School focus: Forge Valley School
Chow Mein and Stir Fry were just some of the dishes on the menu for pupils and staff at Forge Valley School as they fully immersed themselves in the Chinese culture.
Joined by members of the Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield, the Year 7 food technology students learnt how to cook the traditional dishes as part of a morning of celebration aimed at promoting different cultures within the school.
The year group were split up throughout the day and had a go at speaking Mandarin – the Chinese language spoken across most of northern and southwestern China – before taking part in defence training and Tai Chi while others learnt calligraphy and had history briefs based on the Shang Dynasty tales.
A number of student volunteers practised cultural performances including the traditional Chinese dragon dance and a song recital, which they showcased in front of their peers, accompanied by music played on a Chinese Zither.
Speaking at the event at Forge Valley, organiser Pat Ward said: “There are more international businesses coming to Sheffield, and into England as a whole.
“The children have been loving the activities and have had great fun learning.
“They were really enthused, and have been focused and engaged with what they are learning. It has been really good.”
The day was supported by the Swire Chinese Language Foundation, after funding was secured to raise awareness of the language and culture through Tapton School – run by the Tapton School Academy Trust.
Tapton – who will be hosting their own celebration event today – has been recognised as a Chinese Language Centre.
And, after a successful event at Tapton last year, the decision was made to introduce the idea to Forge Valley, who are governed by the same trust.
The school in Stannington joined the Tapton family in March 2014, following a turbulent time the year prior in which it was put in special measures by Ofsted inspectors
Since then headteacher Dale Barrowclough said the school has improved significantly, and are fully committed to helping every student achieve their potential.
“We are a thriving school where achievement is now classed as being average according to government statistics across all subjects,” he added.
“Our progress is now average which is a remarkable rise from the very low progress pupils made.
“One of our core principals is that we want pupils from a disadvantaged background to achieve as well as pupils from more fortunate backgrounds.
“We use our pupil premium budget in creative ways to ensure that we are closing the gap for disadvantaged pupils.”
Mr Barrowclough said there is a focus on good attendance and the school is working with parents to ensure children get to attend. There has been a rise in attendance but Mr Barrowclough said there is more that needs to be done.
He said: “That is something that I reach out to parents and say, if they get their children to school on a regular basis I’m putting on the table that they will get good GCSE results and increase their life chances enormously.
“If that is something this school, parents and pupils can do together to change the cycle of underachievement by some of our families and children then I think that is a wonderful thing for the school to do.
“Attendance now for our disadvantaged pupils is rising, but it is still too low and is still below the attendance of our advantaged pupils.
“It is the little things that count, the children getting enough sleep, it has demonstrative impact on their performance the next day at school.”
With the school motto ‘ambition, endeavour, success ’at the forefront, each staff member at Forge Valley supports pupils to become positive and confident learners something which is evident when looking through the youngsters school work in which there is a high standard of presentation.
Mr Barrowclough also spoke of his pride for the school’s services, aimed a supporting children outside of lessons.
"We have a really good pastoral support system in school through heads of year,” he said. “And we have spent a lot of money on our integrated resource and our special needs department.
“We also have mental health professionals working on site and have a counsellor. We also have very robust safeguarding procedures and there is a real sense of a safeguarding culture it is not just a process.”
Sport and fitness plays a key role in life at Forge Valley, offering pupils everything from table tennis and taekwondo, to football and netball.
This is clear when looking through its list of rising sports stars and the number of pupils achieving their bronze Duke of Edinburgh certificate.
And, no matter where in the school the sense of community and family is apparent, shown recently when money was raised to erect a ‘tree of reflection’ statue outside the school in memory of 14-year-old Scott Marsden, a pupil at Forge Valley, and science teacher Lynsey Haycock who both tragically died in the last academic year.