How former airbase school bounced back after RAF left Doncaster

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Just over 20 years ago, Hayfield Lane Primary School had a problem.

After decades of providing around half the school's pupils, RAF Finningley was closed down.

Kaylum with the head from their iron man project at Hayfield Lane Primary School

Kaylum with the head from their iron man project at Hayfield Lane Primary School

The knock on effect for the school, in Auckley, Doncaster, was that half its pupils were lost at a stroke as the RAF families moved out of the area.

Things had to be scaled down at Hayfield Lane, with classes re-jigged so that one class would contain two year groups.

But two decades on, and things are changing. Hayfield Lane is now an expanding school and is set to double in size, and with a range of new initiative including yoga training to help the pupils relax.

The days of mixed year group classes have gone, and now the school, which has more recently had one class per year group, is moving up to having two classes per year group.

It is one of many things currently going on at a school which was recently graded as 'good' in all areas.

Headteacher Louise Tempest met the Free Press wearing a white hooded overall, the type of garment you would expect to see at a police forensic investigation. The reason? She had just been taking part in a special science day at the school! Experts from a specialist organisation had come in to show the pupils dramatic science experiments, and all the staff had dressed up as scientists for the day.

Mrs Tempest is proud that the school has themed activities regularly, and staff and pupils dressing up is nothing unusual. Ofsted described the school as creating fun and exciting learning opportunities, and staff were described as going above and beyond the call of duty.

The following week, the school had an artist in, Peter Baldry, to help create a giant piece of art for the school, assisted by the pupils.

It is not the first time he has visited. In the past he has helped them create installations including a squadron of Vulcan bombers, suspended from a classroom ceiling, and a giant sized sculpture of the book character The Gruffalo.

Mrs Tempest said: "In 2013, we had mixed year groups - it was a small school. But now we are moving to two form entry.

"We have two form entry up to year two, and that is expanded each year. Because of the expansion, we have built a brand new high spec nursery building, and have new classrooms for year two.

"What has previously been the social education centre is becoming the junior section of the school, and we're also becoming a training hub in September. That social education centre building will be divided up, so that it also has community groups, with adult learning courses, baby yoga and fitness programmes."

It is not just the school building and pupil numbers that are expanding. Activitives are too.

The school has become the only National Maths Mastery base school in the borough, working for the South Yorkshire Maths Hub, and will work with other schools in the area to help improve maths teaching.

And it has become a project school for the Education Endowment Foundation - meaning it will take part in research projects.

Among the recent projects the school has sign up to has been a Nottingham University scheme called Take Five.

The project aims to to help pupils' mental health - by helping them to deal with stress and keep calm.

It is based on work done in Canada, and will see youngsters learning yoga and breathing exercises.

"We're part of the pilot," said Mrs Tempest. "We've started it from the nursery upwards, and our pupils will be ambassadors for the scheme. The idea is you take five minutes of the day to practice the techniques.

"The lovely thing is that we have already noticed that our children are practising the techniques themselves. We're hoping that they can take the techniques into their everyday lives.

"The children customise the yoga for situations that they are likely to come across - it could be used for a whole host of reasons.I think we're the first in Doncaster to be doing this, and it's making a difference, because the children are using it when they've not been directed to do so."

Mrs Tempest is proud of the progress the school has made recently.

She said: "We're all kids at heart and that passion ripples through in what we do. It is all about creating 'wow' moments.

"It is about getting the important things right and making sure that we are the best we can be.

"One of our priorities is to maintain the family feel of the school as we grow. It is so important that the senior leaders know all their pupils and their needs."