Pride in our schools: St John Fisher Primary

School chaplains Xiomare Gregory, 8, Evan Siner, 8, Lily Sanders, 10, Owen Pack, 10, Jared Ward, 9 and Ellie Cope, 10.
School chaplains Xiomare Gregory, 8, Evan Siner, 8, Lily Sanders, 10, Owen Pack, 10, Jared Ward, 9 and Ellie Cope, 10.
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St John Fisher Primary has been on quite a journey in the past four years.

The school in Hackenthorpe was placed in special measures by Ofsted inspectors in 2013.

Year one making robots, Laceylou Lockey, Olivia Moomba and Riley Wood, all age six

Year one making robots, Laceylou Lockey, Olivia Moomba and Riley Wood, all age six

But in under two years it was out of special measures and rated ‘good’ across all key areas.

Fast forward to the current day, the school topped league tables in 2014, secured investment of around £1 million for much-needed building improvements and achieved outstanding across the board in a full RE inspection which it underwent because it is a Catholic school.

Headteacher Frank Barratt said: “It has been quite a journey, but we are not complacent.

“For me one of the key things is the children. We are working hard to build a welcoming ethos which places parents and children at the centre of all we do.

Some of the school council, five-year-old Kessy Higary, Summer Marsden, six, and Zarnetta Moomba, 10.

Some of the school council, five-year-old Kessy Higary, Summer Marsden, six, and Zarnetta Moomba, 10.

“Our school motto is that children feel happy, safe and loved.

“We have been through some tough times, but through everyone’s hard work and commitment we are building a special community.”

Mr Barratt took over as headteacher of the faith school in 2012. The school was put in special measures soon after, the building was old and Mr Barratt admitted there were a ‘number of issues to overcome.’

He said everyone rallied around at the school – as well as the Diocese of Hallam and Sheffield Council – to help identify the key issues that needed addressing and a plan was put into place.

Mr Barratt said: “Ofsted came back in and recognised that there were lots of green shoots.

“It was about challenging people, challenging practices and asking lots of questions.

“There was a lovely ethos in the school in terms of the children and I could see from the outset that the parents really wanted the best for the school.”

During this time the school came joint top in the Sheffield league tables and money was secured to improve the school building.

In less that two years Ofsted returned for a full inspection and rated the school good in all key areas, with inspectors recognising the journey the school was on.

Mr Barratt said just under £1m has been secured to improve the school building – with classrooms and other areas being completely revamped, new toilets, a new library area, new heating, roof, new kitchen, fire alarms installed and outdoor spaces being transformed.

Further plans are in place to turn a steep grassed piece of land into an outdoor amphitheatre and a rundown area of the playground into an outdoor learning area.

Mr Barratt said one of the key areas he was keen to improve was the links the school has with its parents.

When he first arrived parents told him they felt like they did not know what was going on and were out of the loop about changes happening in school.

Since then a school parents, teachers and friends association – PTFA – has been formed, with a key task to build relationships between parents and the school, while also raising funds.

Children also undergo regular assessments so parents gain up-to-date information about how their child is progressing and achieving at various times throughout the year.

A weekly newsletter is also published and there are a number of opportunities for parents to meet with staff to discuss their children’s targets and progress.

“Parents felt like they didn’t understand what was going on.

“As part of the changes we publish a weekly newsletter,” said Mr Barratt.

“It is all about reflecting what a special community we are and sharing lots of information about what we do.”

He added: “Every half term there is a curriculum overview that comes out and we share information about what children will be learning, what things they can be doing at home to support that and how parents can help in school.”

Mr Barratt said support and help also came from schools and headteachers across the city – with some even offering furniture and computers.

He said: “I never felt like I was on my own. We have some amazing headteachers in Sheffield and the care that was shown to me and the school is something that will stay with me.”

Mr Barratt added: “The reason we are where we are now is because we have a magnificent team, have fantastic parents and just have the best children.

“The network that we been involved with is great – the local authority, the Diocese of Hallam and local headteachers. We have raft of people who have been there with specific help and support.”

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The school held celebrations to mark its diamond jubilee on June 22 – the feast day of St John Fisher, the school’s patron.

A special mass was held involving Bishop Ralph, the Bishop of Hallam, which was followed by a cream tea.

A former headteacher and pupils attended and Year 6 pupils gave tours around the school.

The following day, a party was held. Staff and children dressed up in the style that was worn in the decade they are focusing on as part of a whole-school focus on its history. The entire school took part in a picnic and a community fayre was held in the afternoon.

Special guests included the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Coun Anne Murphy.

There will also be an exhibition celebrating the school’s 60th anniversary at the end of term.