A few weeks back, I visited the Langley Academy. This new-build school opened in Slough in 2008, as part of the original academy programme, before every other Tom, Dick and Johnny-come-lately school saw the writing on the wall and moved to become academies too. Its a science specialist school, but with a twist – inspired by the New York City Museum School, the Langley Academy is built around museum learning. As their vision statement explains:
Museums are gateways to real things, real stories and real people; museum collections make learning meaningful for students. With museum learning in our DNA, we will further our aims in the school, our local community and our national partners though … a learning model based on curiosity, exploration and discovery; using the built environment and collections to aid learning; [and] a two way process of sharing teaching expertise and ideas with museum professionals to create good practice inside and outside the classroom.
To that end, the school curates its own museum, based in the central atrium/panopticon, and works with both local and national museums.
I was there to participate in a mini-conference, which was the culmination of an Arts Council funded evaluation by the University of Reading. We discussed whether museum-learning and learning were different things (we decided not), heard about partnerships with the V&A and the River and Rowing Museum and heard from a number of students about their experience. I must say, I was very impressed with the confidence and maturity with which each young person spoke. I don’t think I could have done as well at their age. The University of Reading team shared a summary of their evaluation work.
The Langley Academy team were celebrating their many successes, but they were not resting on their laurels. This conference was just one more early step in their long museum journey.