How a Doncaster school has been transformed from special measures into one of best in the borough

They’ve come a long way at Hill Top Primary School, in Edlington.

By David Kessen
Monday, 03 June, 2019, 08:27

Back back to 2002, the school had problems. It had been put in special measures by Ofsted, after inspectors reported it was failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education.

Within two years, things were starting to change. In 2004 it was taken out of special measures. By 2007 it was good, and in 2011, it was rated as outstanding.

Year five pupils Pietro De Cono and Harry Boothman, both nine, pictured. Picture: NDFP-09-04-19-HilltopAcademy-8

Last year saw it rated as one of the best schools in Doncaster, with 88 per cent of its pupils of pupils meeting expected standard, the second highest figure in the borough.

It was a boost for a school which has been an academy for nearly two years, since it was decided that the schools leadership should play a role in transforming neighbouring Victoria Primary School, also in Edlington.

Current headteacher, Rachel Mcleod, has been there for most of that time, and was previously deputy to Beryce Nixon, the previous headteacher who is now the chief executive of the trust Excel Schools Trust, which now runs Hill Top, Victoria, Carr Lodge and Sandringham primary schools in Doncaster.

As part of International week each year is celebrating and learning about a different country and its cultures. Year five are learning about Poland. Pictured by some of the work they have produced are l-r Nicole Walker, ten, Oliwia Basta, ten, James Tetley, nine, Szymon Bojar, ten, Hannah Smith, ten and Leo Copper, nine. Picture: NDFP-09-04-19-HilltopAcademy-4

The trust was set up in April 2017.

Mrs Mcleod said: “We were outstanding according to Ofsted at the time, and had been for some time. Victoria primary had been in special measures, and our school was advising.”

It was decided that the best way to continue the schools involvement with Victoria was to create an academy trust. But it was felt that should retain local leadership, rather then be part of a broader trust.

“At Hill Top, we’e had a really clear leadership structure. I was deputy fore a long time since coming ihere in 2006, and have been head of school since 2015. I was clear about the vision and how we wanted to achieve it

Oliver Mountford, seven and Tyler Shaw, eight, pictured, working on portraits of each other which they are producing in the style of Modigliani. Picture: NDFP-09-04-19-HilltopAcademy-7

“We have been significantly above the national average for some years. When the new curriculum come out we had to work to get a greater depth. We had to do a lot of work on vocabulary, with words that come through experience. For instance we recently read something with the year six pupils about the London sewers. The passage talked about the London Underground. A lot of our pupils have not been to London and don’t know about the underground."

The school runs a lot of activities out of lessons to help with such issues.

For instance, the school takes all pupils from year one and above to a pantomime each Christmas, and has done for the last nine years, and they try to give them as many experiences out of school as possible.

They have a very active music department and choir. They took 30 children to the Mansion House to sing recently, and impressed to the extent that they have now been asked to perform at Doncaster Minster in June.

Macie Fowler and Faith Humble, both five, pictured with some of their creative learning, inspired from hatching the Chicks. Picture: NDFP-09-04-19-HilltopAcademy-3

There are a number of after school clubs run by teachers, giving pupils the chance to find out about science, guitar, athletics.

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The athletics has proved successful recently, to the extend a team from the school won the South Yorkshire indoor championships for year five and six pupils, when the finals were held at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

The trophy now stands in pride of place in a trophy cabinet in reception, alongside other locals items including the last piece of coal to have been mined at the former Yorkshire Main colliery before it closed in 1986 – a small memorial to the industrial heritage of the area.

The athletics club train at the Keepmoat Stadium.

“It has built self esteem and confidence of pupils, and that has helped them in other areas,” said Mrs Mcleod.

The latest project at the school has been international week. Each class is looking at a country to learn about its culture, heritage and food and religion.

Adam Papp and Jayden Boyer, both eight, pictured, working on portraits of each other which they are producing in the style of Modigliani. Picture: NDFP-09-04-19-HilltopAcademy-6

It is all part of work to widen pupils horizons.

Year five pupils have been looking at Poland, a choice influenced by two members of the year being from Poland. with help from one of the mums, they are learning a Polish dance, and sampling Polish cooking.

Year Six have been looking at the Caribbean, learning about areas including tourism, limbo dancing and Bob Marley. Other counties which have been studied have included Germany, Spain and India.

The efforts to bring in extra experiences will also see a mobile plantetarium coming to the school during the summer, which will be set up in the school hall.

And a dozen pupils recently took part in a project with Leeds University which saw them visit the university and have lessons in science, maths and technology subjects from experts.

It will end with the jointly writing a 1,000 word report on their work.

Mrs Macleod feel the school has transformed.

She said: “Twenty years ago parental engagement and achievement was low. The last 15 years have transformed things and the school is now seen as a hub of the community.. We feel we’ve now got over 400 pupils and good parental engagement.

"Sometimes we’re event a source of support for parents, and we have a lot who come and help as volunteers.

Boilers to be fixed

Hill Top is set to finally see its troublesome boilers fixed.

The school has had confirmation from the Department for Education that it will get funding for new boilers to replace ones that have been in need or replacement.

Gracie Ambler, five, pictured, with one of the baby Chicks the foundation unit has hatched. Picture: NDFP-09-04-19-HilltopAcademy-2