School transformed after £180,000 refit at its Doncaster site

Pupils pictured in the new Foundation Stage Unit. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP St Francis Xavier MC 6
Pupils pictured in the new Foundation Stage Unit. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP St Francis Xavier MC 6

This is the smart new face of a Doncaster primary school after a major transformation was put into place.

Staff at St Francis Xavier Primary School in Balby have worked to ring the changes since it was told by Ofsted just over a year ago that it needed to make improvements.

Year three children, pictured in the new classroom. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP St Francis Xavier MC 5

Year three children, pictured in the new classroom. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP St Francis Xavier MC 5

And when it re-opened last month after the summer holidays, the school on Roberts Road boasted major renovations following a £180,000 building programme which saw new classrooms and offices created.

It is not just the building that looks different though. This time last year, the pupils were wearing uniforms based around sweatshirts. Now they have moved to collars and ties.

And the names on the offices and many of the classrooms have altered too. Bernadette Nesbit has moved in as the permanent executive head teacher, and the deputy headteacher, Joe O'Connor, has also arrived within the last year. A number of new teachers have also joined the ranks, following a number of retirements.

The changes have all been brought in since May 2016, when the school was inspected by Ofsted and told it needed to improve.

Mrs Nesbit is splitting her time between Balby and Holy Family Primary School in Stainforth, where she is also the headteacher.

She said the school needed to have changes made, and that is what has happened. She applied for money to improve the building shortly after arriving. It was approved over Easter

"We've not let the grass grow under our feet," she said.

"The school has been refurbished - it has been completely overhauled. We have new books and a new way of teaching maths.

"The uniform has totally changed, and staffing has been restructured, with five new teachers coming in."

The most obvious change to the building is the new section of the building which has been built on what was previously an empty yard, containing a gravel pit.

It now has a new foundation unit for the youngest children in the school. It also contains a new intervention area, which is a room where staff can help pupils with extra needs that they would not be able to do in the full class.

It also included a new classroom for year three pupils.

Another of the school's rooms has been converted to a modern and refurbished year five classroom.

The final piece of the jigsaw is a school library and offices which have been built in an old quad area in the centre of the school.

The new library is decorated with iconic pictures from some of the best known children's books, including Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's Room on the Broom.

Pupils at the school say the new library is one of their favourite rooms, and its construction has coincided with a new set of books. It has skylights to provide natural daylight, as the walls border onto other rooms.

The full building works were completed over an eight-week period, including the summer holidays.

Assistant headteacher Joe O'Connor said: "It has completely transformed the area. I would describe as more like a home for the children now. It has given them a huge lift to have facilities that they previously only dreamed of.

"Their reaction has been incredible. They now have topic classes in the library, where they can look at geography and look at a huge map of the world on the wall."

Maths teaching far East Style

St Francis Xavier Primary School is turning to the Far East for inspiration in improving its maths teaching.

In place of traditional classes is now using a scheme called the Maths Masters approach, which has been brought in from Singapore.

It has been a success at Holy Family Primary School in Stainforth, where executive headteacher Bernadette Nesbit has worked for the last seven years.

She said: "With the Maths Masters approach, everyone is taught at the same time, and those that don't understand something get support or intervention on the same day. It means they get a deeper understanding, and everyone moves on the following day.

"Those who get it have challenges to do during the lesson."

Major role for headteacher

Headteacher Mrs Nesbit was recently awarded National Leader in Education status.

National Leaders in Education use their knowledge and experience to provide additional additional leadership to other schools which are in need of support.

She said the award reflected the hard work and dedication of staff and the whole school.

What Ofsted wants improving:

*Improve teaching so that pupils make consistently good progress

*Improve the effectiveness of leadership and management, including governors

*An external review of governance was to be undertaken in order to assess how this aspect of leadership and management may be improved.

*An external review of the school’s use of money earmarked for disadvantaged children was to be done