Thursday, 20 July 2017

A day of 'Transitions' at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Written by Ethan, Year 10 Student Reporter

The background of the project was that three schools in the RSA Family of Academies were given a written script, and each school performed their own version of this script on consecutive nights.

The script focused on what it meant to be part of a family of academies, the impact this has on teachers and students, with some reflection on the education industry as a whole. The students received the completed script less than a month ago, and so they have worked very hard to produce and learn a performance in a very short time.

8:42 AM
On Friday 14th July, we left Coventry for Birmingham. The journey was short and smooth via Virgin Train. The weather was very windy and cool, but the sun was soon gliding over the clouds. Walking through the streets of Birmingham, we saw mesmerising landscapes and witnessed a lot of modelled bears unusually scattered around. Then we walked around the astonishing theatre (the REP) to find the Stage door. This made us feel as if we were real actors.

9:30 AM 
After a short wait we were greeted by Daniel Tyler - the Head of the Birmingham REP. He then took us to a small theatre for the rehearsals. Later on we realised we were based in a theatre called The Door with its capacity of 140 seats. We were also amazed to learn that the REP has a long history, dating back to the year 1913. Wow!

Rehearsing was a very detailed and precise process. We did not have enough time to memorise the script. We tried our best during the past three weeks. It was now time to work through the script together using the stage lighting, projection and the sound system. The whole day rehearsal had helped us to remember and improve our lines.

Clive, the Senior Sound Technician, stayed with us throughout the morning to check all the sound clips whilst we were doing our rehearsal. His job was to ensure the sound clips and the visual effects go precisely with the scenes of the play.

Not far from where Clive was sitting was Ruth, the REP Stage Manager. Ruth was sitting casually on the steps and went through all the scenes and the scripts with us very carefully.

Mrs Nguyen was in the audience seat. She slowly realised that a big part of the script was about the BBC Student Reporters and her commitment with BBC School Report during the past 10 years. Ten years, such an exciting journey for her and her student reporter team. This ‘Transitions’ play has accurately reflected what has happened back at Whitley Academy.

11:40 AM
We were taken to the dressing rooms and got changed. Then we practised some more, practice makes perfect after all.

After a quick lunch we got back to rehearsal. Mr Samuels talked to us all to make sure we knew how to project our voices to the far end of the theatre. We also discussed with him where our confidence fell short. This enabled us feel better for the real show, also improving our projection and emotions in our voice.

After  a long day of rehearsals we all went out for a nice, refreshing walk around the Birmingham Centenary Square. We then followed the flow of people going through the shiny Symphony Hall, Bridge Street, and finally spent some of our precious time at Brindley Place where you could sit for hours watching the live Wimbledon tennis matches on show. 

We all took some lovely photos including some funny ones of Abbie teaching Mr Samuels how to do a dance called ‘Floss'.

After the walk, we went back to The REP and had some dinner and a couple of students were interviewed by a staff member from the RSA. We were asked questions about the performance and how it linked towards real life at school. 

The nerves were really building up. Our parents and grandparents were there in the audience.

We heard the massive applause from the audience. Such a relief!

The following is our reflection of the Day at the Birmingham Rep.

"At the start of the day I began to feel nervous. As we rehearsed more and more, I started to feel exited as well as the rest of the group" - Abbie.

"I have performed before in a theatre in Leamington so I am quite familiar with performing. It is not easy to remember the script but hopefully I will remember my parts when it is the performance time" - Max.

"So far the day has been great. I have been able to remember my lines and not get brain stuck. All of us have felt nervous a lot. A part of the play was about the experience as a Whitley Academy student reporter. I myself have been a student reporter for 3 years, I have been to the London Houses of Parliament and some other amazing places. I love taking the risk and pushing myself as far as I can. That’s the reason why I am here today"- Jade.

"From the start of getting involved in the play I have worked with people that normally I don’t really work with and don’t really speak to. We share everything together and we are a strong team" - Morgan.

"Coming here has boosted my confidence in Performing Arts. It’s made me realise who I really am. Naturally I am a very shy girl. It’s only in Performing Arts that I could express myself as the person I want to be" - Holly.

My own thoughts were that this day made me feel like a proper actor. The experience has made me so confident about performing in front of people and I want to go to drama school. Tonight was the special night for me and it really boosted my confidence to find out that my Grandad, who doesn’t really go out, was coming to watch my performance! I have made him very proud. 

