School focus: Westways Primary

Pictured are year 1 pupils who have been learning about pirates. Picture: Chris Etchells.
Pictured are year 1 pupils who have been learning about pirates. Picture: Chris Etchells.
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Getting primary school children interested and engaged in learning is certainly no easy task.

But teachers at Westway Primary School in Crookes seem to have found a way - and it's far from the traditional approach of learning from a textbook or blackboard.

Pictured as pirates are Freya Lippolis, Mohammed Alsayegh and Asin Ramzan. Picture: Chris Etchells.

Pictured as pirates are Freya Lippolis, Mohammed Alsayegh and Asin Ramzan. Picture: Chris Etchells.

Westway hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in December when members of the National Education Union walked out on strike following changes to policy brought about by two poor Ofsted reports.

Now, just eight weeks on, teachers are bringing a fresh approach to learning and, regardless of what any inspectors may say on their next visit in June, the smiles on the children's faces tell you everything you need to know.

Pupils in nursery and foundation are coming towards the end of their traditional tales topic and the day of our visit was actually their fancy dress day.

And it's the same for youngsters in year one who have been studying pirates.

But it's not purely just doing research on interesting topics. Everything the school teaches the children is tailored to the topic. Learning about water capacity was just one example that the year one pupils had been looking at as part of their pirate topic.

Bridget Parkin, year one teacher, said: "The idea is that we totally immerse the children in the topic that we are doing so the classroom and every area we have got has been set up to impact on their learning.

"I think that for every young child to have creativity in their learning is very important because they are massively imaginative and to not pick into the imagination would seem like a complete waste."

The younger pupils' creativity could also be set for another boost in the summer with work on a sand pit and mud kitchen due to be carried out over the Easter holidays.

There's not just success in the classroom either - the school's cross country team were awarded the Primary Cross Country award by the Sheffield Federation for School Sport last year and a number of the team - made up of pupils in years four, five and six - were also donning medals they picked up at the recent South Yorkshire School Games.

Nine-year-old Sam Lawal, a member of the team, said: "It's really fun and I really like running. It helps keep me fit and helps me feel better."

The school also has close links with nearby secondary schools, including King Edward VII, joint assistant head teacher Charles Hollamby said.

"We've got really good links with King Edwards and our kids get to go up there and use their facilities," he said.

"We did some chemical experiments up there, which we can't do here and even dissected a sheep's eye."

Joint assistant head teacher David Bradley said youngsters in years three and four had recently enjoyed a visit by Sheffield artist Pete McKee as part of a topic looking at the city.

And year six had recently enjoyed a trip to war museum Eden Camp in North Yorkshire as part of their topic looking at the Second World War.

Mr Bradley said: "It's all about engaging the kids in what they're learning. It's unbelievable the amount of work the kids just do off their own back because they're interested what they're doing."

The school, which has no fewer than 640 pupils in 22 classes, was rated as required improvement by Ofsted inspectors in June - prompting December's strikes.

But head teacher Sam Fearnehough said no major overhaul had been carried out since she took over last year - because it wasn't necessary.

She said: "The school is in a period of improvement and we have made a big leap forward and that's about keeping all the good things that were happening at Westways but making sure that we get the best out of each and every child so they can achieve the best they possibly can.

"It's always been like this. People think I came in and made massive changes but we are keeping all the best bits and making sure that all of these children make the progress they can make."