Behind the Scenes at Ark Putney Academy: a parent's view.

'Behind the Scenes at Ark Putney Academy' is a series of blog posts written by Sarah Sterne, a parent and governor at our school. Sarah writes from a parent's perspective about the challenges in selecting a Secondary School, getting past the jargon of new progress measures and finding the right learning community environment to suit a child's individual needs.

Sarah Sterne has a professional background in Education and Teacher Training. She is a parent of two children currently in Years 5 and 7 in the state education system. Since she has recently been through the process of selecting a secondary school and is about to embark on the process again; she is interested in sharing her experiences with others. Sarah has recently been appointed as a Governor of Ark Putney Academy.

You can download each post through the links below or read the entire blog on this page. 

Let us know what you think through our facebook page or or tweet us

Post 1: How to choose a Secondary School

Post 2: Pastoral Care

Post 3: The Application Process

Post 4: The Sixth Form

Post 5: Drama

Post 6 - National Offer Day - March 1st

 

Post 6: National Offer Day- 1st March

If you submitted your school admissions application online, then you will be emailed the outcome of your application in the evening of March 1st. If you applied using a paper form, the outcome letter will be sent by first class post on 1st March.

So, 1st of March or soon after is when you will know whether your son or daughter will be offered a place in your first preference school. If it has not been possible for you to be offered your first preference school, the notification letter will provide detailed information about your application and what to do next.

Congratulations if you have been offered a place at Ark Putney Academy. I hope you will accept the offer. Please click here for more information about how to accept it. Otherwise, please do contact the school if you would like to visit again before making the decision to accept the offer. However, the acceptance deadline in 14th March.

You can still apply for Ark Putney Academy

It is important to note that your son or daughter can still apply for Ark Putney Academy after March 1st, even if it wasn't one of your original choices. Every school has a waiting list and any good head teacher (or senior staff team member) will be available to meet prospective parents and give them a tour of the school during March. Bear in mind, that there is typically a lot of movement on waiting lists from the second week of March onwards and that is why it is very important that you contact the school if you are now interested in visiting. Last year, seven pupils were added to APA’s waiting list during March and they are all now students in the school. APA has an open door policy, you can call the school at any time to make an appointment for a tour on 020 8788 3421. Senior staff will be genuinely interested meeting you and finding out whether the school will suit your child’s needs..

Reasons why you may now be interested in APA

1)    You didn't know about APA when you originally applied for Secondary school admission.

2)    You have recently moved into the local area, including Wandsworth and Merton.

3)    You have seen the school advertised in Wimbledon or on buses and are now interested.

4)    Your son or daughter has been allocated to a single sex school but you would prefer a mixed (co-educational) setting.

5)    You have been allocated your first preference of school but you have now changed your mind.

6)    You didn't know that you could apply to APA without doing the Wandsworth Test.

7)    You live outside if the borough of Wandsworth and you didn't know that you could cross boroughs and apply to a Wandsworth school.

10 Reasons to apply to APA:

1)    Ark Putney Academy has achieved an impressive  ‘value-added’ score as measured by ‘Progress 8’; which is arguably the best measure of the quality of teaching and learning in secondary schools.

2)    APA will now be extending its languages department and will be offering Spanish from September 2017 in addition to French.

3)    From September 2017, older students at APA will be given the responsibility of becoming ‘travel ambassadors’ on local buses in the mornings, including the 93 to and from central Wimbledon. The travel ambassadors will be present at bus stops and available to answer questions and assist younger pupils. Senior staff always accompany the students after school to local bus stops, supervising them crossing the road and boarding buses.

4)    If your son or daughter has a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, ASD or Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties you may have found is hard to find the right learning environment. Even if your child does not have an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP), then you can make an appointment to meet with APA’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator to discuss his or her learning needs before making an application to APA. APA is an inclusive school and welcomes children with SpLDs. Reasonable adjustments to help pupils achieve their potential can be made and the school has a supportive ethos.

5)    High attainers are challenged by the provision of aspirational targets and further opportunities for enhancing their learning such as debating.

