Azita Zohadi, Headteacher of Nelson Mandela School in Sparkbrook describes their journey as a Lead Assocate School

Nelson Mandela School Playmaking Festival Rehearsal_2018_Photo by Sara Beaumont _c_ RSC_257106 (4)

In the Summer Term of 2017 our journey with the RSC began. Some of us had been planning this journey quietly for years, some of us already had the maps, the shoes and the provisions. Some of us were ready to go without even knowing where, some wanted to walk alone, others together.

The one thing we all had in common was the belief that this journey was going to be special; it was going to take us to different places, along different routes and at a pace to suit us all. And so began the journey for Nelson Mandela School, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, as a Lead Associate School partnered with the RSC as our regional theatre.

Why is this so important to our school?

"Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice."
Nelson Mandela

Sparkbrook is in a deprived area of Birmingham., There are high levels of unemployment and issues relating to poor physical and mental health. Many families are isolated.

Our school's vision: "Putting Your Child at the Heart of Learning" is about working together with our school community and others to grow our future leaders: leaders of their future.

We have a strong affinity and alignment with RSC Education's mission and values. The Associate Schools Programme is very much about developing a child using Shakespeare as a catalyst for their enjoyment and engagement with learning. Working with local communities is integral to the programme as it recognises the energy that can be created by building on the unique context of the school. A child in Sparkbrook might bring a wealth of experiences to the Shakespeare pot different to those from a child living in another locality. The Associate Schools Programme enables schools to work together to shape their journey so that it carries with it the traditions and experiences of the community along the way.

Our children and their families deserve to be respected, valued and involved in shaping a better future. So often schools are "given" a project or an opportunity without every being able to hold or own it. This is why our work with the RSC is so special and empowering.

In May, we had the privilege of hosting two performances of the First Encounters with Shakespeare production of Julius Caesar. Our afternoon performance was in front of an audience of children from across our cluster of schools. Our children welcomed Caesar with Pakistani dhol drumming and Asian dance. In the evening we held our community performance. The memory of this will stay with me always. The cast brought to life the words of Shakespeare and took our families on a journey beyond our drama studio - they were taken on a journey of emotions and each and every one of them had the confidence to explore. I watched as they smiled, as they held their breath and as they cheered. I saw them the next morning walking into school physically lifted by the shared experience in their hearts.

"There is a world elsewhere."

Azita Zohadi
Nelson Mandel School, Birmingham

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