatre makers at The Play House.  They have had opportunities to discover more about work in the cultural industries – not only performance, but the technical, administrative, production and marketing roles that power the success of some of Birmingham’s key institutions: CBSO, the REP, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Birmingham Royal Ballet.  Both approaches are part of the RSA Academies commitment to challenging students’ expectations of themselves and their thinking about what kind of work are available to them.

The Performing Arts Hub will continue into 2017-18, so watch this space for more news.

We are grateful to our supporters: The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Oak Foundation, Ernest Cook Trust, Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.