Thanks Grandad!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Making rockets at the BASE summer event

Written by Melissa O'Brien, Year 9 Student Reporter

On Thursday 13th of July, pupils and parents were invited to an after school event hosted by staff members of the BASE, with the support of teachers from the Science and PE departments. There were some fun activities such as rocket making (and launching), popping canisters, and static electricity. The evening was also a taster for some of our new Year 7 pupils, who will start our school in September 2017. 

Mrs Stanbrook, Mr Billyeald (Head of P.E), and Miss Roberts oversaw the barbeque burgers and hot dogs. The weather was very summery with light winds that made the smell of the barbequed food spread all over the school. From the distance towards our school lake you could see small troops of Canadian geese standing on the grassy ground, staring their black dotted eyes towards the crowd of ‘human beings’ who were consuming such mouth watering food!

The crowd got bigger and bigger with parents, pupils and their siblings. The teachers did such an amazing job that they even ran out of food!

In the Dining Hall, there were arts and crafts for visitors to get involved in. This was where the rocket making took place. There was yellow cardboard with clear instructions stuck onto the table for everyone to have a try at making a paper rocket. As soon as you finished making the rocket, you could take it to the canteen door where you would get help from Miss Williams (who teaches Science) and your rocket could be launched. 

Not far from the rocket making table was another Science stall, where the static electricity demonstration took place. Mr Shah and Mr Eborall demonstrated with this curious set-up. On the tables you could see some equipment to generate static electricity including the Van der Graaf electrostatic generator. 

In simple terms, you put your hands on a silver ball which generates static electricity. You get a funny feeling inside. Then if you tap someone you will give them an electric shock.

Standing in the sun enjoying his barbecued hamburger, Tyler of 7ESM said, “It’s great as it gets kids off their electronics and spending quality time with their families.” 

I agreed whole-heartedly. Tablets and phones take up time, leaving no social connections. In the end spending time with your family is one of the most important things we all should do. 

The Base and Science departments as well as all the other teachers put in the extra time to provide this fun free event. They stayed for nearly 4 hours longer than a regular school day.

Overall the event was great, and everyone (with their families) had an amazing evening. 

Thank you to all the teachers and students who stayed behind and helped. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Reporting on our staff CPD showcase

Written by Paige and Chase, student reporters

On 28th June, 14 student reporters and Mrs Nguyen attended the Whitley Academy staff Continual Professional Development (CPD) showcase in our school Assembly Hall. 

At the beginning of the day we were unsure what CPD was about. We then found out that teachers and staff members of the school do their own self-learning, attend courses and share their good practice together.

All around the Auditorium there were different stalls from different departments: Middle Leaders, Senior Leaders, Health and Safety, Business Support, NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers) to name but a few. In the green canteen next door there were mouth watering refreshments, which were later to be enjoyed by everyone.

3:40 pm - 

10 minutes in, Mr Purslow (Director of MFL & CPD) made an announcement that Ms Alison Critchley (Chief Executive of RSA Academies) was going to make a speech. It was a very short, sharp speech that highlighted the on-going training that all staff attend and benefit from. She went on to say thank you for sharing their CPD journey so far.

After that there was a prize raffle. Mrs Nguyen won the first prize (a gift card), Mrs Billyeald won the second prize (a massive bag of sweets) and in third place was Mrs Devgun, who won a bottle of champagne. We felt that all the teachers have worked hard enough to receive a prize as well!

With our student reporters, we moved across the Hall inviting teachers and staff members to take part in our interviews.

4:30pm – 

It’s home time. We have now realised that teachers and other staff members have their own learning journeys and share their good practices so that we the pupils can achieve our best results. We felt privileged and overwhelmed to be in the CPD Showcase celebration.

Thank you Mr Purslow for organising everything for the celebration!

Monday, 26 June 2017

A snapshot of our first year in the Warwick Sutton Scholarship

Warwick Sutton Scholars is a two year programme for highly academically able Year 8 and 9 pupils from state schools across the West Midlands. The programme is designed to stretch and challenge students academically and inspire them to consider university in the future.

