School focus: Firth Park Academy

Fighting perceptions of what life is like in an inner-city secondary school is one facing many headteachers.

Wednesday, 18th October 2017, 8:56 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 6:59 am
Firth Park Academy pupils Abdul Rehman, George Guy, Nimra Ali and Olivia Gray

Headteacher of Firth Park Academy, Dean Jones, openly admits that the perception of his school, in Shiregreen, isn't a good one. But he stressed it is a far cry from the reality.

To try and show people about the trials and tribulations of life for pupils, the school invited in a film crew in to make a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

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Television cameras filmed in school for a whole term for third series of CBBC's Our School.

The documentary reveals all the fun and challenges for Year 7 pupils during their first year, and has given the school an opportunity to challenge perceptions.

Mr Jones said: "The two things we wanted to do was firstly give more positive opportunities to our Year 7 pupils.

"They got to take part in some great, exciting projects such as a Strictly Come Dancing event, running a pop-up shop in Meadowhall and going on more outdoor trips.

Firth Park Academy pupils Abdul Rehman, George Guy, Nimra Ali and Olivia Gray with headteacher Dean Jones

"The second thing we wanted to do was challenge the perceptions of our school in the community.

"People think our school and the community is one constantly wrapped up by gangs and crime and that couldn't be further from the truth.

"It's a beautifully wonderful and diverse school where students are trying their best.

"There are challenges but there is a team of great staff who are doing their very best for students despite the barriers."

Headteacher Dean Jones with the stars of Our School

For 12-year-old Olivia Gray her first interaction with the camera came at 7am on the most nerve-wracking day - her first day at secondary school.

She said: "They came to my house on the first day at 7am. We had been up since 5am tidying around.

"The camera crew asked me to pack my bag and they filmed it. I must have packed it 10 times."

But Olivia, who is now in Year 8, quickly got used to the cameras, and the new found fame appearing on the show has brought.

Firth Park Academy pupils Abdul Rehman, George Guy, Nimra Ali and Olivia Gray with headteacher Dean Jones

"A year 10 pupil came up to me and gave me a high-five me because I was on the show," she said.

"I was really scared at first because he was Year 10 and was with his mates, but I gave him a high-five and he said it was because I was on the show."

She added: "It's strange watching it now because we have changed so much from last year."

Year 8 pupil George Guy, 12, was surprised to be spotted in Meadowhall.

He said: "I was stood in the queue for KFC with my friend and a woman and her kid waved and said Our School to me.

"It's strange because people who have never seen you before now know your name, which is nice but weird."

Headteacher Dean Jones with the stars of Our School

He added: "The programme does show the school in a really good way and you can see that he crew got a lot of good footage."

Year 8 pupil Nimra Ali, 12, said: "The filming shows people and their interests. For example, Olivia loves learning.

"It shows what people need to do to be like them, and inspires them to be the best they can."

Year 8 student Abdul Rehman, 12, added: "It shows how disverse the school is."

The series feature a trip by some pupils to a Kenyan school community, Memusi, to see for themselves the huge difference UK fundraising has made to the lives of young people.

It also shows students meeting and working with celebrities, including England international rugby union player Ben Foden, Strictly Come Dancing professional Chloe Hewitt, and Great Britain’s Paralympic gold medal winner Claire Cashmore.

Other notable events were a school sleepover, canoeing, and setting up pop-up businesses at Meadowhall.

The school is keen to give pupils as many opportunities as they can during their five years.

There is a host of extra curricular and clubs for every interest imaginable including trampolining and rock climbing.

The school is currently in the process of nominating its new head boy and head girl - with the final four candidates perfecting their manifestos before the upcoming election.

The candidates who did not make the cut have been given the roles of senior prefects and will be mentoring youngsters students.

George said: "We also have a school council. Every form leader who meet every so often with their head of year.

"You can go to them with any issues or things you want improving and they will pass is on.

"We hold class elections to decide on our form representative."

Mr Jones feels the school is now moving in a positive direction.

It has been given a 'good' report from Ofsted inspectors, its first in a decade, and has an above average Progress 8 score, which monitors the progress pupils make from leaving primary school to finishing secondary school.

Mr Jones said the school believes in developing students' characters as well helping them achieve the best exam results.

He added: "The school gets the most Children's University credits, for extra curricular participation, than any other school in Sheffield.

"We believe this is a really positive way character building."