A unique place aiming to improve the life chances of children - School focus: Meadowhead School and Sixth Form
With over 1,800 students on the roll, Meadowhead School and Sixth Form is one of Sheffield’s largest secondary schools offering students the chance to study both their GCSEs and A-Levels on the same site.
It formed when Jordanthorpe Comprehensive and Rowlinson School merged in 1987, and for 20 years was split over two sites until a brand new building was constructed on Dyche Lane close to where one of the original buildings once stood.
The school’s mascot, a Phoenix, pays homage to its past and represents how Meadowhead rose from the ashes to become a thriving and diverse establishment which, since 2010, has also been able to offer post-16 courses.
The reestablishment of its 11 to 18 provision was aided through its work with the Meadowhead Community Learning Trust (MCLT), a partnership between various schools and organisations in the city which helped play a major role in the development and construction of a school-based sixth-form on the site in 2017 featuring 11 classrooms fitted with the latest technology, a common room and cafe separate to the main building.
Headteacher Kam Grewal-Joy said: “Meadowhead is quite unique – while we’re a standalone academy we are part of the community learning trust and that is made up of our feeder primary schools, the two universities, Sheffield College and a whole range of employers as well.
“All of those people work together at various times throughout the academic year to look at how we can enhance the learning opportunities and experiences for all of the students in the partnership. It is a collection of some very experienced professionals who are keen to improve the life chances of all children and there is a great emphasis on preparing children for work.”
This means that children who study at Meadowhead can not only enjoy a range of work experience opportunities with places such as Sheffield Teaching Hospitals or Whittam Cox Architects, they can also benefit from educational projects which are formed in conjunction with businesses and take place throughout the academic year.
Jo Silverwood, Community Liaison and Communications Manager of MCLT, added: “With us being one of the largest schools in the city, we have over 200 employers that we work with for work experience placements throughout the year but the MLCT membership enables us to offer much more than work experience.
“We set real life projects that are sometimes based on a problem that they may have got in their business and they want students to help find real solutions – it’s about putting real life context into the learning environment in school.”
The aim is to help students develop enterprise and work-related skills to prepare them for life after school, with added motivational talks from business leaders also built into the curriculum to help raise aspirations.
As part of the partnership, young people are given mock interviews in both Year 10 and in sixth-form, in which they have to submit a CV in advance and answer questions just like a real-life interview to enable them to become ‘work ready’ and improve their life chances.
Recently, there has also been a particular focus on subjects like Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) however the range of topics can vary.
“We've got three students currently who are writing articles in Active8 and Heron Publications, they’re one of the trust partners so they were able to offer that to our students,” Ms Grewal-Joy said.
“They’re creative writers and have a great skillset but they are interested in the area of journalism and writing and so it's a fantastic opportunity for them and seeing their work in print is great validation.”
The curriculum at Meadowhead remains broad and balanced, giving students the chance to follow both the academic route and a creative route with a full English Baccalaureate, consisting of English, maths, a science, history or geography and a language, as well as subjects such as drama and music, on offer.
Students benefit from a range of workshops and specialist equipment and can carry on their studies in most subjects through GCSE and into A-Level, including in art and textiles which Ms Grewal-Joy says can sometimes be overlooked at a time when school budgets are squeezed.
She said: “We are one of the very few schools that offer art textiles at A-Level and we still have that specialism in house and we’re very fortunate because we are so big with our curriculum offer, we don’t struggle to recruit subject specialists so we’ve got subject specialists in all areas of the curriculum.”
And, after school is no different in terms of the enrichment opportunities on offer.
There is something for everyone – whether it be dance, music, choir or even peripatetic lessons, children can take up a wide range of activities dependent on their interests.
Ms Grewal-Joy said: “We’re really proud of that because not all children are the same and it is really important that we do nurture those talents. We ask for that information from our feeder schools as to what children are interested in and then very quickly get them hooked in.
“We’re always looking to extend our extracurricular offer, we’ve got a knitting and crochet club, a couch to 5k club as part of our mental health strategy, a wellbeing cafe – there is something for everybody and we get regular feedback from the student parliament from the study support that is available to them after school and what else they would like to see.”