School focus: Hunters Bar Infant School
Caring for the environment is something the pupils at Hunters Bar Infant School feel strongly about.
Whether it be turning off the lights when not in use, or making sure to recycle, the youngsters are doing all they can to improve the world we live in one step at a time.
Throughout every aspect of their school day there is an awareness of sustainability, with timetabled lessons in the on-site garden which features a greenhouse where pupils are taught how to grow their own vegetables and a ladybird hotel for wildlife.
They also recently won a bronze award from Modeshift STARS, for demonstrating excellence in supporting cycling, walking and other forms of sustainable travel.
Despite having limited outdoor space, headteacher Catherine Carr ensures each year group is given the opportunity to experience the environment through regular visits to nearby Endcliffe Park, using the school’s location to their advantage.
However, she said the school’s eco-values are mainly driven by the children and could not be achieved without the support of parents.
“They wanted to improve the environment in school, and we've just gone from strength to strength with that to the point where we’ve now got solar panels on the roof,” she said.
“Parents are a big part of this as well. When we talk about being diverse, not only are our children diverse but our parents are as well. They bring so many skills to school and are incredibly supportive.
“They helped us to raise funds to put the solar panels on the roof, and that gives every year now. We get something back from that where every year we save money, but it’s also a fantastic thing for the pupils to see.”
Every parent or carer of a child at Hunters Bar Infants is part of the Home School Association, which seeks to strengthen the links between home and school life.
They raised £10,000, along with staff and children themselves, as part of the Big Green Challenge, which aims to support a green playground by planting a wall of vegetation to reduce pollution and improve health and well being.
Showing a commitment to finding a sustainable solution to the air quality challenge faced by inner-city schools, they are currently working with experts at the University of Sheffield to take part in a study to monitor the air quality in the playground until July this year.
After this, plant scientists will suggest the best species of vegetation based on findings to improve air quality for the children, which will be purchased with the money raised.
Very much part of the Sharrow community, the school enjoys close connections with nearby shop owners and the junior school next door who often send older ‘play leaders’ to work with the younger children.
And they connect with others across the globe, winning an international schools award for their links with a school in Ethiopia with whom they sent uniform, football kit and shoes.
The Sheffield pupils also created clean water and malaria awareness posters, which were sent over to Ethiopia as part of a wider city project with the NHS and through their work with eco-schools, they have forged a brand new link with school in Finland.
Music plays a big part in school life, with guitar lessons, a choir which is about to run again and a Year 1 violin orchestra who will be appearing in a concert at the Octagon Centre in March.
Mrs Carr said one of the foundations at school is reading.
“That is our huge focus as a school,” she said. “We ask for parents to read with children, we’ve got a big reading challenge award that we do if they attain 60 reads over a period of time that is acknowledged in our celebration assembly on a Friday.
“To go alongside that we have extreme reading, where children take photographs of themselves reading in a very unusual situation but we always say safety first. We even had one child who got a broken leg and we got a photograph from the ambulance.”
Children also participate in ‘drop everything and read’ in which, when a bell is sounded, they must stop everything they are doing and start reading a book to gain a sticker.
Every year group is also given the opportunity to hone their computing skills to prepare them for the technologically-led future, something Mrs Carr said the school are very proud of.
“We feel the children make accelerated progress and they go very far,” she said. “They leave us really skilled, for example they do green screen animations and coding.
“We’ve got a dedicated suite and we’ve invested in our technology with iPads and that is another real strength of the school.
“The other thing that is key is online safety because of that and that is also central to everything that we do in computing.
“We really raise awareness of that even at this young age because children do have access so it is important.”