Over the course of six months there was five full day (10.00am – 3.00pm) sessions at Warwick University held on a Saturday. Students were assigned a project at the beginning of the programme and were expected to work in small non-school groups to complete the task. Students explored the theme of the project through taster lectures, workshops, debates and guest speakers. Students had the opportunity to make lots of new friends and experience new things. 

Our aim is to support our students as they progress through Years 8 and 9, helping to build upon their curiosity for learning and to develop the skills required for them to succeed at school and university.

Written by Ciaran and Ben of 8CPE, and Jason of 8MEB

A snapshot of our first year journey of the Sutton Scholars

Back in October 2016, we were given the opportunity to apply for this exciting Warwick Sutton Scholarship. We were rewarded with the fruitful result of four places for us, the Year 8 pupils of Whitley Academy. 

The life-changing journey began in the Business School of Warwick University. We entered the enormous building, all feeling a little nervous, however soon got going after a few ice breakers. There were youngsters like us coming to the University from across Coventry and Warwickshire. 

Not long after meeting our groups and mentors, we were down to work straight away. The aim of the whole event was based around us creating our own political parties. One of our activities was a drama session, led by the Warwick University drama team. Other things such as giving out homework and listening to presentations led by the mentors follow and round up the day.

The second meeting came around so fast but it went just as positively as the previous session. We spent most of the morning doing more group work on our political parties. After that, we had pizza for lunch (which was our favourite, therefore, we had it every meeting), then came the most ludicrous part of the whole programme, tap dancing!

Weeks three through five went as quick as a flash as we spent most of the time focusing on our political parties.

The big day 
Saturday 17 June 2017

The celebration event had everyone buzzing with excitement. As Year 8 pupils, we spent half an hour practising our speeches ready to perform in front of a gargantuan crowd of parents and carers. They came to support at least one person in our noisy crowd.

There were seven groups; hence, seven political parties including the 'United People', the 'Scholars Party', and the 'Everybody Party', to name but a few.

Nervously, the first group (group 2) stepped up to the plate to showcase their work. A hilarious piece of art from their video made everyone laugh as it included a singing elephant and a rapping student from our school, who goes by the name of 'the fresh prince of Whitley'. It also included enough facts to win the judges’ vote. Our student in this group is called Ben. 

After group 4 stepped up to present their political party, we were offered refreshments such as cakes, tea, juice and some lovely and healthy fruit. We had 15-20 minutes to  enjoy the food and speak with our parents and teachers. Then we headed back into the humongous hall. We watched the final three political parties before the judges decided who would win a residential trip to London. 

After all the parties finished delivering their campaign in front of their parents and teachers, it was time for the result and the delivery of our certificates. Some of the students got to read out there homework and their spoken word poems. 

The whole theatre was full of applause and laughter. We felt proud too. Cameras flashing and students full of joy. We took some group photos with our certificates. Then the laughter died down as the judges entered. Drum rolls began, all the students waited to see who had won the trip to London. One of the judges stepped up to the front of the room to tell the exciting results. 

We did not win, but were praised for our effort earlier in the day.

Lucky for us that Mrs Nguyen (our teacher who supported us wholeheartedly when we applied for the scholarship) was there amongst the audience to celebrate the day with us (a bit more pressure on us to do well).

Her reflection is as follows: 

"It was inspiring and emotional to witness how positive my students have developed themselves in a different educational setting. Amidst the recent bad news, I was very moved to hear these words from Jason:

"Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t discriminate like others".

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Journey to the Land of Magic - Harry Potter World

Written by Benjamin, Year 7 student reporter

On Friday 16th June 2017, 90 Year 7 students and 9 teachers from Whitley Academy went to the one and only Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford. 

For many of us it was a once in a life time opportunity to go to this amazing tour, and even people from all over the world have come to this place where all the magic of the Harry Potter films was made. 

“It is important to remember that we all have magic inside us” 
JK Rowling

After arriving at school at 7.30 am for the teachers to check our names, we were told about the plan for the day. Then, heading towards the school gates with excitement building up, we spotted the two luxurious coaches that would take us. A few hours later, we arrived at the studio!

Later on in the day we found out that the film studio was originally an old aircraft factory where they manufactured planes such as the heavy bombers which were used in World War Two. 

At 10:10 am, two very nice staff members from the studio came onto our coaches and talked to us all about health and safety, and handed the teachers wristbands, so we could go round and see displays such as Gryffindor and the Death Eaters.

