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.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Whitley triumphant again at RSA Academies' Sports Day

On Monday 12th June, all the schools from the RSA Family of Academies came together to compete for the "RSA Academies’ Sports Day" title, held annually at Whitley Academy. 

The Rounders competition kicked off first, with each school in each year group playing each other. After some very competitive games and brilliant striking and fielding, Ipsley Academy and RSA Academy Arrow Vale went into lunch with a slight lead to take into the afternoon’s athletics. 

The pupils enjoyed a quick lunch, and came out eager to start their field and track events. There were some fantastic head to head finishes in the Year 7 Girls 200m, with Ipsley Academy just pipping Holyhead School on the line. Things were different in the Year 8 event, as Holyhead School took maximum points with a finish of 36.4 seconds.

In the Year 8 Girls 100m event, Holyhead finished on 15.70 seconds, with Ipsley just 0.10 seconds behind with a finish of 15.80 seconds.

In the Boys’ events, a stand out performance came from Whitley’s Sam Rodber, with the fastest overall 100m in the Year 8 race of 12.70 seconds, a new Sports Day record. 

The Year 9 Boys’ 800m race was fiercely contested, with only 9 seconds between first and last. 

The relays finished the athletics off, with Holyhead winning in Year 7, and Whitley in Years 8 and 9, setting a new RSA Academies' Sports Day record of 56.3 seconds in Year 8. In the Girls’ relay, Whitley won in Years 7 and 8, with RSA Academy winning in Year 9.

The day finished with the most eagerly awaited event, the ‘Tug of War’. Pupils loved the physical challenge of this event, and with spirits high, all the teams started with high hopes as double points were on offer. 

The Year 7s started with Whitley winning all three bouts to take top spot, followed by Holyhead School and Ipsley Academy. In the Year 8 contest, it was extremely close, as Ipsley dominated and won all three to share overall lead with Whitley. In Year 9 Whitley dominated, winning all three bouts to take first place.

Overall the day was a success with a great competitive atmosphere between the RSA Academies. Whitley won each year group and retained the title to win the RSA Academies’ Sports Day title for the third year running!

Big congratulations to all the pupils that took part, and thanks to the staff that made the event possible. 

    Tuesday, 6 June 2017

    An Educational Trip to Normandy

    An Educational Trip to Normandy.

    Pupils arrived at school bright and early at 6.45am on the morning of the 1st June, eagerly awaiting the long trip to France. By 7am, parents were beginning to leave, after being told that they were cramping the students’ style. Off we went, waving our fond farewells, and then the sweets started to be unwrapped and consumed in their vast quantities!

    After a relatively calm ferry crossing, we arrived safely in France to begin our four hour trip across to Normandy. We were treated to an authentic French dinner on our arrival, with of course an extra serving of grumbling from the students about the smell of French food. Following dinner, rooms were allocated, and students had the chance to strut their stuff on the dance floor prior to going to bed at 10.30pm, tired, but excited for the adventures ahead.

    On Friday, the group was extremely busy, as we firstly visited the British War Memorial at Bayeux, where we laid a wreath of respect on behalf of Whitley Academy, and Harry read a poem. We then moved on to the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site of Mont St Michel. Here, there was some free time to buy gifts and to appreciate the atmosphere of this atmospheric place – there was even time for a tour of the abbey and its cloisters.

    On Saturday, the pupils hit the shops Coventry style (McDonalds and Footlocker amongst their popular targets). The pupils enjoyed a walking tour conducted by Mr Haxby and Miss Williamson around the historic city of Rouen, where they learned about the legend of Joan of Arc, as well as seeing the burial place of Richard the Lionheart. We returned home exhausted after a long day of sightseeing, and the majority of us collapsed into bed following an opportunity to play Frisbee and football on the beach. 

    On Sunday, we paid respect to the WW2 soldiers on the D-Day landing beaches, visiting firstly St Mere Eglise, near to Utah Beach, where we were especially lucky, as we witnessed the re-enactment of the D-Day paratrooper landing, as we were in Normandy for the 73rd anniversary commemorations of D-Day. 

    We then moved on to Omaha beach and the cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, an experience which will remain with all as a very poignant and memorable afternoon.  Finally, we visited Gold at Arromanches, where we watched the 360 degree cinema film ‘100 days of Normandy’. After another tiring day in the sunshine, we returned to the hotel for our final meal of the week and a presentation of certificates for both educational and amusing awards, as well as a quiz to check just how much knowledge the pupils had picked up during the visit.

    On our final morning, we were up and ready (albeit bleary eyed) at 7.30am sharp, for our final room inspections. After a leisurely breakfast, we loaded up the coach with suitcases that were twice as heavy as they were coming over thanks to some impressive souvenir collecting. 

    We set off on our long trek home at 9.30am. We stopped off at a hypermarket to use up the last of our Euros, (as well as providing certain members of staff the opportunity to re-stock their wine cellars!) The ferry trip and coach journey back up to Coventry was relatively uneventful as we relaxed and watched DVDs all the way. 

    At 9.15pm, we were reunited with our relieved parents, tired, but happy after a thoroughly enjoyable trip!