6)    Students are put into sets rather than streams for subject learning. This enables learning to be tailored to individual need and suits pupils who may be strong in one subject area e.g. mathematics but developing in another e.g. English. The sets are frequently reviewed and can be adjusted to ensure that every pupil is in the appropriate set for every curriculum area.

7)    APA is a developing school which is responsive to feedback from parents. For example, the introduction of Spanish is in response to feedback from current and prospective families.

8)    APA has a very broad intake making it an ideal environment for friendship groups to form. This is aided by the involvement of students in extra-curricular clubs which enables them to meet others with common interests. School trips provide further opportunities to make friends and have wider experiences.

9)    APA is a culturally diverse school which gives the students the opportunity to get to know a wide range of peers from different backgrounds. In my view, it is a unique learning environment which is respectful of differences and promotes a community ethos.

10) You do not need to sit the Wandsworth test to apply for APA.

How do students travel to APA?

The nearest bus stop to APA is the Green Man bus garage. Children come from within Wandsworth and other neighbouring boroughs to the Green Man and walk to school in groups. The bus from Wimbledon is the 93, which leaves from outside Morrisons, Next, opposite Wimbledon Library and from Wimbledon Village. It is an easy journey and takes around 15-20 minutes to go down Parkside and arrive at The Green Man. Other pupils travel from Raynes Park by getting a bus to Wimbledon Village. Others come by bus from Kingston and Hammersmith and Fulham.

In summary, if for any reason you are unhappy with the offer of a secondary school place which you have received, do not despair! Your son or daughter can still apply for a place at APA now. Do not hesitate to contact the school to arrange a tour and consider joining the waiting list.

Post 5: Drama at APA

When choosing a secondary school, something you may consider is: What opportunities will be available for your child to participate in the performing arts? Participation in the performing arts and drama in particular, can contribute to confidence building and can provide a real sense of achievement. Being involved in drama is being part of a community which is beneficial on a number of levels.

Drama at APA

I had the pleasure of being in the audience of the Shakespeare Schools Festival in November 2016, which took place in the Royal Academy of Drama. Three Ark Network Schools took part and Ark Putney Academy put on a very striking performance of Hamlet. I was also invited to meet the Head of Drama at APA, Sara Young, who gave me some insights about how the production was put together.

Firstly, I’d like to congratulate all the students that took part in the production. Your lines were delivered with clear articulation and your skilful body movements created dramatic effect. I am so impressed with the way you tackled the Shakespearean language and brought the plot to life. I would also like to congratulate Ms. Young and the staff that supported her during the project, your contribution was very important. Also, it was fantastic also to see so many staff from APA in the audience; APA staff have created a uniquely supportive community.

The initial audition for the play was inclusive and open to all year groups. This style of audition is called ‘Workshop Audition’ and it enabled the roles to be tailored to the strengths of individual students. This production was Hamlet ‘with a modern twist’, because each character was played by two or more actors. Not only did this approach mean that more students could be included, it also greatly supported the drama of the final production. Whilst one Hamlet said the lines, another Hamlet shadowed, using body movements and facial expression to convey the mood of the moment.

The Stage Director of the Shakespeare Schools Festival fedback that, ‘the characters’ doubling was used creatively, allowing us to see their inner feelings as well as what the outside world perceives’.

Students that participated, including understudies, were expected to work as group and show commitment to the rehearsals and final performance. As the project progressed and the students gained confidence, they were loyal to the team and developed a sense of purpose. The workshop approach facilitated learning as a shared experience and students began to direct one another, with one student taking on the role of assistant director. This approach gave the students ownership over the production and raised their status amongst their peers. The final performance was of such a high standard that six APA students were invited to audition for the RAaW London Film and Theatre Company.

The brilliantly designed poster to advertise the play was created by a student in Year 10, raising the profile of the play further amongst the rest of the school.