“Harry Potter will never be gone, NOT as long as those who remain are loyal to it.”

At the start of the tour, we were led into the theatre, where we watched a short 5-minute clip that told us some facts about the cast and the making of the Harry Potter film series. Daniel Radcliffe, who played the part of Harry Potter, finished off the short film and warned us that we would never see Quidditch in the same way again and later we found out why.

For your information, Quidditch is a magical competitive game in which the contestants fly on brooms in the Harry Potter books and films.

When the film was over, a studio staff member came out and asked anyone if their birthday was near and Miss Reynolds had a birthday the next day. She was asked to push lightly the grand door leading to the golden glamorous Great Hall door. And then WOW!

Do you know that the Great Hall has no actual ceiling? Camera tricks and CGI (computer generated imagery) special effects were used in the movie, but the actual ceiling is only a small scale model positioned above the camera to make it look as massive as the hall. It could fit 22 double decker buses in the hall and took over 90 tonnes of plaster to complete! Wow!

The Great Hall in the Hogwarts Castle is the main gathering area in the school where students receive their meals and welcome their special guests. It was here that you could find tables, golden cutlery and golden plates. On the walls there were different houses engraved into them. It was fantastic!

We followed the flow of people moving forwards. We managed to find the Gryffindor Common Room! Then the first passport stamp logo! It was next to the moving staircases!

The Forbidden Forest was opened in March 2017. When we entered the Forest, we went round a corner to see nothing but darkness. From the ashes, the massive spider, Aragog, sprung forward and scared everyone around it! Then we found out that Aragog had a leg span of over 18 feet, and was even able to crawl out of a hole in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

After the Forbidden Forest was Platform Nine and Three-Quarters with the actual train. It was awesome! You could pretend to run through the wall as well. 

Earlier in the blog I mentioned that you would never look at Quidditch the same way you used to. The reason for that is that we found the magical green background around the filming/photography area, and now you basically just sit on a broomstick and the film crew change the background behind you. It actually makes you look like you were flying and not physically in the air. 

We all had lunch in the spacious studio cafĂ© and some of us managed to purchase some mugs of butter beer. As a Harry Potter book fan, I was aware of the butter beer but had no idea how it tasted. I had to say it was a fascinating experience to try this drink. It was non-alcoholic, a foaming mug, a wizarding beverage! Very tasty and cool!

After having enough time to wander around the Privet Drive, the Knight Bus and the Hogwarts Bridge, we moved on to the remaining parts of the tour. We spent time at Creature Effects, and the Arts and Graphics Departments.

We stood in awe to watch the paper model of the Hogwarts Castle and realised something called 'lipstick cameras' were used to make the castle look so real in Harry Potter films. There were small screens surrounding the castle that let us get a closer look and a video clip telling us how long it took to build Hogwarts Castle, 40 days was all! 

The final leg of the Tour was a little room, a room full of boxes with the casts' wands. There were hundreds!

To be honest I didn’t like it, I absolutely loved everything from the trip!

We safely arrived back to our school gate at around 5:00 pm, earlier than planned. 

As I am recalling my memories to write this blog, I remember all of my friends’ smiling faces with lots and lots of laughter on the journey back home. We will remember this trip experience for a long while!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Pupils tour Houses of Parliament and London Dungeon

Written by Ciaran and Jason, Year 8 student reporters

On Friday 9th June, our student reporter team visited the Houses of Parliament in London, to find out more about the hung parliament result in the General Election.

The day started with showery weather, but soon brightened up. We arrived at Coventry train station at 8 am, where we were put into small groups, and waited to board the train at 8.30 am. 30 student reporters and three teachers! Everyone is talking excitedly about the day ahead.

This year we are travelling by Virgin trains which is so much faster than travelling by coach. 35 seats were reserved for the Whitley Academy crew, making us feel like VIPs. For your information, the Virgin train is posh and very quick, only 1 hour and 5 minutes to get to London Euston.

At 9:45 am we arrived at Euston. We walked the paths and rode the escalators down to the underground and caught the tube from Euston to Embankment. Traversing more paths and escalators, we finally arrive at Westminster station.

