In a special ceremony on a special evening in October, we were honoured to welcome Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota to formally open the Red House – home to Plymouth School of Creative Arts.
Following a day of events for children, parents, guardians and friends of the college-founded free school – plus an afternoon that featured the making of a glass cast of Sir Nicholas' hand – the Director of Tate heralded the evening as "historic" in an inspiring speech.
"You're creating here something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the UK," Sir Nicholas Serota said.
"It's an historic moment for education in this country."
"The whole school community provides a wonderful platform for learning and development, enabling our young people to see new possibilities in their lives." — Dave Strudwick, PSCA Headmaster
The evening's events saw children, parents, staff and VIPs celebrate the formal opening of the Red House – with students of Plymouth School of Creative Arts serving food they'd prepared and made, plus a performance of a specially prepared routine of singing and dancing.
"This is an incredibly brave venture," said Sir Nicholas Serota.
"I want to congratulate Andrew, Dave and the governors of Plymouth College of Art for having the vision and strength to persuade the world that you can make a school that is rooted in imagination, creativity and the arts, and produce students who will be able to face the 21st century and who will bring to it a whole new way of looking at the world."
"I think it's an incredible venture and I'm sure it won't be the only one," Sir Nicholas added. "I hope Plymouth gets the credit when it's copied all over the United Kingdom."
As part of the day's events, Sir Nicholas Serota visited our Glass Studios to make a glass cast of his hand with technician Lawrence West.
The finished product will eventually be installed at The Red House, joining a number of similar casts made of the school children's hands and becoming part of the building's frameworks.
And, as well as an interview with local newspaper Plymouth Herald, Sir Nicholas Serota also received a grilling by a number of the students at Plymouth School of Creative Arts – with the filmed interview to be shared once the children edit it.
In his welcome speech, Professor Andrew Brewerton, Principal of Plymouth College of Art Chair of Governors at Plymouth School of Creative Arts, said:
"The formal opening of The Red House is a very special moment for our extended learning community.
"Keen interest in our work here is developing nationally and internationally, from France to China to Italy to South Korea and to the USA.
"We have a very simple proposition – that making is as important as reading and writing and maths and science, and that the creative purpose of learning should be inseparable from the creative purpose of living your life."
"You're creating here something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the UK. It's an historic moment for education in this country." — Sir Nicholas Serota
Following the speeches, guests were treated to an array of delicious food, all made and prepared by the students themselves in the fantastically-resourced kitchens at the school.
Children also gave special tours of the the various studios and spaces that make up The Red House.
"It is a wonderful privilege to be involved in this amazing project," said Dave Strudwick, Headmaster of Plymouth School of Creative Arts.
"We are delighted that the Red House is already proving to be a success. The whole school community provides a wonderful platform for learning and development enabling our young people to see new possibilities in their lives.”
Founded in Millbay by Plymouth College of Art in 2013, Plymouth School of Creative Arts is a 4-16 all-through free school that, together with the college, is establishing a progressive continuum of creative learning and practice from age four to Masters level study and beyond, into professional employment within the creative and cultural industries.
The school’s purpose is transformation and can be expressed in just four words – creating individuals, making futures. Children and staff learn through making in all subject areas, across a broad and balanced school curriculum.
In his speech, Sir Nicholas Serota also said: "The powers that be believe the only way to survive in the modern world is the 'core subjects'."
"In my view, this doesn't equip you for life in the 21st century," he said. "It leaves out imagination. It leaves out so much. Those are the things that help us and will help us to address the world in the future."
"The great thing about the arts is they help us to live with and deal with uncertainty. They teach us how to use that great imagination that all of us have," said Sir Nicholas Serota.
Designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, The Red House was created for pedagogical innovation in creative learning and as a catalyst for community regeneration in Plymouth's Millbay docklands, supporting the transformation of individual life chances and community aspiration in the long term.
The Red House, based in Millbay, is also home to a number of local arts, culture and community groups – including Street Factory Dance Studios, Plymouth Dance, Exim Dance, Plymouth and Devon Race Equality Council and Coco Beams.
"All I can say is that a lot of people will be watching really carefully," said Nicholas Serota, "because you have a great pilot here, and I know it'll really flourish.
"It's already flourishing."
To find out more about Plymouth School of Creative Arts, visit plymouthschoolofcreativearts.co.uk.