The future of drama at APA

The future of drama at APA looks very bright not least because of the new facilities that are due to open in January 2017. APA will be opening a new theatre within the school, which will have tiered seating for the audience, top of the range audio and lighting and of course a stage with wings. The theatre will be used for curriculum drama lessons and productions. The technical equipment will serve not only to enhance the performances but also to create opportunities for students to develop their production skills. Ms. Young is looking forward to future collaborations with the English and French departments. The first performance in the new theatre is set for March 2017 and I can’t wait to see it!

­References:

The Shakespeare School’s Festival: www.ssf.uk.com

RAaW Film and Theatre Company: www.raawlondon.com

Post 4: The Sixth Form

When choosing a secondary school, one factor to consider is whether the school has a sixth form and what that sixth form looks like. Although making a decision about Post 16 Education may seem a long way off, it is at least worth knowing what the options are and how they differ. I was fortunate to be invited to meet the APA Sixth Form staff and students to find out more about what is offered.

APA’s Sixth Form

Ark Putney Academy’s Sixth Form has inclusive aims; offering both academic A-level and vocational BTEC qualifications, with a minimum entry level of 5 GCSEs from ‘A*’ to ‘C’. This goal is to provide the greatest possible future opportunities for the students. There is also an opportunity for those that need to retake English or Maths GCSE, since the school recognises how critically important these qualifications are.

What courses are offered?

Most students start by choosing four A-Level subjects (or a BTEC alongside an A-level) but many choose to reduce that to three subjects over the course of the two years. The sizes of the classes are generally small, ranging currently from two to twenty one. The students are put into tutor groups and each group has two tutors to mentor them. The students have targets in all their chosen subject areas and these are checked every three weeks to ensure that they do not fall behind. Expectations are high in terms of the commitment that the students need to show to their subjects but they are well supported in this endeavour. One student I spoke to said, “The school is a good environment if you want to get your work done and go to University.” Another said that she benefitted from the small class sizes and individual attention. The students also commented on the help they were offered in terms of time management and workload.

What does the Sixth Form Community Experience?

"Every one of our Sixth Formers is expected to be a role model in the school community.  That doesn't just mean putting their utmost into all their academic activities: that means demonstrating exemplary behaviour around the school; embracing all the enrichment activities on offer; supporting younger students; and proactively engaging with the world of work and future study" Matthew Neuberger - Head of Sixth Form

The community ethos of the main school is reflected in the Sixth Form. The students are in houses and are expected to be role models. The Sixth Form has a strong student voice. Leadership through clubs and societies is offered, along with Prefect and Head Boy/Girl opportunities. As in the main school, the Sixth Form staff value the relationships that they can build with families to support the students. Students make a gradual transition towards more independent learning over the course of the two years, differing from a college which for a student may mean a more sudden change of learning culture.

The sixth form students have excellent facilities available to them including their own common room. They benefit from the outstanding facilities that the school is fortunate to have such as a modern spacious art room and a cutting edge professional sports hall.

In keeping with its inclusive approach, financial support may be awarded by the school upon entry to the Sixth Form through scholarships and bursaries (dependent upon GCSE results and/or financial hardship). The Ark Network is also able to award generous bursaries upon entry to university (dependent upon significant contribution and/or financial hardship).

What about the results/admissions to university?

APA’s Sixth Form came in the top 10% for value-added in Pyschology and English in 2016 and has a strong record in admissions to Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge) (53 students to date). The school is equally proud of its track record of admissions to the Russell Group Universities. The Russell Group are the 24 leading research universities in Britain.

There are many individual success stories to cite but one that has touched me is that of Hayley Belgrave who left APA with an ‘A*’ in History, ‘A’ in English Literature and ‘A’ in Sociology. She then went on to study Modern History and Politics at Manchester University. Her ambition is to become a human rights barrister after learning about atrocities in the Rwandan genocide.

Another student who has inspired me is Maan Al-Yasiri. Maan came to the UK from Syria where his family were living to escape political persecution. As a teenager, he lodged with a family in London and attended APA’s Sixth Form. Maan studied hard, received support from APA and he is now studying History and Politics at Oxford University and you may have seen photos of him in APA’s advertising on the back of local buses! Click here to read more about him.