Excitedly, we stroll up flights of stairs towards our final destination, Westminster Palace. Along the way we pass many shops, but are denied access as we are short for time. The one shop, however, that we are allowed to enter is a Tesco Express by the side of Westminster tube station. We purchased our lunch and drinks ready for the long day ahead.

Happily, everyone lines up and prepares to scamper to the Palace of Westminster. On the way we can see all sorts of monuments, vehicles, and people. Westminster Abbey, Queen Elizabeth tower, the statue of Sir Oliver Cromwell, armoured police vans and heavily defended police officers. Just opposite the Palace of Westminster we could see the media headquarters with many people walking back and forth. It had been the day of the General Election just a few days earlier. 

After walking a short scenic route, we arrive at the Education Centre by the side of the Palace of Westminster. It started raining hard, but we were safe hiding away from the rain, chatting enthusiastically while waiting for our allocated time slot. Taking photos and telling jokes is a great past time for us, as we anticipated entering into this great structure, iconic worldwide.

At 11.15 am, it was time for us to step through the doors of this magnificent Palace. Mixed emotions of nerves, excitement and curiosity built up inside of us. 

We started with a quick security check, before entering a small room which is used as a cinema where we watched a short video clip about the history of Parliament. Did you know that the word Parliament comes from the old French word "parley", which means a discussion between two groups of people?

Once we had the facts about the legal system and Parliament in our heads, we followed our guides to the Palace of Westminster. We arrived at the lobby between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Which one should we go to first? Well that was for the Educational Centre guides to decide. The House of Commons is a grand room, but the House of Lords is even grander. 

Some very interesting facts we learned from the tour around the Houses of Parliament include: 

  • The custom of the green benches of the House of Commons goes back 300 years.
  • The current chamber was rebuilt in 1945 after the original was destroyed during the London Blitz. 
  • The benches in the House of Lords are covered in red.

Our Reflections

Today we visited the Houses of Parliament and the London Dungeon. The whole activities were fun and engaging which left a smile on everyone's faces. The Dungeon was terrifying but fun and left us with priceless reactions. 

Visiting Parliament has made me feel privileged to visit such an amazing place with its length of history. The fact I found most interesting is that the Queen is not allowed to walk to the House of Commons. The Queen actually has a throne in the House of Lords in which she sits for the traditional opening of Parliament. The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod goes to the House of Commons on the Queen’s behalf to summon MPs to the House of Lords for the ceremony! Wow! 

Joe, student reporter

Today is the day I will remember for a long time: busy, hectic with lots of walking around.

At London Dungeon we are taken through many dark rooms. They recreate the gruesome and ghastly history of around 1000 years of London. In each room you could meet actors who perform as some of London’s most horrible characters including Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd. Many of us nearly jump to hide ourselves away from the actors of ‘The Torturer’ and ‘The Gunpowder Plot’. They are brilliant!

However; unfortunately for Miss Boyne, she is picked by the actor of ‘The Plague Doctor’ and ‘ The Whitechapel Labyrinth’…Miss Boyne is so good at whatever the actors ask her to do. Her reaction is priceless and we feel very proud of her.

- Ellis, student reporter

The things I learned and enjoyed today I will probably remember for a long time, the Houses of Parliament was a once in a lifetime opportunity to have an insight on how our daily lives really came to be. 

I loved visiting the House of Lords and learned how every little thing carved on the wall or on the seats served a purpose and had a historical meaning. 

At London Dungeon I really especially enjoyed a scene in the tavern where a murderer suspiciously came out of nowhere then disappeared again, mysterious! 

- Lucy, student reporter

The things I liked the most about the trip was the London Dungeon. It was amazing experience! I liked learning new facts about London history especially Jack the Ripper. The actors were so energetic and funny as they could come towards you without any warning.

At the start of the London Dungeon journey, after you got out of the ‘medieval lift’ you went to the Tyrant Boat Ride for 8 people. As soon as you sat down inside the boat, it started swinging left to right and water was everywhere. It could be very scary but if you stayed calm you would be ready for anything that jumped out on you. The trip was one of the best ever! I will remember the experience for a long time!

Ben, student reporter

At 6:40 pm, we arrived back in Coventry, safe and sound.

We felt so proud to have such an amazing day right in the heart of London. The laughter, the chit chats we shared throughout the day, the experience we got in both the Houses of Parliament and the London Dungeon will be with us for years to come.