School focus: Hatfield Academy

A school is much more than teaching children in classrooms - that's the message from Hatfield Academy where the whole community gets involved all year round.

Wednesday, 25th October 2017, 8:34 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:15 pm
Pupil Angel Lowe programs a robot to move which is part of the school STEM activities

The school, in Shiregreen, has set up HATCH, a community hub, which provides opportunities around nutrition, health and education.

It offers a wide range of events and programmes for not just pupils and their families but the wider community too.

Deanna Hamiltonpicks a book from the reading tree

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Principle Charlie Blencowe said HATCH was set up in response to discovering more about the local community, including the health and education of residents.

"We've done a lot of research into the school's locality," she said.

"We found that it was a travesty what was happening in our local community and unjust and I thought how can my community be in this situation.

"HATCH isn't just for the school, or purely for parents and pupils, it's for everyone.

Isabella Htoo stretches her slime she made as part of the school's STEM activities

"We have one of the biggest footfalls of people walking past the school gates. We do amazing things for children here but this is about the wider community too."

As part of its educational work it is starting to work with TimeBuilders, an initiative which rewards people for volunteering with credits that can be spent on fun and educational activities.

Weekly dance and Zumba sessions are among the host of activities available along with Weight Watchers, a toddler group and an Age Well session for pensioners.

Paula Smith, the school's communication and engagement officer for HATCH, said: "It's a partnership between the community and the school.

Amira Abdilahi and Riley Burditt at the reading display

"The school, community, parents and children can excel.

"It's about going beyond saying 'I'm ok here and I don't want to push myself' and actually going for it."

Plans are being developed to open up the school, part of the Astrea Academy Trust, all year round to encourage more of the community to use it.

Ms Blencowe said: "This is a 52 week-a-year school - we are opening every week.

Karez Hassan feeds the school chickens

The school's Junk Food stall is now open during the school holidays, and plans are developing for community fridges to be installed.

"We have a lovely building and space but for 13 weeks of the year nothing happens here.

"There are lots of organisations looking for space and we have that space. Street food vendors could use our amazing canteen if they want to hold pop-up events."

Despite all the work in the community, pupils education remains at the forefront of the school's priorities.

The school in investing heavily in the STEM, science, technology, engineering and maths, curriculum and has teamed up with The Work-wise Foundation, which aims to raise aspirations and develop understanding in the engineering, manufacturing, technology and related sectors.

Employers such as Cutlers and Keepmoat come into school to work with children. Last year their donated time amounted to almost £70,000.

Deanna Hamiltonpicks a book from the reading tree

Ms Blencowe said: "When we asked children about careers they mentioned football and dancing, which are great careers but there are lots of others too.

"We have a STEM ethos building in Sheffield with the arrival of McLaren and Rolls Royce. These huge companies are coming in and employing people - wouldn't it be great of Sheffield children got full-time jobs with them?

"We approached Work-wise and employers are coming in and developing projects alongside teachers.

"Now when you asked them about aspiration and careers you can talk to them about engineering and things."

STEM activities are also run on Tuesday nights, in conjunction with the University of Sheffield, for pupils and their families.

Year five pupil Karez Hassan, aged nine, said her favourite session was when they made slime from washing up liquid, food colouring and slime.

"It's great and is about bringing families together. We do activities and work together. We talk about what we have done on the way home," she added.

Ten-year-old Isabella Htoo attends the sessions with her parents and siblings.

Ms Blencowe said raising aspiration in girls was something which she wanted to address when she arrived as interim headteacher in January 2015.

The school teamed up with Sheffield High School and last year two Hatfield Academy pupils won scholarships there.

A further three year six girls are due to sit entrance exams next year.

Ms Blencowe said the the school is one of only a handful in the north of England to teach the Core Knowledge curriculum, which is subject based rather than themed.

"I never want children to be on the outside of a conversation," she said.

"For example, if there is a conversation about migration they will have the knowledge to be involved in that conversation.

"All our children learn a range of subjects including PE, Spanish, music, geography and history, as well as reading and writing.

"We also make sure children children have as many experiences as possible beyond school.

"So if they are working on a geography project then there will be a field trip built in."

With increasing pressure on staff in education, Ms Blencowe is keen to ensure staff are looked after.

Yoga sessions are held and earlier this month there was a hypnotherapy session to boost relaxation and stress relief.

The school is also working towards a Wellbeing Award, which promotes the emotional wellbeing and mental health of staff and pupils, which will be incorporated into school policy and lessons.

Staff are also supported and encouraged to continue their education if they wish.

We have several members of the community working here but cannot afford to go back to university," added Mrs Blencowe.

"We started to look at how we can train people on the job. How can we give them a living wage while allowing them to follow their own dreams and aspirations."

,All staff take part in the hobby curriculum, teaching youngsters after school about their hobby.

Isabella Htoo stretches her slime she made as part of the school's STEM activities
Amira Abdilahi and Riley Burditt at the reading display
Karez Hassan feeds the school chickens