“I am strong, I am successful, I am Astrea” – these are words that are uttered in the classrooms and corridors of one of Sheffield’s newest school.
Astrea Academy Sheffield opened its doors to a handful of students last month, but in seven years it will be one of the city’s biggest schools taking children from nursery age up to sixth form.
The school is currently based in the refurbished Grade II-listed former Pye Bank School building, on Andover Street, and is home to nursery-aged children and reception and year seven pupils.
Across the road the new secondary school building is being constructed and is due to open at the start of the next academic year.
An added bonus for the area is that the new building will have a sixth form, which will also open its doors next September, offering pupils the chance to take ‘traditional’ A-levels.
Executive principal Kim Walton said: “We couldn’t have got off to a better start. We are in this euphoria because the children are just phenomenal.”
She added: “I was very conscious that we don’t school children, we educate them.
“We develop the whole child, not just academically.
“If we have done our jobs right then every child will leave here ready for the next stage of their career.”
The current year seven pupils have come from 31 primary schools across Sheffield, so the first few weeks have seen children take part in a lot of social equality work.
“We've had to work hard in the first few weeks about how we promote social equality,” said Miss Walton.
“On the first day we had a whole school assembly with all the staff.
“We made a pledge that ‘I am strong, I am successful, I am Astrea.’
“All the children start off the day saying it.
“You’ll hear them saying it around school.”
But well before the first day of school, the year seven pupils already knew each other despite coming from dozens of different schools.
Teachers, along with Miss Walton, took them away to an activity centre in the Dearne Valley as part of their transition days, in July.
They also went to Sheffield Hallam University to take part in a lecture.
“It was the best thing we ever did,” said Miss Walton.
“When they walked in for the first day in September they already knew each other and so they felt like family.”
Pupils will also have the opportunity to go on a trip to Parliament, to the universities in Oxford and Cambridge and the battlefields in France.
A unique feature is the difference in the school week.
There are six periods in a day and then after-school activities.
But before lessons start at 9am the pupils take part in the ‘morning mile’ and the younger children taking part in reading time with parents.
Miss Walton said she, along with parents, are keen to ensure that pupils get ‘as much educational opportunity’ as possible.
On Wednesday afternoons the ‘normal’ school day finishes after lunch and pupils take part in sports and creative arts ‘electives’
Police cadets, Greentop Circus and children’s literary company, Grim and Co, are all taking sessions.
Other activities children can opt to take part in include football, dance coaching and taekwondo.
Miss Walton said: “The electives change every term so every child gets the chance to do three different ones a year.”
For the year seven pupils, music, drama and PE are on the curriculum alongside subjects like maths and English.
Children also learn Spanish from an early age and will be able to take it through to A levels if they wish and become fluent speakers.
The current building is Grade II listed and so its refurbishment has been carefully done and many original features still remain.
The year seven pupils will move across to the new building once it opens, but for now Miss Walton is happy that everyone is in one place, helping to create a family atmosphere.
The new modern building will feature a range of sports pitches, an ampitheatre, cafeteria area, dance floor with spring board floor, huge library, a dedicated sixth form area, high-tech science labs and two lecture theatres – and bring the overall school site to around 1,000 metres long.
Miss Walton stressed that part of the building would be able to be used by the community and could be closed off and used after-school and at weekends.
“There will be a community entrance to the building,” she said.
“There is quite a bit of dedicated space which will be able to close off so it can be used separately from the school.
“We are a community school and I want the community to be involved in it.”
Despite not having a building until very recently, Miss Walton has become a family face in the community after starting her leadership role in January.
She has held countless open evening and public meetings with parents and local groups and residents.
“I have built up relationships with people,” she said. “It has been hard work but so rewarding.
“I have their trust and I fully trust them.
“What is brilliant about our parents is that if they want to speak to me they know they can.
“I don’t just have passionate parents, I have really supportive ones too.”