RSA Academy – Tipton Building

RSA Academy, Tipton, West Midlands Building, Architecture Project News, Design, Image

RSA Academy, Tipton, West Midlands

Willingsworth High School Development, England, UK – design by John McAslan + Partners

3 Dec 2010

RSA Academy, Tipton

Royal opening for John McAslan + Partners’ RSA Academy, Tipton

John McAslan + Partners’ (JMP) new buildings at the RSA Academy in Tipton, West Midlands, have been opened by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, president of The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). The £25 million scheme is the first to be designed around the RSA’s innovative Opening Minds curriculum.

The RSA Academy was first opened in September 2008, after a light refurbishment of the existing 1950s Willingsworth High School and the adoption of the Opening Minds curriculum.

RSA Academy Tipton RSA Academy Building Tipton RSA Academy Tipton Building
RSA Academy, Tipton – photos : Hufton + Crow

The last two years have seen the second phase of the project, with three new buildings taking shape in a physical expression of the RSA’s new educational approach. Assisted by a £2 million RSA sponsorship, the Academy now facilitates the teaching of 1,100 pupils, including a sixth form centre.

JMP’s design consists of three buildings, reflecting the separate teaching “schools” of the Opening Minds curriculum – broadly, humanities, science and languages – as well as the three house groups which encourage cross-year-group interaction. The buildings, constructed by Wilmott Dixon, are connected by a glazed central spine and separated by landscaped courtyards.

JMP’s design has created generous space standards throughout the scheme. An external circulation system operates via wide balconies, which surround each building. Internal corridors were avoided to preserve space for large, ICT and Wi-Fi-enabled classrooms, measuring 70m2 rather than the state recommended 56m2. These include individual wet areas that allow a variety of project-based teaching to take place.

The Opening Minds innovative teaching approach prescribes three-hour learning sessions in cross-curricular modules, with varied teaching methods adopted. To facilitate this approach, folding acoustic walls between classrooms allow neighbouring rooms to open into each other, creating flexible and adaptable teaching environments for up to 120 pupils. Teaching can also take place on the roof terraces or in the courtyards, where a variety of outdoor classrooms are provided, as well as areas for the cultivation of plants and vegetables to assist with science and food education, including a market garden that provides fresh produce for the school canteen.

The RSA Academy is a flagship project of the RSA and has become the headquarters for Opening Minds, which places emphasis on the real world skills students need to thrive in later life, including Citizenship, Relating to People, Managing Situations and Managing Information. The Academy continues to lead the way in developing the RSA’s Opening Minds framework and is crucial in aiding the programme to deliver the content of the national curriculum in a creative and flexible way.

The building looks out onto a cricket pitch conceived as a ‘village green’, which engages the school with the local community. The building frontage is wrapped in a planted screen which, overtime, will cover the facades in climbers and plants, further rooting the school within the surrounding landscape.

By providing young people with opportunities for both educational achievement and instilling in them greater social awareness and a sense of responsibility towards their local area, the RSA Academy aims to play a major role in the economic and social regeneration of Tipton. Public on-site facilities, such as the sports hall, multi-purpose theatre and two-storey library, are also helping to place the school at the heart of the community. A Media Wall, which is visible from the main road outside of the academy, projects images, news and events relating to school, further establishing a connection between the academy and the surrounding area.

The results at the academy have dramatically improved in recent years. In August 2010, the academy received record exam results with 95% of students getting 5 A* – C grade GCSEs and a Contextual Value Added (CVA) figure of 1042 at Key Stage 4 (putting it amongst the top 10% of schools nationally for value added).

Michael Gernon, Academy Principal, said: “We are delighted with the completed academy buildings and the school’s opening is an extremely proud moment for students and staff. The academy’s flexible design will be key in implementing the Opening Minds curriculum and reflects our school’s values, which are summed-up by our motto, ‘transforming learning, transforming lives’.”

RSA Academy Tipton images / information received 031210

John McAslan + Partners

Opening minds
Opening Minds aims to help schools to provide young people with the skills or competencies they need to thrive in the real world. It is a broad framework through which schools can deliver the content of the national curriculum in a creative and flexible way so that young people leave school able to thrive in and to shape the real world.

Opening Minds was developed by the RSA at the turn of the millennium in response to a belief that the way young students were being educated was becoming increasingly detached from their needs as citizens of the 21st century.

It is based on five sets of competencies, including Citizenship, Learning, Managing Information, Managing Situations and Relating to People.

John McAslan + Partners
John McAslan + Partners is a leading architectural and design practice, based in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, with a large portfolio of award-winning work in Britain and overseas. Encompassing urban design, infrastructure, commercial, residential, retail, education and the arts sectors, the practice has an outstanding track-record in transformational schemes involving culturally and historically significant buildings, including: the Grade I listed Modernist masterpiece, the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill on the South coast of England; the renowned Roundhouse arts venue in Camden, London; and the Grade II* listed Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square, London.

JMP Initiatives are the practice’s community and environmental projects around the world. Working in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and other NGOs, government agencies and private sector organisations, the practice leads and collaborates on built environment projects that aim to make a direct difference to people’s lives. Current projects include: the Victorian Iron Market in Port-au-Prince and housing settlement projects in Haiti; community schools and teacher training centres in Malawi; the Indian Institute of Advance Nursing in Chennai, India; the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies, Kenya; as well as education projects in Rwanda and India. Other Initiatives projects include the JMP funded RIBA/ICE Bursary in the UK, which supports students and recent graduates to carry out small-scale interventions to improve life in deprived communities.

Around the world, John McAslan + Partners is working on: the £450M development of the Grade I listed King’s Cross Station in the heart of London, the transformation of the historic centre of the Stanislavsky family in Moscow, including a prominent mixed-use and residential building; and new cultural and apartment buildings within the Heart of Doha project in Qatar. Having just recently completed the new British Embassy building in Algiers and the Olympic Energy Centres for the 2012 London Olympics, the studio is also designing a £120 million sustainable super-campus for Manchester Metropolitan University in Hulme; an innovative High School and Community Library at Craigmillar in Scotland; and a major new high quality office and mixed-use development near St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London, known as 5 Cheapside.

Location: RSA Academy, Tipton, UK

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