Today I visited Colbayns High School in Clacton, a school with an impressive management team keen to drive the school forward to become the best Media Arts specialist School in the UK… read the press release I wrote with Lesley, Phil and Hidayah….


Colbayns High School in Clacton is applying nationally for ‘Media Arts’ status. This new specialist status will mean innovative and exciting changes to the school and the local community and will allow Colbaynes to provide an environment for young people which enables them to make creative use of new and emerging technologies, as these become more integrated into the curriculum. The school is already very well known for its strong ‘Media Arts’ department and has worked with the Ultralab (1990-2006) Research Centre on projects with BAFTA, at the BETT Education Show and on various international projects.

Phil Langshaw, head of the Creative and Media Arts faculty commented that becoming a digital media arts college will make Colbayns school a centre for excellence in video, radio, television, animation, photography, and generic applications of ICT for learning in the school which will raise standards, and give students skills with a real value in the workplace. The task now is to raise the initial £50,000 through community and business support to make this vision a reality.

Ultralab (1990-2006), the world renowned Learning, Technology and Research centre based in Chelmsford is backing the bid and will be supporting the school during its management of this exciting transition period. As part of the change, Ultralab (1990-2006)’s revolutionary work-based online degree course will be rolled out to Colbayns’ staff to enable and broaden staff opportunities. The three year online degree is completely unique as it is negotiated to accommodate and study the work environment of each ‘student researcher’. No other institution in the UK offers a degree course tailored to work-based learning and completely online. The degree encourages participants to research, evaluate and reflect on their own working practice and the school will benefit enormously from the exciting new learning opportunities this degree provides.

Not only is Colbayns planning to develop staff careers through Ultraversity, the school also plans to become a centre for Ultraversity, enabling members of the local community to use the school facilitites out-of-hours to undertake their own Ultraversity degree. This means that teaching assistants, shop workers, community workers, administrators, people from local industries and communities will be able to join together at Colbaynes and use the schools resources to undertake this new degree based on their own unique job. Over 300 people nationwide have already started studying through Ultraversity, and this popular course is already having an impact on organisations nationwide as staff evaluate and refine their thinking and working practice. Ultraversity is a fully validated British degree of Anglia Polytechnic University of Cambridge and Chelmsford.

In support of the Media Arts status and the roll out of Ultraversity in Clacton, Hidayah Amin, a media producer from the Educational Technology Division at the Ministry of Education Singapore will be visiting Colbayns school on Thursday 19th January with Ultralab (1990-2006) to discuss and share ideas which currently operate in Singapore schools. Ms Amin states “I’ve heard a lot of good things about Colbayns school from Ultralab (1990-2006), not only am I willing to share our ideas but I’ll be looking to learn from Colbayns, they have an already impressive portfolio of creative projects, I’m really excited by the creativity this school emits”.

Ultralab (1990-2006) works on projects worldwide as a non-profit making research partner and the lab’s mission statement is “To research, apply and disseminate the benefits of new technologies, seeking to develop an empowering, creative and delightful learning environment that knows no boundaries. ” Ultralab (1990-2006)’s past and present projects include collaboration with many organisations including the DfES, Orange Telecommunications, Oracle, Apple, Microsoft, Tesco and the Design Council, working on projects such as the improvement of classroom design, the development of mobile learning, reducing headteacher isolation and the exploration and promotion of online learning.

Ultralab (1990-2006) is also busy exploring with the school the potential of setting up a local hub which would allow local businesses within the community to work with teams of students within the school on ideas and project proposals. Further plans would enable the young people to work on placements within Ultralab (1990-2006) projects.

The school is therefore keen to hear from local businesses, and community groups who feel they could exploit a mutually beneficial working relationship in digital media.

Colbayns benefits from very creative students with imaginative ideas. It is fitting that the school cements the specialist ‘Media Arts’ status which fits perfectly with the evolution of digital creativity that is already happening behind the school doors. This big change will open up to encourage the Clacton community to be a part of the action too.

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