Sixth Form Society

The Sixth Form Society meets every Monday. The students are visited by a range of inspirational speakers and are encouraged to get involved in questions and debates. In 2016, following a visit from the American Ambassador, a group of students from APA was invited to meet President Obama during his visit to the UK (Read about this in the Wandsworth Guardian here). More recently, Secretary of State, Justine Greening was welcomed by the school and took questions on key issues such as Grammar Schools and lowering the age of voting to sixteen (Read about this in Wandsworth SW18 here).

APA clearly has much to offer it’s Sixth Form students beyond A-Levels. During my visit, it struck me that the Sixth Form are key members of the school community and are very well supported.

Post 3: Quick Guide to Applying to APA

Important Dates – Applications from current Year 6 pupils can be made from September but must be submitted by 31 October 2016.

How to Apply – The easiest way is on line, via the local authority (London Borough) in which you live. You can also apply on-line via www.eadmissions.org.uk.

Wandsworth Test – Pupils do not have to be registered for the Wandsworth Test to apply for APA. However, they do need to for other schools in the London Borough of Wandsworth.

Open Days – there are still some spaces on forthcoming open mornings and evenings. Please click here for more information. Please note that the current students are not asked to behave in a different way to the normal expectations on open days, so you will be able to see the school as it normally operates.

Easy to access- Please note that the nearest main bus stop to the school is The Green Man, which is a major bus garage with buses to and from parts of Wandsworth, Merton and other local areas.

Why Choose Ark Putney Academy?

My previous posts have discussed the value which APA adds to its students learning and the schools approach to pastoral care. APA has celebrated high exam results and ‘value added’ in recent years, but what can APA offer its pupils beyond academics?

Free Tuition on a Musical Instrument

All pupils in Year 7 and 8 are offered free tuition in a choice of keyboards, drum kit, voice, guitar or bass guitar. This is made possible thanks to funding from the Grammy Award winning British rock band Mumford and Sons and is highly unusual for a state school. Many accomplished musicians including Andrew Lloyd Webber (1) have campaigned for free music tuition in London Schools. Playing a musical instrument can provide students with many benefits. Apart from being an engaging and rewarding undertaking in their own right; music lessons can contribute to academic skills, physical skills, social skills, discipline and self-esteem and can give students a wider cultural experience (2). The school boasts a new state of the art recording studio and sound-insulated practice rooms.

APA has a rich tradition of participation in music. The Alumni includes The Macabees, Members of So Solid Crew, Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac and Mercury Award Winners The XX. Current students have opportunities to join choirs and small bands at school and the Ark Network hosts an annual Music Gala at the Barbican Centre every summer.

Other performing Arts

The school hall has a full stage with backstage and under-stage facilities. From January 2017, there will also be a new theatre with tiered seating, wings and full lighting and I can’t wait to see the students benefitting from opportunities to participate in productions.

Languages Laboratory

There is a newly opened languages laboratory which incorporates cutting-edge speech and language technology. All students learn French. However, home languages at GCSE can be made available when appropriate.

Sports

All students take part in Physical Education and there is a ‘Sport for All’ ethos. Extra-curricular clubs are also available, which are seasonal such as basketball, rugby, football, girls’ football, boxing, trampolining, hockey, badminton, table tennis and ballet. The facilities include cricket nets and a bowling machine; 3G Astro-Turf pitch and a sports hall built to professional international specifications, which has been marked for basketball, badminton and 5-a-side football.

Extra-Curricular Clubs

Clubs are organised so that there is something to interest all, such as:

-Chess

-Debating

-Coding (coming soon)

-Robotics

-Film/Media

-Green Team

-Homework support

-Many sports as listed above

-Choirs/Music

Residential Trips

Pupils in Year 7 are invited to attend a residential trip. Last year, they went to Osmington Bay in Dorset, where they took part in outdoor activities such as raft building. Forthcoming ideas include a camping trip.

Houses

Being a relatively small school, it has been possible for APA to create a culture in which students in different year groups support one another. All students including the 6th Form and teachers are part of a house. Being part of a house gives students a real sense of belonging and identity. Inter-house events can create friendly competition and houses support charity work. House assembly takes place every 2nd week and the house cup is awarded. House points relate also to students’ attitude to learning.

