Education: Challenges and opportunities lie ahead for Bannerdale secondary

An artist's impression of the new school Sheffield Council wants to build on the site of the former Bannerdale Centre. Photo: Bond Bryan Architects
An artist's impression of the new school Sheffield Council wants to build on the site of the former Bannerdale Centre. Photo: Bond Bryan Architects

More than a few teachers in Sheffield have eyed proposals for the city’s new schools and wondered if they fancy a job in one of the new buildings.

Plans for the new £25 million Bannerdale School were unveiled last week and, if approved, the time will soon be upon us when the new staff need recruiting.

Establishing an outstanding school isn’t as easy as some people might make it sound on paper

Bannerdale School will be one of two new Sheffield secondary schools due to open to students in 2018. Details of the second school, for ages three to 18 in Pitsmoor, will be announced in the spring.

It’s an exciting time for education in Sheffield; it’s many years since new schools were built in the city on this scale. These new buildings are desperately needed to cope with the rising numbers of youngsters in the city and the locations have been selected to make sure that kids in Sheffield can go to their local school. But it’s not all milk and cookies. In fact, the building of Bannerdale School is riddled with issues.

The first is the building itself. In a city where there has been some fabulous architecture designed and built over recent years, not least by the university, my first reaction when I saw the artist’s impression of the new school was disappointment.

It just looks too much like a school. When you’re given a clean slate and asked to build a new school, uninspiring brick-built rectangular teaching blocks with uniform windows are just too obvious. Where’s the imagination?

There are also concerns from local residents about traffic along Carterknowle Road, and legitimate worries about flooding if the school and a separate housing project on the site are given the green light. The plans are available for consultation, and it should be of interest to everybody in the city, because this is part of a city-wide education expansion.

There will, I’m sure, be plenty of local objection to the plans. Having a school for 1,200 pupils suddenly spring up in your neighbourhood is bound to get folk grasping for their laptops and writing sets to complain.

But how many of the objections will be from people with children wanting to attend the school? Very few, I’d imagine. There were 25 per cent more Sheffield babies born in 2012 than there were in 2002, meaning an extra 1,000 children a year needing reception places. Piling these little darlings into existing schools by extending their buildings and driving up class sizes is not an option. We need more schools.

There are around 5,500 Year 7 pupils in the city, but in four years this will rise to 6,100. An extra 600 students in Year 7 is the equivalent of 20 extra classes.

Although I feel for the good folk of Carterknowle because the school will come with a range of impacts and may have an effect on some house prices, this is an established educational site in an area of need. There was a school first built here in the 1930s and it has been used for many educational purposes down the decades.

Complaining about a school being built on the site of a former school is a bit like buying a house near a football club in the summer and having a grumble about litter and swearing on match days come the autumn. It was a school first and it may well be a school long after the moaners have moved on.

A much bigger issue is who will run this school. Silverdale have pulled out due to financial concerns and although an academy trust is already lined up for the school in Pitsmoor, the council need to let us all know what the plan is for the management of Bannerdale School. Who will grab hold of the educational potato that some may say was too hot for Silverdale?

But, if all goes well, there will be new students entering Bannerdale School in 2018 and a set of inspirational teachers waiting to greet them. And then the real work can start, because establishing an outstanding school isn’t as easy as some people might make it sound on paper. The bonding of new students and staff, none of whom have worked together before, is a tricky issue to manage and one that has plagued school mergers and new builds elsewhere in the county. But that is an issue to tackle in years to come. For now, let’s comment on the proposals and give the council the feedback they’re after.

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