Athelstan Primary: The school where a double-decker bus has been put at its heart

A double-decker bus is not what you expect to see in a school playground – but at Athelstan Primary a red bus stands proud in its grounds and demonstrates the pride taken there in supporting children’s learning,

The bus, called Buster, has been on a seven month journey of renovation and refurbishment at the school, in Handsworth, before its recent grand opening.

Isabel reads a book at the opening of 'Buster', a bus which has been converted into a library, at Athelstan Primary School.

Isabel reads a book at the opening of 'Buster', a bus which has been converted into a library, at Athelstan Primary School.

Headteacher Deb Halliday said: “The new outside library Buster is just the most recent example of the steps the school takes to support children’s learning and follows a long line of accreditations  of which all at Athelstan are proud.”

Staff have worked tirelessly to breathe new life into an old, retired double-decker bus that was living out its remaining days in a scrap yard.

The journey’s instigator was Mrs Halliday, who identified reading as one the school’s key priorities and, as a result, is unrelenting in developing reading opportunities for all pupils.

She said: “We aim to build of previous successes, share best practice and are always open to new initiatives to ensure that reading and vocabulary acquisition, continue to engage our pupils and that they develop a passion for literacy and lifelong learning.

Isabel reads a book at the opening of 'Buster'.

Isabel reads a book at the opening of 'Buster'.

“Buster is just one double decker-sized part of this.”

Before Buster could take its place in the school playground and a hub for reading, a lot of work was needed to bring its vision to life.

Through fundraising in the community and exceptional support from Athelstan’s Home School Association, the money was raised to purchase Buster and tow it into the school grounds.

Conversion and renovation work followed by a small but dedicated team to turn the bus into a library.

Viana and Anaya make firework decorations on the light box at Athelstan Primary School.

Viana and Anaya make firework decorations on the light box at Athelstan Primary School.

It features artwork, shelves of filled books and a chill-out area with beanbags.

Pupils have been able to observe Buster’s journey and eagerness has been building for its launch.

The library was officially opened by former Sheffield United player Brian Deane, who attended a launch event with Captain Blade.

He was given a preview around Buster, along with parents and organisations who had contributed to its transformation, before excited pupils got their first glimpse inside.

Captain Blade at the opening of 'Buster'

Captain Blade at the opening of 'Buster'

He told pupils to value their time at school and make the most of every opportunity given to them.

Mrs Halliday said Buster has been born out of the same ethos that every staff member has at Athelstan – a passion about children’s achievement and dedication to ensure each child is safe, happy and able to succeed.

The idea of team and teamwork runs deeply within the walls of the school, with one pupil saying the school is like one giant family.

Everything about the school is high achieving.

It is a model school for Read Write Inc, a phonics, reading and writing programme created by Ruth Miskin and published by Oxford University Press.

It is one of only 60 schools in the country to gain recognition as a model school, and achieved it through the leadership of deputy headteacher Lisa Watson and Year 1 and Read Write Inc leader, Lauren Rodgers.

Ex Sheffield United player Brian Deane at the opening of 'Buster', a bus which has been converted into a library, at Athelstan Primary School. Pictures: Andrew Roe

Ex Sheffield United player Brian Deane at the opening of 'Buster', a bus which has been converted into a library, at Athelstan Primary School. Pictures: Andrew Roe

Mrs Halliday said: “Being a model school means that we share our knowledge and expertise with other schools by having others teachers observe lessons, see the impact on children’s results, behaviour and engagement and ask questions about the scheme’s implementation.”

Athelstan is part of the Crucible Cooperative Trust, which formed in January 2016, with Ballifield and Brunswick primary schools.

The school has been achieved a string of accolades and awards in recent years and is very much focused on continued success.

It was one of Yorkshire highest performing schools for progress in 2016 and 2017 and achieved a good judgement from Ofsted in June 2017.

Staff were invited to take part in a Parliamentary review in Primary Education in 2017/18 because of the pupils’ outcomes.

“If you speak to anyone involved in the school they will attest to the positive and strong leadership and hardworking, dedicated staff,” said Mrs Halliday.

It recently achieved the coveted gold Primary Science Quality Mark, which celebrates the quality of science and learning. The school achieved the award after a year-long process.

Staff at the school have been focusing on creating a healthy lifestyles and for the last few years has been creating healthy competition, developing sports and physical activity and have a team of dedicated staff focused on supporting this area.

A daily mile has also been created for the last five years and the school has been recognised for its commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles by achieving the School Games Mark Gold award. Current clubs include badminton, handball, Zumba, art, science, computing, karate and yoga.

Mrs Halliday said: “Athelstan prides itself on being able to offer children a broad and balanced curriculum which children are allowed to explore and discover their interests and strengths, whether their focus be sciences or arts subjects.”

To promote arts within the school Athelstan are working towards the Artsmark Award, which is the creative quality standard for school and accredited by Arts Council England.

The school prides itself on supporting children to be able to learn.

Deputy headteacher Fiona Barry said: “At Athelstan, we believe that if children do not feel safe and secure then they won’t be in a position to achieve their best and move their learning forward.”

A recent acknowledgment of this was when it was given the Achievement for All quality mark, which is a national accolade recognising the work carried out in improving the wellbeing, resilience and self-esteem of its pupils who are vulnerable to under achievement, regardless of their background.

It specifically acknowledges the work being done in the school to improve progress in reading, writing and maths for all pupils, particularly those with special educational needs or disabilities.

Mrs Halliday added: “When walking around the school and talking to staff and pupils it is evident that Athelstan is a school filled with pride, aspiration and the determination to be the best it can be.”

“Teamwork, between staff and children, is at the core of the school which is an exciting place to be right now, but promises even more for the future.”

Scarlet on the outdoor gym equipment at Athelstan Primary School.

Scarlet on the outdoor gym equipment at Athelstan Primary School.

Ava inside the schools library, which is decorated like Alice and Wonderland

Ava inside the schools library, which is decorated like Alice and Wonderland

Jack and Elayas build at the loose parts section at Athelstan Primary School.

Jack and Elayas build at the loose parts section at Athelstan Primary School.

A choir performs at the opening

A choir performs at the opening

The opening of 'Buster'

The opening of 'Buster'