The kids are alright – Takeover Day 2018

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. On a day when the elements did their best to create havoc with the trainlines, RSA Academies Takeover Day stood firm on its 5th Birthday. Each year the RSA Academies invite each school to bring a team of students down to RSA House in London for a jam-packed day of workshops, tours and competition. All run by RSA staff and fellows! The students get first-hand experience of the work that goes on at the RSA and the work we support through our fellowship network and coveted Catalyst award scheme.

A staple of the RSA Academies’ calendar, Takeover Day gives students the opportunity to turn their ideas into action, feed into RSA research and take the stage in a room where Winston Churchill was awarded the Albert Medal in 1946. The day begins with lunch, naturally, before Roisin Ellison, RSA Academies Senior Co-ordinator, welcomed everyone to the day, explaining what they would be doing and not to be too nervous about the dragons later! But first, the workshops and tours!

This year we had the opportunity to work with an RSA Fellow and Catalyst grant winner, Alan Bec the creator of The Wib, an innovative approach to talking more openly about mental health. Alan uses a small dial that attaches to your clothes and asks wearers to rate their day on a scale of 1-10. Through this he says that people are more comfortable speaking about why they are feeling the way they are that day, a clever technique to break down the stigma attached to discussing mental health.

RSA Academies have been working with the Public Services and Communities team at the RSA and Children England, the body that represents children’s charities in England. We have been looking at young people’s ideas on the welfare state, where it fails young people and how it might be redesigned to better serve the younger generations. Chloe Darlington, Policy and Campaigns manager for Children England, ran a workshop alongside Tom Harrison, RSA Research Assistant, with 4 school groups asking them to identify what worries them the most about the modern welfare state. Chloe’s thoughts are captured here, whilst Tom’s blog can be viewed here.

Kenny McCarthy, Project Management and Production Lead, Action and Research Centre, ran an interactive session with a group all about the RSA’s latest large-scale programme, the Food, Farming and Countryside commission. A resounding success last year, he ran a similar workshop with older children this year asking them to identify ways in which the future of food will affect them and how they might construct a campaign to better educate people on such changes.

Run alongside the workshops were tours of the RSA building. Part of the RSA’s charm is its heritage. This is no clearer than at 8 John Adam Street, home to the RSA since the 17th Century. Alongside the old is the seamless blend of modern with the new Rawthmell’s Coffeehouse renovation and the updating of the library, fit for the 21st Century. RSA fellowship staff were on hand to take the schools groups around the building, with their verve and knowledge Kavya, Arrun and Richard told the story of the RSA, where it’s been, where it is and where it’s going! After a short break it was time for the big competition.

RSA Academies are big believers on the power of social action. The double benefit, where by the participant benefits as the community does too, is one of the defining factors of social action according to the #iwill campaign. The new programme based on high quality social action in primary schools, will look at how an entire cohort of year 4 students can devise, lead and implement a social action project.

The judging panel consisted of internationally renowned artist Morag Myerscough RDI, #iwill young ambassador Alex Craven, and RSA Senior Researcher and author of Teenagency, Laura Partridge. Each school had 5 minutes to present their social action project with 2 minutes left for questions from the judges.

The winning school were Church Hill Middle School with their project looking at loneliness in their local neighbourhood called ‘Grand-Mates’, runners up were Ipsley CE Academy with their Community Growth gardening project, and a special connection was made between the Abbeywood First School project around traffic safety with a potential new RDI project thanks to Morag.

As the day drew to a close we were reminded of the endless creativity and energy pupils have when they are asked their opinion and encouraged to act upon their convictions. The kids are alright you know, it’s time we started listening.

Related project: Takeover Day