Spreading the Word on Social Action

It was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to attend the #Iwill campaign’s planning meeting last week to discuss how to encourage more Birmingham based secondary schools to get involved in social action work. I was joined by a group of pupils from the RSA Academy in Tipton who explained how RSA Academies had enabled them to get involved in social action.

Social action is defined as, “taking practical action in the service of others to create positive change”, and is an important feature of RSA Academies’ work, in particular the Year 8 student leadership programme (SL8) and our annual Takeover Day, where pupils pitch projects in a Dragons’ Den arena. The focus on social action chimes strongly with the RSA notion of the “power to create”, the idea that everyone, no matter what their position, should have the power to turn their ideas into action. Involvement in social action work brings a double benefit, in that it benefit to the pupil taking part by developing their character, and benefits the school or society through the project itself.

The RSA Academy, Tipton students did a great job of getting across the range of social action projects that pupils from schools in the RSA Family of Academies have been involved in. They talked about a number of projects that other schools had introduced through the Year 8 leadership programme and takeover day, from raising money for a local homelessness charity by sleeping out overnight to starting a pen-pal scheme with local elderly people to introducing a second-hand uniform store to support recycling and provide a cost effective source of school uniform.

They focused though on their own project, which was a runner up at this year’s Takeover Day, to introduce the “Gap Lab”. This responded to the fact that some students were struggling to understand concepts in lessons and needed a bit of extra support that could be provided by other, more able, peers. The team refer to themselves as “Gap Lab Technicians” – each of them has a specialist subject that they are available to support other students with.

They receive £100 at Takeover Day which they are spending on resources like revision guides and stationery for the space in the school that they use for the lab. Students felt that they had a unique understanding of what those issues were because they understand the ways other young people think and feel, and can talk to them about the issues they face. To ensure the programme’s sustainability, they are encouraging the next cohort of RSA8 leadership ‘alumni’ to be part of the lab.

The pupils were particularly impressive in providing a string of off the cuff answers to questions, demonstrating how they had developed new skills, for example in working with pupils that they did not normally mix with and making sure they were approachable and reassuring so that the students who most needed support would come forward.

Related project: RSA8 Student Leadership Programme