Library

The school benefits from a large fully stocked library with a full time librarian. The library is available for students to use before and after school.

Small Things

Sometimes, attention to detail can make a difference to a student’s experience. For example, lockers are available for all students making their daily routine easier to manage.

I have not come across another state school in the local area which is able to offer free music tuition, a language laboratory, theatre and drama facilities, a new sports hall, a fully stocked library and a locker for every student! I hope you will visit APA and see the wonderful facilities for yourself.

References

1. www.andrewlloydwebberfoundation.com

2. www.parents.com/kids/development/intellectual/benefits-of-music-lessons

 

Post 2: Pastoral Care

What is Pastoral Care?

Since becoming part of the Ark Putney Academy Community, I have become increasingly aware of the very high level of care that is put into place to meet the wider needs of all the students. All Ark Academy Schools emphasise the importance of knowing every child and this has influenced APA’s approach to Pastoral Care.

The National Association of Pastoral Care (1) explains that Pastoral includes teaching individuals to grow in their self-esteem, confidence and independent thinking. It aims to enable students to develop their personal, social and emotional intelligence. The quality of pastoral care in any educational setting impacts upon the whole ethos and tone of a school and is therefore of paramount importance when creating an atmosphere in which young people can feel secure and achieve. In my view, Pastoral Care concerns itself with what the students experience on a daily basis and is formed by student relationships with peers and staff.

Pastoral Care impacts upon the learning, behaviour and welfare of each student. I am certain that Pastoral Care is of one the most important contributing factors to the progress of the students in any school. Many academic studies provide evidence to support the relationship between students’ self-esteem and their academic attainment.

Last time, I looked at the high level of progress that the pupils at Ark Putney Academy had made as measured by ‘Value-Added’.  Because high quality Pastoral Care is arguably a major contributing factor to progress in learning; in this post I will detail some of the Pastoral Care strategies used by APA to support its students.

Where can they go for help?

Secondary schools are larger and seem busier than primary schools. It is natural to feel concerned that a new and bigger school may seem over-whelming for your son or daughter. At APA, all students have an adult that they can turn to if they have any concerns whatsoever. Each pupil is allocated to a Learning Mentor, who is a non-teaching member of staff. The Learning Mentor’s contact details are also given to the parents/guardians. Families can contact their son or daughter’s Learning Mentor to ask questions, explain absences, explain medical needs and for countless other reasons. This level of care helps to provide an atmosphere similar to the Primary Schools with which families are sometimes more comfortable.

The students themselves have many other adults they can turn to. They have a form tutor, who greets them every morning and provides them with constructive experiences such as learning about ‘Growth Mindset’.

The pupils also get to know their Head of Year and students with additional learning needs are also overseen by the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, who can be contacted by the student and their families. APA aims for the students to be willing to talk, and this aim comes across through good staff-student communication.

House System

The students at APA have recently been involved in selecting figureheads to name their ‘houses’ after. The House System is a great motivator because it brings groups together but also allows for some friendly competition! Each house has a member of staff who is the Head of House, giving the students another adult available to them if they have any concerns.

Transition from Primary School

All schools have strategies to ease the move from Primary to Secondary School. At APA, pupils may come alone from their Primary School, so the transition arrangements are very carefully managed.

During the summer term before they start at APA, the new students are invited to spend a short day with only their own year group. They take part in practical activities which help them to make friends and form groups. On the first actual day at APA in September, only the new Year 7 pupils are in school. This gives them the chance to get to know the school further (including the key members of staff mentioned above), before they meet the whole school community. Photographs of the  current Year 7 enjoying transition activities can be found here.

Rewards and Sanctions

APA has a system of Rewards and Sanctions, base on its Six Pillars:

-Community

-Effort

-Teamwork

-Commitment

-Independence

-Enthusiasm

The boundaries within each of the pillars above are made clear to students through the use of positive and negative points. A report is sent to families every half-term, detailing how their son or daughter is faring regarding the points system. Rewards motivate and the Sanctions help to provide the security that the students need to succeed.

