Multimillion pound plan to revamp Doncaster school site

Year eight pupils pictured in their Maths class at Armthorpe Academy. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 1
Year eight pupils pictured in their Maths class at Armthorpe Academy. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 1

It is a school which has had a tough time of it - but next year youngsters at Armthorpe Academy will really have something to smile about.

Plans are in the pipeline for a multimillion pound new block at the school on Mere Lane, which is set to replace one of its ageing buildings, hopefully next autumn.

Year nine Product Design pupils Bradley Scott and Logan Murray, both 13, pictured in class. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 2

Year nine Product Design pupils Bradley Scott and Logan Murray, both 13, pictured in class. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 2

At present, one of the school's main buildings, dating back to the early 20th century, has a series of problems including a heating system that does not work properly.

But under plans that are now in place, its replacement could be under construction by the end of this year. The school has artists impressions of how it may look, but the design has not yet been finalised.

It is a timely boost for a school which last year hit the headlines as one of a small number in Doncaster which have not been classed as Ofsted as 'good' for 10 years, and closed its sixth form last year as numbers were dwindling.

The school, like many others across the country has had to reduce staff numbers in recent years due to funding cuts. The last sixth formers left last summer.

Ethan McGhee, 14, Liam Thornton, 13 and Mollie Nunns, 13, pictured working on the after school Engineering project. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 4

Ethan McGhee, 14, Liam Thornton, 13 and Mollie Nunns, 13, pictured working on the after school Engineering project. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 4

It was struggling to compete with larger sixth forms, and a new specialist sixth form college at Auckley opened this year. It was decided that with shrinking post-16 classes, the Armthorpe sixth form was being subsidized by other areas of the school, so should close.

But much work is going on to turn things around, with a lot of that based around raising the aspirations of the hundreds of pupils at the school. And 2016 saw a big improvement in GCSE results.

Those who work at the school are excited about the planned new building, although the exact location of where on the school site the new block will be built has yet to be finalised.

It will include a new teaching block, dining room sports hall and changing facilities, and could be open in 2019 or early 2020.

A proposal of what the new building may look like at Armthorpe Academy. Picture: NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 7

A proposal of what the new building may look like at Armthorpe Academy. Picture: NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 7

Principal Andy Peirson said: "This is going to be raising aspirations. I think the Armthorpe community deserves a 21st century school, and that is what it's going to get. At that point we're going to have a fantastic facility that we want the community to be able to access."

The new building is planned to be build for 900 pupils - large enough to cater for an expected wave of new pupils that is likely to arrive following the completion of a number of major housing projects in Armthorpe. The roll is currently around 500.

"It's genuinely an exciting time to be at the school," said Mr Peirson. "There is a momentum here."

The new building is the icing on the cake for the school. It is also working on giving pupils a better insight into the world beyond school, to make sure pupils aim high.

Armthorpe Academy's Brilliant Club, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 6

Armthorpe Academy's Brilliant Club, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Armthorpe Academy MC 6

It has brought in a number of high profile trips which have been aimed that that.

Last year, the school took a trip to America to visit the NASA headquarters. Youngsters who took part got an insight into the cutting edge of science and space exploration.

Another trip took youngsters to Iceland.

The aim is to encourage them to see what they could do in the long term.

To achieve a similar goal, the school has also signed up for a scheme called the Brilliant Club. It is a national organisation that targets year seven and eight pupils, and gives them the opportunity to go out to visit universities, taking part in study projects and writing their own 1,500 dissertation based on the the work they did.

They even have their own graduation ceremony.

This year, pupils did their projects on either the French Revolution or the Ebola Virus. The first time they took part, there were 12 pupils involved, That was scaled up to 24 this year.

The pupils who took part were pleased to have done so.

Jack Green, aged 13, said: "It was good to get the insight into what it is like at university. I did a project on ebola, and whether it was gong to be an infectious pandemic."

Francesca Lambert, aged 13, and Emily Hudson, aged 12, both did their projects on the French Revolution. Francesca said she took a lot from the project, and now knows how to do extended writing. "It's definitely made me want to go to University," she said. Emily said she would love to do something similar again, and said it had made her think about going to university herself.

Football success

It is not just on the academic front that Armthorpe Academy has had plenty to celebrate.

The school football team has been on winning streak that took it to the quarter finals of the English Schools Football Association's Premier League under 16s small schools cup .

Notching results including 7-1 and 6-1 victories, they have been playing their matches at the Armthorpe Welfare football ground.

"It's been great and the pupils have been loving it," said Mr Peirson

Kart project

Youngsters are creating a Mad Mad style buggy at the school as part of an engineering project.

Teacher Steve Hart brought the pupils an old motorbike, and now the pupils have stripped it down to use components as part of a go-kart.

It is expected to be a pedal powered vehicle though - the engine is being used to teach during science lessons.

Youngsters are meeting once a week to carry out the work.