School focus: Aston Academy
Students at Aston Academy are exposed to every available opportunity to help shape them into the best people they can be.
The broad and challenging curriculum is such that the pupils are encouraged to make the best possible progress while acquiring the skills and experience needed to become well-rounded individuals equipped for life in the modern day.
It is a curriculum that has seen Aston Academy receive praise in its latest Ofsted report, in which inspectors noted a school culture which pushes pupils to be ‘the best they can be’
And no student is left behind according to principal Dominic Curran – an ethos that is at the core of the school’s mission statement.
“We’re an extremely inclusive academy,” he said. “What that means to us in practice is that every member of staff will go to the nth degree to provide for students, not just academically but it is about preparing students to take up their place in society.
“We want students, when they leave us at the end of Year 11 or the end of Year 13, to be well-rounded individuals who get all the skills and all the qualities that they need to be able to make an important contribution to society.
“That is absolutely regardless of their particular skills or talents, it is about every single child having every opportunity to be the best they can be.”
The ethos is something that is shared across the Aston Community Education Trust, of which Aston Academy was the founding school having converted to an academy in 2011.
Lindsey Burgin, vice principal of Aston Academy, added: “We feel like we get the balance absolutely right in relation to a focus on the progress of our students from a learning perspective which is important.
“However, what we provide in enrichment and enhanced richness across the curriculum in relation to other opportunities and extra curricular activities, particularly a wide portfolio of field trips, we feel really does set us apart in relation to a number of other schools.”
At Aston Academy there is a firm belief that as many students as possible should be given access to a humanities subject, as well as languages and creative subjects among many others, to allow students to personalise their own curriculum and ensure it best meets the needs of every individual child.
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But, whether it be the ski trip to Alpe d’Huez in France or the football tour to Barcelona, not just academic ability is focused on.
The school boasts various sports teams, including a successful Year 9 girls’ netball squad who, after winning at the Rotherham Schools Finals in 2018, retained their crown by beating Wickersley in the final of this year’s tournament in April.
Since 2008 students have had their PE lessons in a temporary structure which was installed at the site alongside four classrooms ahead of a planned redevelopment scheme which was later scrapped.
However, earlier this year Aston Academy was granted £4.5 million of funding from Rotherham Council for redevelopment of its swimming pool building which is due to be ready in September 2021.
This will see the sports facilities put back under a permanent roof and enable to the school to accommodate a further 150 students beyond its current capacity of 1,700.
Refurbishment is also underway in the science department, in the form of brand new, state-of-the-art science labs which will provide ‘first class’ facilities for students.
Mr Curran said: “We’re delighted that we already have five new, completely refurbished science labs open and being used by the students. We’re having a further science lab refurbished this year and that programme will be ongoing over the next couple of years.
“That is in keeping with our emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – STEM – moving forwards.”
To help support the curriculum, the school has a careers advisor with a strong network of contacts to provide pupils with a range of opportunities. For students in Year 9 there is a STEM careers day in which business representatives are invited to the school to talk to pupils, and those in Year 12 are given the chance to gain first-hand experience within the workplace through ‘work shadowing’.
Every student is also encouraged to connect with their wider community outside of school so they can develop a sense of responsibility.
Mr Curran added: “We ran a fundraising project linked to the Snowflake appeal last year. That was absolutely driven by the students and raised over £4,000 which was a fantastic achievement but what it shows is that awareness of the wider world and that community as well and the contribution they can make to improve their lives. That really gives an idea of what our ethos is all about.”