Wednesday, February 17, 2010

InspirUS at Lancaster Royal Grammar School

Jenny Cornell, the Development Director of my old school, Lancaster Royal Grammar School, wrote this piece on the school’s exciting new InspirUS programme . . . and I wanted to share it. KR

You may well remember when you started secondary (high) school – fresh from the security and familiarity of your primary school - nervous, naïve, anxious but determined to make it.

Did you have any idea what opportunities awaited you or how your life would turn out?

Perhaps you can now look back and appreciate what a great start you had – how it prepared you for what was coming next (though you might not have recognised it at the time).

Andrew Jarman, the Head of Lancaster Royal Grammar School, has introduced a really worthwhile initiative to help reach out to more kids like us. There are lots of bright youngsters around Lancaster today who come from ordinary family backgrounds where life may be tough. Sound familiar? These children would really benefit from the unique opportunities at LRGS which could lay a foundation for a life they never dreamed of!

The InspirUS project is a new and innovative programme to help unlock the talent in these youngsters. Over fifty primary schools in the Lancaster area will be included where bright boys and girls from any background will be invited to attend challenging masterclasses at LRGS.

The aim is to inspire these youngsters, to stretch and stimulate them to give them the skills and confidence they need to make positive changes in their lives. We hope that, through the programme, more children will be made aware of the opportunities available to them and that they become better informed about their prospects.

Thanks to the generosity of some old boys of the school, enough funding has been raised to launch the initiative. Specialist teacher, Kathryn Page, has been recruited to begin the work, visiting primary schools to work with the primary heads and teachers, talking through the benefits of the programme and helping to identify the children best suited for inclusion. The first tranche of youngsters was welcomed to the InspirUS classroom in January.

The children spend the afternoon exploring topics beyond their normal studies. Last week it was “Water Water Everywhere”. After finding out about David Hockney, the youngsters produced their own artwork on watery themes, in the artist's style, listening to Louis Armstrong singing 'What a Wonderful World', and then did some quick-fire sums, with percentages and fractions, all based on how much water we use in the home and learned the meaning of a wonderful new word – ubiquitous.

This week the theme was "Is there anybody out there?!". To the soundtrack of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, the children had fun imagining how they would communicate with alien species – by code. They cracked number codes, learned about Braille, discovered the strange language of Pig Latin and found out how to use binary code to reveal hidden messages. A cheer went up when it was revealed to them that the next session will be “May the Force be With You”, complete with a visit from Darth Vadar …

The lessons are lively, pacey and great fun and with four sessions completed, the children are all eager for more … and more schools and parents are asking for their children to be included. Let’s hope their experiences will, at least, ease their transition from primary school to secondary school and, even better, unlock their potential to make life changing choices.

Jenny Cornell