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Spotlight- Stone Soup Academy

Nicola Arkinstall has a new show on Teacher Hug Radio where she shines a spotlight on those who are being celebrated in the education sector.

In her first week, she talks to Matthew Murphy from Stone Soup Academy, Nottingham. Stone Soup Academy has been shortlisted for two TES awards this year.

I recently interviewed Matthew Murphy, Head of Media at Stone Soup for my Teacher Hug Radio show ‘Spotlight’.  ‘Spotlight’ shines a light on fantastic schools, teachers, teaching assistants and business leaders to celebrate what an amazing job they are doing in education. You can listen to the Stone Soup Episode of my show on Saturday 26th June at 2 p.m. on Teacher Hug Radio.   
Stone Soup has been shortlisted for two TES awards this year, best use of technology and Kerrie, their principal, has also been shortlisted for Headteacher of the Year.   They already have a number of accolades under their belt including TES award winners for the best alternative provision for 2020 and they have received the Nottingham High Sheriff award.  Matt also won the Pearson Silver award for Digital Innovator of the Year. The school were also finalists in the creative learning award.    

Stone Soup Academy is an Alternative Provision for students who have been excluded from mainstream education. Students come into the academy with low aspirations and very low esteem and self-belief. Through the use of technology, Matt has changed all that. Their vision is to Create Unimagined Futures and through the use of technology, they are able to achieve this.

Students are enthused with his own love of Technology and media. Students studying Media have increased from less than 10% of the cohort in 2015 to 60% of the cohort in 20-21. Results achieved in the last 3 years have been consistently high, with the pupils achieving a BTEC in media. 
Games Design 
Despite the challenges of lockdown, Matt has successfully incorporated Games Design into the delivery of BTEC Media. He has used the Unity Games engine to allow students to create games that look, sound and feel like the games they already love to play. Rather than using a simpler technology with a less-formidable learning curve, Matt uses careful scaffolding of learning to give students the opportunity to create games without compromise, leading to results which stand alongside many of the triple A games that fill students’ lives. 

Augmented reality
Matt has taken the tool of mobile augmented reality and utilised it for the benefit of students and visitors. Wall displays around the school are scanned to reveal a hidden layer of detail using mobile augmented reality. Each student’s name upon the wall when scanned will show the assessments and grades that this student has achieved, engaging the students in a meaningful way with their progress. Scanning a display will bring pictures of projects to life so that parents, visitors etc can see the full impact of the creative work done by SSA students. 

Since then Matt has gone on to make Virtual Reality a cornerstone of the Stone Soup Academy curriculum. A long-time advocate of its transformative use as a teaching tool, Matt has not only developed VR as part of the BTEC Media curriculum, but led the way in its implementation across the whole school. Matt offered a bespoke CPD for each subject leader to help explore, plan and champion the use of VR in subject areas as diverse as Sport, Maths and SEND. 

Working collaboratively SSA Staff and Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences designed and delivered a new initiative exploring the use of VR for neurodiverse students. The ability to use VR to safely explore spaces and experiences which neurodiverse students might otherwise struggle with is an exciting and challenging opportunity. 

Running alongside this is Matt’s involvement in the delivery of immersive neurodiversity training for SSA staff who are themselves neurotypical. Using VR as a means for every member of SSA staff to experience some of the day-to-day experiences and challenges faced by our neurodiverse students gives unprecedented insight into how best to support these learners academically and in a pastoral capacity. 

I really enjoyed talking to Mat and finding out all about Stone Soup School and how they are using technology so innovatively to support their pupils and staff.  

I hope you enjoyed reading this Spotlight Blog.  It has been great to be able to shine a light on Stone Soup’s good practice and learn from their experiences and ideas.  If anything resonated with you from this or the show, please tweet me @ArkinstallNikki because I would love to engage with any comments you may have.  

I would love to shine the Spotlight on You!
I would love to shine the spotlight on a different school in each episode of the show so if you would like your school to be featured please tweet us on @teacherhugradio, send an email to or call on our free phone number – 0800 246 15 55 and leave me a message so that I can contact you.

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The author

Nikki is a Deputy Headteacher in a primary school in Birmingham and the Director of Staffordshire Research School. Her primary school is an English Hub and wrote the Little Wandle Phonics programme. She is Lead DSL and also Art, Music and DT lead. She is an experienced NQT mentor and is a visiting fellow for NPQS and ECF. When Nikki is not working she loves to spend time with her husband, children, friends and family. She is also a governor at her daughter’s primary school. She loves travelling, reading, listening to podcasts, watching Netflix series and swimming.

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