Saturday, 24 June 2017

Y7s celebrate diversity in style!

On Thursday this week (22nd June), NLA students from Year 7, proudly displayed their project work and gave a series of performances as a culmination of a year long project to express their own perspective(s) on "diversity". With the help, encouragement and commitment of their teachers and the senior team at the school, the doors opened at 5pm and pretty soon after the drama studio was full to capacity. 

 Diversity Evening – North Liverpool Academy
Main Refectory
-          Arrival
-          Stalls and Activities
-          Samba Band
Science, Technology, History, Geography, Maths, Music, ICT
Drama Theatre
-          JO introduction
-          Performing Arts 
-          English – Cultural 
-          Diversity Presentations 
Performing Arts, English
Main Refectory
-          Interval and world food
-          Dragon Performance
Food Tech
Drama Theatre
-          Art Gallery

Drama Theatre (back)
-          African Drumming 
-          Speech
-          Africa Oye 
-          Spiritual choir 
-          Science presentation 
-          All you need is love        
Music, Science

The dining hall of the school provided a showcase for projects in all disciplines from Science (and the science of Egyptian mummification took my fancy, as a scientist of course!) through Arts and modern languages to humanities. Not forgetting the rousing African drumming! [The school website will soon provide a photographic record of the evening]. The drama studio provided the focus for interpretive dance, starting with a thoughtful piece commemorating the recent Manchester tragedy followed by a piece of great Shakespearean "farce". The middle of the evening combined interactive sessions around the student displays, interrupted by some great food and capped off with a tremendous display of martial arts by intensely focused and superb (very) young experts. The Oriental Dragon and the Panda provided great entertainment and illustrated the huge value in opening our eyes to the diversity of sports and arts on the other side of our planet.

The evening ended back in the drama studio with a few short words from the MC (and driving force for the event) Mr Ollerton (Joe). In what seemed to me a perfect ending, Mark Flanagan, born and steeped in Liverpool culture, who made a detour from Suffolk en route to Glastonbury, together with the girls in the choir, delivered a great version of the Lennon and McCartney classic "All you need is love". Mark, who is the guitarist from the Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra reprised his performance of the song he had last played to world leaders at a G8 summit. A finale fit for world leaders and for the students, staff, families and friends of the NLA!

For me the evening was a demonstration of how the staff came together across the disciplines to work with the students to produce an event that was both memorable for everyone who could make it. There is a follow up visit for the whole school to the Liverpool Slavery Museum before term ends. I am already looking forward to next year's celebration from the new Y7s!

Finally I would just like to say a huge thanks to all of the students and staff at the school, especially Mr Ollerton, Ms Lane and Mr. Westerdale for giving me the opportunity to be part of this magical event!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Governor's visit

On Thursday, just before half term, I visited staff and students at the North Liverpool Academy (NLA) sixth form, to find out what a typical school day was like and to get a feel for the challenges facing the staff and students and the overall culture that exists. It was a well organised, enjoyable, revealing and thought-provoking visit. As a governor, I have been to the school on a number of occasions, largely for formal meetings to discuss rules, regulations and progress etc. This was a targeted visit, in the light of my new role in supporting the school sixth form. Those of you at the NLA will know the "statistics", but for those of you reading from outside, a little perspective may be useful. So, you can skip the next part if you are a "local".

The NLA opened in 2006, following the merger of two community comprehensive schools: Anfield and Breckfield. The physical footprint of the NLA lies between Heyworth Street, to the West and Breckfield Road North, to the East: connected by Hamilton Road at the south end: the post code is L5 0SQ. It was built from scratch (see RHS) during the merger, under the stewardship of the then Chair of Governors, Nigel Ward. Nigel is now of a larger group of schools including NLA, under the banner of the Northern Schools Trust (NST). There are approximately 1500 students attending the NLA, of which 250 are in the sixth form, taking either A levels, vocational qualifications (such as BTECs) or both. The school head is Mr. Mike Westerdale and the Chair of Governor's is Dr. Geoff Wainwright from 2Bio in Liverpool. 

The school forms a small triangle (a 10 minute walk in either direction) with Liverpool's famous football clubs: Everton's Goodison Park and Liverpool FC's Anfield Park (see LHS). However, the area is on the bottom 10% of the UK's most deprived regions. One in four homes in the area are said to be workless, and over 70% of families earn less than £16, 000, which automatically entitles the children to register for free school meals. The very high levels of inter-generational unemployment have an enormous impact on the children and create a mood of low aspiration; something that clearly needs changing, and that lies at the heart of the school's pastoral and educational priorities.

Back to the visit! I was met by the Head of Sixth Form, who gave me a briefing on the numbers, the challenges and asked me to chat with some students. My first "interview" was with a student taking Maths, Economics and Chemistry A levels. We chatted about the value of algebra and the use of equations to describe and model phenomena and behaviours in Science and Economics. Very impressive! I then met with a group of students working on their various BTEC assignments in the sixth form resource centre (see above)

One student was developing a performance piece in which she was aiming to dramatise a romantic encounter between two young people, that took place on daily train journeys, with inspiration from a song she liked. In the narrative, the boy sent his messages via graffiti on the walls alongside the girl's regular train journey. A great idea and a great conversation! I also discussed the issues around racial discrimination in public sector organisations and the logistics of travel planning by plane and train across Western Europe. Not only were the discussions engaging, it was clear that these students had developed a nicely balanced level of citizenship. Before we re-grouped, I bumped into one Y13, who had been interviewed for a place at three Universities for a graduate nursing programme. She had quickly learnt from each interview and had incorporated all of the  criticisms, to develop a much improved interview strategy. Again, very impressive.