Big rise in sports and out of school activities on the cards for Doncaster school pupils

A big rise in sports and out of school activities is on the cards at Doncaster's oldest academy, with a new principal at the helm.

Recently appointed principal Jonathan Winch believes that making sure sports and other out of school activities like dance and arts are available can be a key to making sure youngsters want to be at Trinity Academy, in Thorne, helping boost attendance and raising standards. And it will mean boxing is brought in for some pupils.

Year 12 students l-r Jasmine Wood, Oliver Page, Tharmisha Ramamoorthy and Sarah Roe, all 17. Picture:  Marie Caley

Year 12 students l-r Jasmine Wood, Oliver Page, Tharmisha Ramamoorthy and Sarah Roe, all 17. Picture: Marie Caley

It forms a part of his efforts to raise the school out of its current Ofsted rating of 'requires improvement'.

Mr Winch arrived at the school in February, having been appointed by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, the trust which has been running the school for the last 13 years, when it become Doncaster's first academy.

Prior to his arrival in Thorne, he was executive principal of the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, giving him oversight of educational outcomes across all the trust's schools and supporting its headteachers.

He was was recognised in 2014 as a National Leader of Education.

The foundation took over what was previously Thorne Grammar School after it had been found by Ofsted to have 'serious weaknesses', in 2005. Initial headlines focused on the school's Christian ethos and strict uniform policies. But three years later, it was rated as the most improved academy in England , and was then rated as outstanding by Ofsted in March 2011. Then in 2013 it was put into special measures. Now it is rated as requiring improvement, and Ofsted wants improvements in teaching and attendance.

Mr Winch said: "When Trinity was was first formed, it rapidly became the most improved academy, but it lost its way a bit.

"I've been here 17 weeks and I think its a fantastic school. I've found myself in a community of incredibly dedicated staff who are kind, warm hearted, know the children and will go out of their way to help them."

Top of his list of actions to take after arriving at the school is raising the pupils self belief and aspirations.

"I want to make them know how good the are," he said. "That was the message at my first assembly here, and it's the message that we consistently communicate here. Humility is important too but it is about having an accurate appraisal of themselves, not putting themselves down, and realising how much they can do.

"We recently had Jarvis Parkinson in to talk to the pupils. He is an ex-Trinity pupil who recently won two Commonweath Games silver medals. He was on our stage at our prize giving. He said he didn't want silver, and he was going for gold. He was a great example for the current pupils."

Since taking over, Mr Winch is looking to give teachers freedom to teach in the styles which work to their own strengths, but with accountability for what they do. They will be given extra training and support to help them in that.

He has also asked all staff to run a couple of late session at school each week. That can be a sport, a homework club, or another activity.

A new director of sport has been appointed to start in September, and he is going to build a house system within the school, where groups of pupils will compete against each other within the school, with competitions ending in big finals nights to which parents are invited.

He will also make sure there are more sports teams, so that pupils can play in teams to suit their ability group, at a range of sports, and in dance contests.

He is also looking to add boxing to the list of sports, with appropriate safety safeguards. alongside games like football, rugby, hockey and netball.

"Everyone will be able to play in a team. Participation is so important. Some people think they are not good at sport, but that is often inaccurate. We are also appointing a full time dance teacher.

"I feel out students must have opportunities that encourage discipline and respect for themselves and others, and I think boxing does that for some of them. It has been used on some children who have been at risk of expulsion, with some success. Boxing and rugby have already made a difference to some pupils who we in need. We want to expand it because it has been successful. They can start off on a punchbag, and no one will have to do it. Some will move up to sparring.

"This is all about creating an environment where children can flourish and developing character as a foundation."

It is part of a wider 'enrichment' programme, part of a plan to develop a culture of operating beyond the basic curriculum.

"The advantage is that children will start looking at school as somewhere they enjoy coming to because they are doing things they want to do," said Mr Winch.

The other out of hours activities will include arts such as drama and dance, food, textiles and automotive technology; Christian union; and school subject related groups like science, French and technology.

He added: "We are doing this because it is right, but we think a spin-off may be better attendance. You can punish parents or children, or you can create a vibrant atmosphere where children want to come in."

Youngsters who like the sound of the changes can give it a try - the school currently has space for pupils transfers from other schools.

Building improvements

The school may only be 13 years old - but improvement work is already in the pipeline for the premises and facilities at Trinity.

Work is in the pipeline to carry out improvements to the school gym, with the plan to refresh the equipment which is available in there for pupils to use.

There is also a bid in the pipeline to to refurbish the artificial surface on the schools sports pitches, 13 years after they were first installed.