Shireland CBSO Academy in West Bromwich was honoured to welcome The Duke of Edinburgh to officiate the formal opening of the school, which welcomed its first cohort of year 7 students in September 2023.
There was an air of excitement as students, flags waving in hand, eagerly lined up in reception to greet The Duke of Edinburgh upon his arrival at the Academy.
The event not only marks the school’s official opening but also its unique status as the first free, non-selective state school in Britain established in partnership with a national orchestra, serving Sandwell and the wider West Midlands in collaboration with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO).
Joining in with the celebrations on the day were guests including the Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands and the Mayor of Sandwell, along with key stakeholders involved in the school’s development.
The Duke of Edinburgh, a patron of the CBSO, met school staff, students, and representatives from Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust and the CBSO, before being given a guided tour of the Academy and its facilities.
During his visit, The Duke of Edinburgh participated in lessons and practical music workshops alongside students, which included practising West African drumming. He also visited the 300-seat performance hall with state-of-the-art acoustics, the specialist music practice rooms and an immersive virtual reality learning space.
Sir Mark Grundy, CEO of Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust, said: “This was a wonderful opportunity to talk about our unique school curriculum with The Duke of Edinburgh and witness our lessons in action. I’m especially pleased for our founding students, this was a great day that will live long in their memories.
“Shireland CBSO Academy’s opening ceremony marks the realisation of an ambitious vision for education and underscores our commitment to making a real difference in the lives of our young people by providing opportunities that may have previously been out of reach for many.”
The celebrations continued into the performance hall, where musicians from the CBSO and students from the school delivered joint live performances.
The highlight of the event was the unveiling of a commemorative plaque by The Duke of Edinburgh, followed by a special reading of a poem exclusively written by one of Shireland CBSO Academy’s students.
The poem, which had been specially printed and framed, was presented as a final parting gift to The Duke of Edinburgh, concluding the ceremony.
Principal of Shireland CBSO Academy, David Green, said: “We were delighted to welcome The Duke of Edinburgh to formally open Shireland CSBO Academy.
“We are proud to be providing our students with an education that not only offers academic and musical excellence but also nurtures their creative and personal growth, instilling a lifelong love of learning and the arts.”
While in Birmingham, The Duke of Edinburgh also visited Symphony Hall, where he was able to watch the orchestra rehearse and tried his hand at conducting. On the same evening, he attended the CBSO concert conducted by Kazuki Yamada.
Emma Stenning, Chief Executive at CBSO, said: “We’re delighted that the CBSO’s Patron, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, was able to visit the school and see first-hand some of the experiences the CBSO musicians are providing for students – from masterclasses and mentorship to performances, as well as supporting each young person’s ongoing musical endeavours.”