School focus: Ballifield Primary
Ballifield Primary School has lots to shout about - and quite rightly so.
From staff in reception and parents right through to teachers and school leaders, there is a family feel that runs throughout, with one common aim – to do the very best for the pupils.
Last year the school’s headteacher Sheila Haigh retired after almost a decade at the school.
She left behind a legacy which has been picked up by new headteacher Amanda Smith, who cannot speak highly enough of the school and everyone involved.
The Parent Teacher Association, she said, is ‘phenomenal’ and the best she has ever worked with in a school.
“They are a fantastic group who are committed to raising lots of money that is put back into school for the benefit of children,” said Mrs Smith.
The PTA has been running for around eight years and has raised around £20,000 for various initiatives at the school, which includes playground equipment and class trips.
A halloween party, fashion show, discos, spring fair and an Easter trail are among the vast list of events they have organised.
Chair Amanda Purdy said the PTA ensures that all year groups benefit from the money raised, with PTA members getting a say in where the money is spent.
Committee member Susannah Lewis added: “Everyone is a friend at the school and everyone always stops to talk to each other.
“All the staff are great. We really do feel like one big family.”
Whatever day people visit the school, in Handsworth, music and singing fills the classrooms and corridors.
The school has recently been given an award for how it has extensively developed its music provision over the last five years.
Children sing on a daily basis, while youngsters from year three onwards get the chance to play violins, recorders and now the drums – thanks to a recently purchased electronic drum kit.
The school works closely with Sheffield Music Hub and in 2015 it was one of only 10 schools from across the country chosen to take part in the launch of the BBC’s 10 pieces project.
Since then budding violinists at the school have had the chance to visit Bridgewater Hall, in Manchester, to watch concerts.
Music co-ordinator Kate Shaw said: “We are known as a singing school. All the children sing on a daily basis from nursery right through to Year 6.
“We are part of a singing project to encourage children to sing as an aid listening and learning.”
Youngsters also sing at events across the city, while multi-cultural visits and activities at the school often incorporate music.
Music clubs are not the only after school activities available to youngsters.
The list of extra curricular activities is endless and children are rewarded for participating through the Children’s University, which rewards youngsters with credits for every hour of learning they do, and award assemblies.
Mrs Shaw said: “It’s all about the children involving themselves in learning outside of school hours.
“We are very proactive. We have lots of after school clubs including art, guitar, samba and book clubs and all sorts of other things.
“The Children’s University also awards them for attending out of hours providers too.”
Year 5 pupil Libbi-Jo Hurst-Johnson was one of only eight youngsters rewarded for achieving 1,000 hours of extra-curricular activities at a recent awards ceremony.
PE provision at the school is also something Mrs Smith continuing to build at the school.
The gymnastics classes were renowned under the previous headteacher, and Mrs Smith said the school is involved in lots of PE activities, such as cross country and a mini Olympics, and has close links with Handsworth Grange Community Sports College.
The school is particularly proud of its Haven Nuture Group which helps children who are experiencing social and emotional difficulties.
It was initially set up in 2011 to help a group of youngsters at risk of exclusion and since gone from strength-to-strength.
Each session includes different areas for youngsters to use, which includes a role play area, a sofa area, and the kitchen where pupils are involved in making snacks, setting the table and helping to wash up.
Deputy headteacher Clare Roddis said: “We’ve some fantastic success stories.
“We had a little boy who came to us in nursery that was hitting and biting staff and other children who is now completely different and back in the mainstream classroom.”
She added that youngsters who spend time in the Haven Nuture Group also spend time with their peers in mainstream classes, assemblies and at playtime.
Children are encouraged to make their voices heard in school, help make a difference for their peers and develop their leadership skills as part of the pupil council.
With representatives from each year group, the council fundraises for the school and shares views from all children.
They recently raised £331.38 from a bake sale which was donated to the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity.
Year 6 pupil Ben Risdale said: “This year we would like to improve our play areas outside of school.
“Some people have suggested the idea of a friendship bench so if you are feeling lonely or don’t have anyone to play with them you can sit on a bench and a teacher or another child can come and cheer you up.”
Year 2 pupil Youseph Miah said to become a member of the council, youngsters have to prepare a presentation for their class, who then vote for their favourite candidate.
Each classroom has a fix-it box so pupils can share their ideas with the pupil council.
The school is part of the Crucible Co-operative Learning Trust, along with Athelstan Primary and Brunswick Primary.
Mrs Shaw said the schools work closely together in sharing best practices and training days, while working hard to retain their autonomy.
Youngsters all work together too – the student councils from each school are due to meet soon to share ideas.
“We have still got our autonomy but we want to ensure that our children in our family of schools get the best deal possible,” said Mrs Smith.
“The focus for this half term will see our attendance leaders working together to ensure our policies are the same.
“It’s about teacher and leaders collaborating to make sure get the best opportunities possible.”