Happy New Year! Now before you make a beeline for the comments to say that I am clearly losing it and that its actually been 7 months since the New Year’s Eve hangover wore off, for us folks at Microsoft it is a new year of sorts: the start of a new financial year.

Like most of us in January, with our bold claims to lose weight and finally run that marathon, the start of a new year, albeit a financial one, offers us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for success for the coming 12 months. My list for FY13 is pretty long, but one of the key areas I have promised myself is to find the time to get out and visit more schools. Whenever I visit a school, I always leave feeling inspired and proud at what heads, teachers and pupils are achieving using our technology and the difference this is making across the board.

So with good intentions for the year ahead in place, I jumped at the chance to join Mark Reynolds on a visit to meet the lovely team at Havant Academy.

For those with good memories of BETT 12, Richard Markey, Assistant Principal at Havant Academy, delivered a fantastic session on the work they were doing with Hyper-V and I was looking forward to getting an update and learning more about their exciting school redevelopment plans.

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Havant Academy

Havant Academy, located on the south coast, is in a relatively disadvantaged area with high unemployment, particularly with young people. With these social challenges in mind, it is even more inspiring to see what the staff at Havant has achieved within the school, particularly from a cultural and values perspective.

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When walking around the school, there is a real sense of respect and maturity from the kids and it is apparent that they all feel empowered to take a leadership role in the management of their own learning and development. Something that is very special, in my opinion. It would be easy, due to the socio-economic conditions of the area, for the school and the leadership team to hide behind a tower of excuses about why the school cannot be successful. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and the whole school is proactively embracing every opportunity available to them to create their own success.

From an ambitious 1-2-1 device scheme that is due to launch in September to an exciting campus redevelopment programme, Havant Academy are building an environment and culture for learning that is both innovative and inspiring. I look forward to following their success closely.

Pedagogy Change & Culture

With a comprehensive redevelopment programme, Havant are taking advantage of the buildings they all ready have, combined with some new additions to the campus, to create a new learning environment that is fit for the digital age we are operating in.

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Underpinned by a 1-2-1 device scheme that will see each and every student being armed with a personal device (the amazing Lenovo 220) in September, the new campus will support a revised vision for learning within the school that promotes collaboration, flexible working and a symbiotic relationship with technology.

Large open and flexible learning spaces dominate throughout the school and an atrium, utilising a reclaimed courtyard that was once only a home to old crisp packets, will now act as a focal point for the school where both staff and students come together to learn, work and share. This space will also house student lockers that contain charging stations to ensure that their shiny new Lenovo's are kept topped up and ready to go.

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To help further cultivate and develop the culture around the new campus, a student management team has been established that mirrors the actual SMT within Havant. This is both bold and different and is something that the Principal for the school, Julie Taylor, passionately believes in. We met the student principal and assistant principal while on the tour and both kids were clearly proud of making it onto the management team. With formal interviews required for the roles, it is a great way to prepare kids for entering the job market and would definitely recommend other schools to introduce similar concepts.

Old Friends

To add to an already enlightening visit, and totally by chance from our perspective, active members of Microsoft’s Partners in Learning community, Willows High School, were also visiting Havant Academy that day and we were offered a great opportunity to catch-up with Gareth Ritter and his colleagues from the school during a tour of the campus. There is some exciting news about both Willows High School and Havant Academy to be announced soon and it was great to discuss this in more detail in person. Keep an eye out on the blog for information on this!

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Havant Academy is definitely a special school that through great leadership and values is taking full advantage of the opportunities they have to provide an environment for teaching and learning excellence for their students.

With the tech geek in me, though, a highlight of the visit was definitely the next gen AV set-up in the main hall. The short video below says it all!

All in all, a great day on the south coast!

Tim