We use REAL projects to deliver the humanities and creative arts subjects in Year 7 to offer students a forward thinking learning opportunity. The curriculum design was inspired by a school in San Diego, California, called High Tech High. Visitors from High Tech High have spent time at MBA on more than one occasion to help us integrate REAL into the curriculum, including interns who have been students at the school itself. The aim of REAL Projects is to provide learners with a curriculum that links subjects together in a way that makes sense. It builds on the links we develop in life and illustrates that the world is about making connections between things. REAL Projects also place emphasis on the outcomes that students create, which are authentic, valued and exhibited to an appropriate audience. Students start their projects knowing the final goal, and should always be able to articulate the issue of ‘why’ we are learning what we are learning, and how it is relevant to the intentions of the project. The ethos of REAL projects is that all students are capable of producing beautiful work and that all student work is valued. We have spent eight years embedding this curriculum model at Mounts Bay.
Across both Year 7, we teach four different projects in a year. They are all multi disciplinary and are planned and delivered by creative arts and humanities teachers, allowing a continuous opportunity for team planning and reflection. All projects are taught by subject specialists whilst the learning itself is linked. After eight years of fine-tuning the projects, they have become increasingly knowledge-driven as well as outcome based to ensure students are learning in line with age related expectations as well as becoming independent in their learning. Students spend a 3 lessons a week on their project, plus a full day in project week, becoming fully immersed in the experience. Lessons are planned on a shared planning document to ensure the consistency. The projects push students to collect, present and re-draft their work in a way that is more personal to them and less prescriptive, and these tools aid this process.
In the last few years since we have added REAL to the curriculum, we have gathered a range of evidence to be sure it is working. There has been evidence that is in line with the academy teaching and learning policy; for example learning walks, book looks and faculty meetings when staff share their own personal reflections and ideas. We have gathered data from student voice surveys over a number of years, which was used in the NPQML Assignment of the Head of Subject as proof of student engagement in the curriculum.
Members of the team have spoken at regional conferences and visited local schools to support the schools in embedding the same curriculum model. Other obvious successes can be seen in student outcomes. The quality and professionalism of the outcomes have been recognised by local businesses and galleries, leading to projects being developed with Tate St Ives, The Exchange, Penlee House, GoCornish and many other professional artists. We have exhibited work in galleries, led curation projects, shown films at Newlyn Filmhouse, staged poetry readings and had massive whole-year exhibitions in school. We take the students on trips and ensure that this is an opportunity for all students in every class, not just for a few. Students are assessed using the GCSE objectives used in history, geography and the creative arts, and each project has clear assessment points. Assessments are moderated by staff and then assessment data is tracked to identify issues as early as possible. The nature of the assessment allows room to identify gaps in subject specific content as well as holistic project outcomes. The final data is tracked project to project. REAL is a curriculum that should shift with the times and change as it needs to, to challenge and guide our learners into being forward thinking, creatively engaged and problem solvers of the future.