In addition, students and their families are asked to sign a Home-Academy Agreement based on the six pillars to ensure a consistent approach.

Attendance

Attendance is directly linked to the progress of students. After all, it can be hard to catch up if you miss too many lessons. APA aims for the students to enjoy their ‘whole school experience’ so that they want to come to school. Lessons are challenging an exciting. Attendance is closely monitored so that every individual student can maximise on their opportunities for learning.

Enrichment Activities

The atmosphere of a school can be influenced by the enrichment activities it offers. APA offers a multitude of activities, such as:

-Every student in Year 7 learns a musical instrument free of charge;

-numerous sports based clubs such as table tennis;

-charity and community work such as Sport Relief;

-clubs for academic subjects such as Science;

-Trips such as going to a theatre production.

Wellbeing and Support Services

In addition to what I have described above, APA also offers clinical Wellbeing and Support Services. These are run a by a fully qualified and experienced Pscychotherapist who offers confidential counselling in a safe space. These services can provide a lifeline for students in many different circumstances. I have not yet come across another secondary school in the local area that offers a comparable clinical counselling service.

All parents and guardians want their children to be settled and thriving. So when choosing a secondary school, it is undoubtedly important to look at what different schools offer in terms of Pastoral Care.

Key Questions to ask Prospective Schools about Pastoral Care:

  1. Which adults can students approach if they have concerns about their learning?
  2. Which adults can students approach with concerns about other aspects of school life such as friendship issues?
  3. Are the contact details of staff attending to Pastoral Care given to families?
  4. How are expectations of conduct made clear to the students?
  5. How is attendance monitored?
  6. What enrichment activities are offered?

References:

  1. www.napce.org.uk

Post 1: How to Choose a Secondary School

Make an informed choice!

Firstly, I’d like to sympathise because it can be difficult to get the information you need to make an informed choice. We cannot predict the future but we want to be assured that we made the best possible choice that we have could given the information we had at the time. So how can you as a parent or guardian gather the right information to make the best possible choice for your child?

Make a short list:

Firstly, I recommend that you make a short list of local schools whilst your child is in Year 5 and visit them. Many schools have official open days but others will allow you to visit if you make an appointment by telephone.

Don’t forget to look in all the boroughs or Local Education Authorities around the one in which you live. London Boroughs are quite close together and the journey to a neighbouring borough may be easier than you thought.

During your first visit, you can gain much information that will help you to decide whether to keep the school on your list.

What to ask schools:

While you are visiting, think about these questions: Will your child be happy in this learning environment? What does your child struggle with and how can this school support them? Similarly, what are your child’s strengths and how can this school extend them? Do the teachers communicate well with you? Are they willing to answer your questions? Do you feel comfortable and welcome in the school? Will your son or daughter be able to make friends in this school? How will they get to the school? What do the children typically attain in this school? What is the size of the school? How many pupils are there in each year group? How are the children rewarded for their hard work? Are the current pupils motivated? Does the ethos of the school ‘fit’ your family?

Critically, you will need to find out what the admissions criteria are for the school you are visiting and try to gauge what the chances are of your son or daughter being offered a place there.

What do the results mean?

You can also look at data which is publicly available. GCSE results are an indication of what the pupils achieved in the previous year 11. All schools publish the grades and you can compare one school against another but make sure you are comparing like for like. Some schools remove Mathematics and English from the list of subjects when they publish the results on their website, putting the overall percentage up. It is worth looking also back a few years at the GCSE results to see if there is a rising trend, declining trend or if the results are generally stable.

What is Value-Added?

A much better indicator though of a school’s performance is a measure known as ‘value-added’. Value-added takes account of the attainment level of the pupils when they started at the school in Year 7 compared to their final exit results (GCSEs). It is a measure of pupils’ progress between primary and secondary school, not just their exam results. In my view, it tells you much more about the quality of teaching and learning in a school than the GCSE results alone can do.  The Department for Education (1) has stated:

‘The value added measure gives the best indication in these Tables of schools’ overall effectiveness’.

