School focus: Astrea Academy Sheffield
Ambition should have no limit for any child who attends Astrea Academy Sheffield.
That is the belief of executive principal, Kim Wilson, who describes the school as a ‘vibrant and exciting learning community’ where everyone is committed to helping each student reach their full potential, no matter what their individual starting point.
When the school opened in September 2018 its students – then nursery-aged children alongside reception and year seven pupils – were based in the refurbished Grade II-listed former Pye Bank School building, on Andover Street, while work on the secondary school and sixth form opposite got underway.
However, fast forward to April this year the new, state-of-the-art secondary school building officially opened it’s doors not only students but also the community it serves.
It features a range of sports pitches, an ampitheatre, cafeteria area, dance floor with spring board floor, library, high-tech science labs and two lecture theatres and is a space that Mrs Wilson stresses will be available to be used by the community and could be closed off and used after-school and at weekends.
“Our diverse community has formed an amazing family bond, even in our early stages of opening,” she added. “With around 39 first languages, 21 ethnicities and 70 per cent of our children from a disadvantaged background – staff and pupils alike bask in a truly multicultural and harmonious educational institution which has firmly cemented its identity right here in Burngreave.
“A lot of people in this community have seen this build, when we opened the doors 600 people turned up and already that community ethos has started and the building is for them as well.”
This academic year has seen a new crop of students join the nursery, reception and Year 7, with current students entering Year 1 and Year 8 for the first time in the school’s lifetime.
And year on year the school will fill even further, eventually catering for around 1,500 children by 2023 and becoming one of the city’s biggest schools.
But no matter what the classroom, the ethos will remain the same.
Mrs Wilson said: “Our mantra at Astrea Academy Sheffield is ‘I am strong, I am successful, I am Astrea’ and there’s a relentless commitment to excellence everyday. Whilst that sounds quite bold, and we say that to our parents, it’s actually about entitlement for children. A pure entitlement for every child in Burngreave and in the wider area of Sheffield.
“What that entitlement means is, offering a broad and balanced curriculum, for example, is something that is very important to me and also this community and the children it serves.”
Year 7 pupils are all given the opportunity to study 13 subjects with everything from music, drama and PE on the curriculum alongside subjects such as English, maths and science.
“We are also very keen on developing the whole child, not just academically,” Mrs Wilson said. “It’s about those other skills that children need, those other experiences to expose them to other things that every other child in the country has been exposed to.”
On Wednesday afternoons the ‘normal’ school day finishes after lunch and pupils take part in two hours of sports and creative arts ‘electives’.
Mrs Wilson added: “They’ve have been taught by an Olympian taekwondo specialist, done creative writing, we’ve had basketball and actually, for the first time this year, we’re teaching our 11-year-olds Mandarin because another saying that we have at Astrea Sheffield, and it’s said by all the children, is ambition has no limits.”
Benedick Ashmore-Short, Executive Director of Education at Astrea Academy Sheffield, added: “Our hope was to pack the school with children from this community of Burngreave and to ensure we’re offering an education that doesn’t exist currently in this half of the city, particularly post-16 education.
“It’s quite a traditional curriculum with lots of enrichment but we’re ensuring that children are starting with us at age two, then moving through the school with a really clear focus on 16 years of educational progress to get them in a position where they’re leaving at 18 ready to go and take on the world.”
And, Astrea Academy Sheffield was also judged to be ‘good with outstanding features’ as part of an external review by national education charity, Challenge Partners just 21 weeks after opening, proving it is already off to a flying start.
Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, described the school as ‘inspiring’.
She said: “We’ve got to be preparing young people for having the skills of the technological world that we’re living in now and from listening to the headteacher I think the school has that vision.”
“In an area of deprivation, such as Burngreave, I think it is important that we have high aspirations for students here because ultimately it’s students, and the teachers through the students, that will be the ones that change the area.
“I think it is important that we want our students to aspire to achieve the best and I think if the school has got the right ethos, that it reaches out into the communities, then we’ll be able to change the whole community so it is fundamental actually to the makeup of the whole area.”