Mr Atkinson has just taken over as the princal at Astrea Academy Woodfields – and is set to be presiding over a major re-building project at the school later this year.
A former semi-professional footballer, he had been at the school since 2018/19 when he joined as the vice principal with responsibility for behaviour and attitudes. He had previously worked for the Outwood Grange Academies Trust.
He took over following a career change from his predecessor, Jo Cater, at a time when the school is looking towards major changes.
This summer will see work start on a major re-building project at the Weston Road school, which has been run by the Astrea Trust for around two years. Pictures Mr Atkinson showed the Free Press reveal what the buildings will look like.
Plans are now drawn up for the new building, with the designs taking pride of place on Mr Atkinson’s office wall.
Parts of the current building will be demolished, and replaced by state of the art modern facilities. Its fence will also be replaced.
One new building will see new classrooms, a modern dance studeo, a drama studio, and a modern assembly hall. There will also be a new technology building created, which will provide state of the art facilities for science and technology.
Work is now expected to be completed on the new buildings next year.
But some redevelopment work has aleady been carried out. The dining room has been refurbished and modernised. Until recently, staff had to clear the dining furniture out of the way for assemblies. Now the room is now only used as a dining hall, with assemblies taking place in the sports hall until a new hall is built. And a new library has been developed in one of the buildings that will be retained when the new construction work is carried out. It has new carpeting, new lights and new shelving, with new books put in to it, as well as computers for research.
“We’ve not got a firm date for the work to start, but we’re looking at the summer, with completion in 2021,” said Mr Atkinson, a former Doncaster Rovers trainee who went on to play for non-league Ilkeston, before deciding he wanted to teach and heading to university.
“I’m chuffed to bits to be the new principal here,” he said. “We are going to keep pushing the students forward, with a culture of aspiration so they come out of school with a good education and a foundation for whatever they want to do afterwards.”
Astrea took over the school after it had been rated inadequate in all categories other than its sixth form by Ofsted in April 2017.
There is still work to do. Provisional league tables published last October rated Woodfields bottom in the table of Doncaster schools for value added.
But work is in progress to change that, and Mr Atkinson expects the evidence of that to start showing this year.
Mr Atkinson said: “Progress is improving and is starting to get better. That should be seen next year
“We have a red, amber and green process which looks at every single student at the school and allows us to intervene. This helps drive attainment. We brought that in when we arrived, and it is a new process to keep tabs on indidual pupils.
“We are keen to bring it in for pupils earlier too, from key stage three to try to improve progress from there.”
Work has been put in to provide support and help for pupils who needed it. Mr Atkinson says there have been enourmous strides made in raising aspirations and improving behaviour.
“If you haven’t got aspirations and behaviour sorted, it doesn’t matter how good the teacher is in front of them.
“There is still some way to go, but it’s getting better and better.”
One of the next areas they are looking to improve is the sixth form.
At present, the school has a small sixth form dominated by sports courses. It was previously a specialist sports college.
Now it is looking for find a range of wider, niche, courses that will fit in well with the overall picture for sixth forms in Doncaster, rather than offering the same courses that are running in other sixth form colleges.
Associate vice principal Andrew Marshall is looking into the plans for the sixth form.
Next year he is looking at rolling out courses in sports and applied science, childcare, health and social care, sport and exercise science.
He said: “We see this as expanding along a vocational route, with A levels too, perhaps in subjects like psychology and sociology. There are other providers going down other specialist routes. We are looking to double the size of year 12 next year.”
The school is also looking to extend its extra curricular activities. Sports are already in place, and a drama group is also starting work, which is expected to bring back big shows into the school in the future.
“It’s been a while, but with the new hall, I think we will be able to stage some great shows,” he said.
Mr Atkinson is also working to make sure the school is welcoming to non English speaking parents, with a translater employed to work with the Roma Slovak community. “It is a multicultural school now, and it’s important that we address the needs of everyone,” he said.