Both GCSE results and Value-added results can be compared to national results, giving you an indication of how the school compares to other schools in UK.

There is a new measure of Value-added called Progress 8 which some schools opted into last year (2014-15), a year before it became compulsory. Progress 8 compares pupils’ results to other pupils with the same prior attainment (2), in other words with the same starting point. It is called Progress 8 because it looks at pupils’ progress across 8 different qualifications, including Mathematics and English GCSE.

Ark Putney Academy

The Department for Education league tables were published online in January 2016. This was the first time that Progress 8 information was made available to the public. The pupils in Ark Putney Academy did particularly well, coming in the top 5% nationally for progress and adding value (3). This is an amazing accomplishment and I would like to know exactly what has been happening at APA for this amount of progress to have taken place.

I am going to be finding out how teaching and learning is delivered at APA and what other factors have contributed to the progress of the pupils. I will share what I have discovered with you in future blog posts.

References:

  1. http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance/archive/schools_05/sec4.shtml
  2. Department for Education, Progress 8 measure in 2016, 2017 and 2018, January 2016, DFE – 00075-2015
  3. Ark Putney Academy Newsletter Edition 51, 22-01-16

 

Post 5: Drama at APA

When choosing a secondary school, something you may consider is: What opportunities will be available for your child to participate in the performing arts? Participation in the performing arts and drama in particular, can contribute to confidence building and can provide a real sense of achievement. Being involved in drama is being part of a community which is beneficial on a number of levels.

Drama at APA

I had the pleasure of being in the audience of the Shakespeare Schools Festival in November 2016, which took place in the Royal Academy of Drama. Three Ark Network Schools took part and Ark Putney Academy put on a very striking performance of Hamlet. I was also invited to meet the Head of Drama at APA, Sara Young, who gave me some insights about how the production was put together.

Firstly, I’d like to congratulate all the students that took part in the production. Your lines were delivered with clear articulation and your skilful body movements created dramatic effect. I am so impressed with the way you tackled the Shakespearean language and brought the plot to life. I would also like to congratulate Ms. Young and the staff that supported her during the project, your contribution was very important. Also, it was fantastic also to see so many staff from APA in the audience; APA staff have created a uniquely supportive community.

The initial audition for the play was inclusive and open to all year groups. This style of audition is called ‘Workshop Audition’ and it enabled the roles to be tailored to the strengths of individual students. This production was Hamlet ‘with a modern twist’, because each character was played by two or more actors. Not only did this approach mean that more students could be included, it also greatly supported the drama of the final production. Whilst one Hamlet said the lines, another Hamlet shadowed, using body movements and facial expression to convey the mood of the moment.

The Stage Director of the Shakespeare Schools Festival fedback that, ‘the characters’ doubling was used creatively, allowing us to see their inner feelings as well as what the outside world perceives’.

Students that participated, including understudies, were expected to work as group and show commitment to the rehearsals and final performance. As the project progressed and the students gained confidence, they were loyal to the team and developed a sense of purpose. The workshop approach facilitated learning as a shared experience and students began to direct one another, with one student taking on the role of assistant director. This approach gave the students ownership over the production and raised their status amongst their peers. The final performance was of such a high standard that six APA students were invited to audition for the RAaW London Film and Theatre Company.

The brilliantly designed poster to advertise the play was created by a student in Year 10, raising the profile of the play further amongst the rest of the school.

The future of drama at APA

The future of drama at APA looks very bright not least because of the new facilities that are due to open in January 2017. APA will be opening a new theatre within the school, which will have tiered seating for the audience, top of the range audio and lighting and of course a stage with wings. The theatre will be used for curriculum drama lessons and productions. The technical equipment will serve not only to enhance the performances but also to create opportunities for students to develop their production skills. Ms. Young is looking forward to future collaborations with the English and French departments. The first performance in the new theatre is set for March 2017 and I can’t wait to see it!

­References:

The Shakespeare School’s Festival: www.ssf.uk.com

RAaW Film and Theatre Company: www.raawlondon.com