School proposal for Doncaster's old central library building

It is already the biggest school-based sixth form in Doncaster.

By David Kessen
Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 4:38 pm
Amy Bailey, 15, pictured, during a Science lesson. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-17-09-19-HallCross-1
Amy Bailey, 15, pictured, during a Science lesson. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-17-09-19-HallCross-1

But the 500-strong faciilty at Hall Cross School could get even bigger under plans to create more post-16 education places in Doncaster town centre.

Leaders at the school are currently holding development talks with other education organisations and Doncaster Council officials which could result in more students coming into the town centre to learn.

Hall Cross would be expanded alongside other organisations such as the planned University Technology College, at Waterdale, and Doncaster College at the Waterfront. Doncaster Royal Infirmary, which already has a partnership with Hall Cross, is also involved in talks

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Deputy Head Boy Ewan Murgatroyd, 18, Rebecca Wilson, 17, Sheheryaar Baber, 17, Head Boy and Rubie Brown, 18, Deputy Head Girl, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-17-09-19-HallCross-9

Plans are at an early stage but one suggestion has been that Hall Cross moves its performing arts courses out into another town centre site in the borough, with space in the current Doncaster library mentioned as a possibility.

The school’s new principal Simon Swain supports the plans.

Mr Swain took over this term, replacing Pippa Dodgson, who was in charge for the previous 11 years.

He knows the school inside out having been on the staff there since 1992.

Jodie Davies, 17, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-17-09-19-HallCross-8

The sixth form plans come at a time when a number in the borough have closed or merged and shortly after the opening of a new sixth form college, New College Doncaster, in Auckley.

Mr Swain said: “We are looking to expand the sixth form. We are currently the biggest school-based sixth form in the borough. We’re offering an academic route from sixth form to university. We are also working with Doncaster College, who are better geared up to offer level two and three vocational qualifications.

“At the moment, the sixth form here offers over 30 courses, catering for over 500 students.

“We are looking to expand some of sixth form provision and in talks with Doncaster council about potential occupancy of the library and, or, the museum, with a view being in involved in the cultural revolution in the town centre.

L-r Harry Sadozi, Amy Bailey, Jacob Walsh and Katie Wells, all 15, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-17-09-19-HallCross-4

“In the long term the plan would be to have improved transport with better links so no one in Doncaster was more than 15 minutes away from the town centre.

“My mantra is to improve the deal and quality of education for students in Doncaster. I think students need a good variety of courses and a wide range of peers with different backgrounds and aspiration, and I think we can provide that.

“We’re looking at building on our success with the sixth form, working with other post-16 providers in the town centre to create a Doncaster central sixth form with Hall Cross being the A-level provision whilst combining with other centres to offer a broader and more dynamic curriculum which will cater for all students all post-16 learners.”

Hall Cross spans the decades – with the oldest building on its town centre site dating back to Victorian times, built in the 1860s. It had an Art Deco style building added to the site early in the 20th century and a third, more modern, building was added in recent times.

Pictured in the ICT suite are l-r Taylor Foulston, Arda Boran and Thomas Holvey, all 14. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-17-09-19-HallCross-3

The other part of its split site location is a former middle school in Bessacarr, which it took over in the 1990s.

Mr Swain initially started at the school as an economics teacher and until last year was its vice principal.

He has seen major changes over that period, including the school taking over the former Bessscarr Middle School site in 1997.

Mr Swain said the school prides itself in developing its curriculum and the quality of teaching to suit the needs of pupils and the culture of the school was one where staff recognised the most important people were the pupils.

The school places equal importance on sports for both boys and girls, and the arts, as well as core subjects such as English, maths and science.

Most weeks there is at least one arts event going on in the school, whether that be a music or dance performance. They put on a big show each year, with Sister Act due to be the main one this year, from March 3 to March 5.

And the school has links with the Cast theatre, with pupils going there every Wednesday to perform on one of its stages.

But Mr Swain believes there is still room for improvement and says he is looking to improve the culture of accountability among staff, which he feels will help drive improvement in some of the subjects.

For instance, the school currently has outstanding maths results and he is keen to move English results to a similar level.

He also wants to improve facilities at the school – and work on that side of things in already ongoing.

This year has seen a new floor installed in the lower school sports hall, while a new fitness suite has been brought in at the upper school.

All the toilet facilities have been refurbished and the school is developing a new, larger, canteen on its lower school site in Bessacarr.

It has also recently reached an agreement with Doncaster Hockey Club which will allow its pupils to use its new £1 million 4G artifical sports pitch

Mr Swain believes the school has much to be proud about at present.

He said: “We had pupils winning awards in a young fashion designers competition and pupils were finalists in the Specialist Craft Competition with Jennifer Collier.

“We had 21 students recording all A*s or As at A-level, and 20 per cent of our A-level passes were at grade A* or A, and we had 25 per cent of pupils going to Russell Group Universities.

“The GCSE results this year were the best we’ve ever had and we expect the progress eight figure to be significantly above the national average.”

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