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17 November 2010
Royal visit for groundbreaking new academy

Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex found out first hand how secondary school pupils are being prepared for the wider world when she visited an innovative academy in Nottingham.

         Secondary school pupils of NUSA, jumping in the air

The Countess got the chance to participate in an interactive life skills lesson at the brand new Nottingham University Samworth Academy (NUSA) in Bilborough during her visit on Tuesday 16th November.

The lesson centred on developing the pupils’ financial acumen to make them more successful at managing their money, while avoiding the pitfalls of overspending and falling into debt.

The visit offered NUSA the opportunity to showcase its £24m state-of-the art complex, which was officially opened in September by Olympic gold medal-winning athlete Dame Kelly Holmes and is built on the site of the former William Sharp school.

Principal David Harris said: “Of course I am delighted to be able to show-off our wonderful new building to the Countess, but more importantly I hope it is the young people she met that impreseds her. Helping our pupils to make the most of the complex adult lives that lie ahead of them is our core purpose, hence our keenness to be fully involved in the innovative Life Skills work being developed in Nottingham.”

The Countess was met by NUSA and local representatives including Principal David Harris, University of Nottingham Pro-Vice Chancellor for Access and Community Relations Professor Karen Cox, local city councillors and a handful of the school’s 650 pupils.

From there she was taken into The Street — an impressive glass-covered central atrium linking the two main teaching wings of the school — where she was treated to a performance by students interpreting a piece of music through dance and drama.

Next on the tour of the NUSA facilities was a visit to the Wonder Room — a modern day cabinet of curiosities designed to promote learning by inspiring and fascinating pupils, especially those who may be harder to reach through traditional academic teaching. Among the eclectic mix of weird and wonderful items currently on show are dinosaur bones, a 1930s typewriter, a number of alien-looking plant seeds, a bee’s tongue under a microscope and a costume from the 1980 film Flash Gordon. Agent of Wonder Dr Matthew McFall, a researcher in The University of Nottingham’s Learning Sciences Research Institute and magician, met the Countess, while a number of NUSA pupils will showed off their favourite exhibits.

Her tour took her on to the interactive life skills lesson where pupils were tested on their knowledge of the cost of living — from the price of a litre of milk to a three bedroom house and feeding a family of four for a week — and will learn techniques on planning a budget effectively. The lesson is an example of the 11-16 Life Skills programme which is designed to help young people develop the personal skills and confidence to deal with the choices and potential difficult situations they are likely to face in life. The project is targeted at all 11-16 year olds as part of Nottingham’s Early Intervention Programme which takes a multi-agency approach to tackling generations of complex issues and deprivation within the City.

After stopping to speak to a group from the city’s Family Nurse Partnership, who will be making use of NUSA’s excellent facilities and enjoying lunch in the cafe, the final part of the Countess’ visit was to unveil a special commemorative plaque in the Academy’s lecture theatre.

The Nottingham University Samworth Academy is one of the first in the country to have direct sponsorship and academic links with a university and is also backed by local businessman and philanthropist Sir David Samworth.

The University of Nottingham has a significant presence at NUSA with lecturers, students and support staff taking an active role in the life of the school. They work with individual students as mentors, lead large groups on a range of topics and host a variety of workshops on the latest research in science and technology. A Pupil Research Group also works with University staff on the latest innovations in teaching and learning.

The new £24m government-funded complex was designed by Atkins architects and will eventually cater for 950 pupils, including a 200-strong sixth form with a particular remit to encourage young people to achieve their potential academically and vocationally. The Academy aims to be much more than a school, acting as a resource for the community in which it is embedded.

As a specialist college for Science and Health, the new building includes facilities specifically tailored to these areas, including the latest scientific and engineering laboratories and a professional dance studio. Food technology is another specialism of the Academy which boasts industry-standard catering facilities. The Academy restaurant will also be open at times to the families of pupils and the wider local community.

The building has been kitted out with some outstanding facilities including: suites of Apple Mac computers, video editing equipment and PCs; a recording studio; a 220-seat, university-style lecture theatre; a suite of music technology rooms; and excellent sports facilities such as an imaginatively-designed fitness trail and a fully-fitted multigym.

The new building has been created to be as environmentally-friendly as possible, with a green ‘living’ roof, rain water recycling and a biodiesel boiler which uses renewable energy.

The construction of the Academy was delivered by Nottingham’s award-winning Local Education Partnership which is a public-private partnership between Nottingham City Council, inspiredspaces and Building Schools for the Future Investments (BSFi).

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