Birmingham Ormiston Academy - “To do is to dare”

Birmingham Ormiston Academy

 By Mary Savva – Project Lead #WeWill

On Thursday 3rd November our #WEWILL Social Ambassadors from Birmingham Ormiston Academy visited St Matthews Primary School in Smethwick, Birmingham. St Matthews has served the local community for well over 100 years and is still growing and housed over two sites. As a Church of England Primary School, it has close ties to their Parish Church. However, they teach their pupils a broad and balanced RE curriculum, focusing on respect and understanding for all faiths. St Matthews is based in Smethwick which is an industrial town in Sandwell, West Midlands, England. It lies four miles west of Birmingham city centre.

We arrived early at St Matthews to bright and cheery faces full of excitement. The first workshop that our student ambassadors (SA’s) delivered was an acting and voice work- shop to Year 4’s, based around TV presenting skills and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Things began with a numbers game to engage the students minds as well as bodies. If you were number 1 you would jump in the air. One of the boys exclaimed excitedly to the class teacher “Miss Rash, I was a frog!”. It was lovely to see the physical vibrancy in the room as the students got involved compared to seated desk tasks where it is all about conforming and mind focus.

Tom (year 13) one of our student ambassador’s called out the numbers really quickly and the children’s energies really took off. “Who watches the news?” Thom asked … Many hands were raised and the children explained back their ideas and understandings. The children then partnered up and took it turns to interview each other. The teacher com- mented that they were covering the subject of “Newspapers” in their English classes so this was a nice addition. Before we visited the school, we were told that the children did not have a provision for the performing arts and that this was exactly filling a gap in their personal and social development.

BOA students Thom and Jasmine then demonstrated to the children how they could build their drama piece from one person interviewing and the other being Charlie who had just found the last remaining golden ticket. How would you feel they asked? The children answered “Happy…. lucky… surprised, excited.” At that point Ella (SA) noticed that some of the children were very quiet and a bit nervous of this new kind of exposure within their school group. She intervened and approached them reassuring that they could use a “big voice” and the child’s face was beaming as they explored the volume of their voices.

They asked each other questions delivering the “news” and as I watched and witnessed the activity within the school hall it was as if they had been given a key to unlock themselves in a new way; a character using the resources from their everyday lives as they understand and experience “news” and how it presents itself to them and their opinions. One boy talked about Charlie’s “hard life” with an understanding of what the ticket meant to him and his family, another girl made her hand into a pretend microphone and spoke in an informative voice. It was a joy to watch our students facilitate such engagement. It was an example of the skills that the arts develop, utilize and embody; physical literacy, divergent thinking and creativity.

The Year 4 children fed back at the end of the session on what they enjoyed. “Doing the Charlie Acting”, “You can express yourself… do whatever” “learn about people”, “Felt shy at first but speaking made me feel excited and made me feel good that you are speaking to everyone” , “I want to do it all again”.

We then followed on with a Street Dance Workshop delivered by Keisha, Lily and Ella May. Keisha’s clear instruction was really impressive and the workshop warm ups and choreog- raphy were well planned and delivered with care and patience. The children developed “funky walking” which really made the group cohesive watching, demonstrating and en- couraging each other.

Some children were concerned about “doing it wrong” and “changing it a bit” and it was wonderful to see our students reassure “that that’s ok” and a process of learn- ing. I think this is where Art process can help anxieties rather than a goal driven exercise.

We ended our time at St Matthews with our creative dance to music from The Lion King. This group of children according to the teacher was one of the most challenging classes. It seemed that the way the students delivered in a calm manner and also the physicality of taking on animal characters really focused the children including the more vibrant ones with challenging behaviours. We are hoping that this Lion King Dance piece is one that we can develop to be part of our Festival of Sharing at Birmingham Ormiston Academy that will bring all of our partnering primary school’s community together.

All in All, the best comment of the day was “When I go home can I show my parents!” and also here are some comments from St Matthews staff.

“My class enjoyed the workshop. They did the acting workshop and it was good for them to work on their confidence with performing to the rest of the class. It helped with their inference skills a bit too, because they based it off a well-known book and linked it to character’s feelings.”

“The students leading the session were well resourced and had great control of the chil- dren. The children were engaged and produced an end product, which they loved…I asked for them for year 6 in the summer term for the production…. I thought that would be great!”



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