Doncaster primary school set for place in literary history

There’s Hogwarts, Mallory Towers, and St Trinians.

And now Pheasant Bank Junior School, in Rossington, Doncaster, looks set to join them on the list of the great schools of literature.

Pippa Robinson, Head of Academy, pictured with l-r Shelby Floyd, eight, Alisha Porter, ten, Charlie Proctor, ten and Trystan Bramhald, seven.  Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-11-18-PheasantBank-3

Pippa Robinson, Head of Academy, pictured with l-r Shelby Floyd, eight, Alisha Porter, ten, Charlie Proctor, ten and Trystan Bramhald, seven. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-11-18-PheasantBank-3

It is a boost to the confidence of a school where the teachers have been going out of their way to try to expand its pupils interest in reading.

Pheasant Bank’s prospective enrollment into the literary schools hall of fame follows visit by the famous children’s author, Peter J Murray, originally from Rotherham.

Peter, the creator of the books Bonebreaker, Crushmeister, and the Mokey Joe books, was in the school to give a talk to the pupils.

But when he arrived, he saw wild poppies growing in the grounds – and had an idea for a book set there.

Lily Cox, nine, Bradley Hellewell, nine, Besnik Miftari, ten, Ashton Whittle, ten and Heidi Lily, seven, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-11-18-PheasantBank-2

Lily Cox, nine, Bradley Hellewell, nine, Besnik Miftari, ten, Ashton Whittle, ten and Heidi Lily, seven, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-11-18-PheasantBank-2

Now he has told the school he is working on the novel, and told staff and pupils that it will be set at Pheasant Bank, which will be named in print.

It is understood it will involve references to the Battle of the Somme in 1916, as well as the modern day.

Headteacher Pippa Robinson, believes it is a great boost to school morale at a time which has seen its fortunes improve greatly recently.

This month, Ofsted confirmed that the school, run by Delta Academies Trust since 2011, had been taken out of special measures. Having been described as inadequate at its last inspection, it is now rated as good, with pupils making good progress across the board.

Pheasant Bank Academy children pictured in the new school library. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-11-18-PheasantBank-1

Pheasant Bank Academy children pictured in the new school library. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-11-18-PheasantBank-1

The pupils’ behaviour has improved and attendance is getting better.

Miss Robinson took over at Pheasant Bank in September 2017, arriving from another Delta School, Wainwright, in Nottinghamshire.

At the time, only 30 per cent of pupils were reaching the standards expected by the Government – it meant 70 per cent were leaving unready for secondary school.

Two years on, that has turned around. Now, 66 per cent are at the expected standard in the SATS exams – which is above the average.

Ethan Sables, eight, Lois Richardson, seven, Teagan Borley, seven and Tia Ambler, eight, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-11-18-PheasantBank-7

Ethan Sables, eight, Lois Richardson, seven, Teagan Borley, seven and Tia Ambler, eight, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-13-11-18-PheasantBank-7

A big part of the plan to turn the school around was to get the pupils reading, and develop a love of books – and that is why Miss Robinson is delighted to have the school’s literary claim to fame.

“We’re very excited about it,” said said: “He has promised to come back and bring some of the illustrations with him, and by that time, he should have a title too.

“The children think it is so exciting that it was inspired by coming here, and they love his work.”

Reading is one of the main areas of change at the school over the last few years, but not the only one.

Behaviour has also been turned around.

The school brought in a number of basic principals to reward good behaviour and encourage kindness.

It now has posters on the walls with quotes from famous people. There is Winston Churchill: “Attitude is a small think that makes a big difference.”

There is the Dalai Lama: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

And the new school motto is: “Being the best we can be.”

They have introduced a Kindness Cup. It is won by a pupil each week. Youngsters nominate other pupils who have performed an act of kindness.

Examples in the past have been playing with other youngster who did not have anyone to play with.

There are also books given out as prizes to children with good attendance.

Ofsted noted that the school’s focus on reading was developing an enjoyment of books. All the classes are now named after popular children’s books, with the title chosen by the pupils.

Ofsted have, however, said they need to improve the depth of the science education, and consistently challenge the most able pupils.

Major refurbishment

More than £100,000 has been spent on a refurbishment programme to help turn Pheasant Bank Juniors around.

The most high profile element of the work has been the creation of a new school library in the space previous occupied by one of several school halls.

It had previous been used for PE, but was felt to be underused.

Miss Robinson felt when she arrived that not much work had been done on the central part of the building for a long time.

So a £130,000 investment scheme was carried out, which saw all the classrooms refurbished with new furniture, decoration, and carpets. 

Books are now located in locations around the school, which pupils can take to read.

The new library has had its ceiling raised and has bigger windows than previously, to allow more light. 

A wooden ‘magic reading chair’ has been brought into the room, along with novelty seating, to create a ‘magical’  place to be.

Children chose the design of the library from three proposals.

And artist Bernie Small came into the school to create murals at each end of the room, one of an enchanted forest, and the other of space, depicting planets.

Young voices

Pheasant Bank has now started a choir – and they are set to take part in the annual Young Voices concert in Sheffield for schools in South Yorkshire.

It is one of a number of out-of-class activities now available, along with dancing, drama, and sports.

The school expects to take around 100 pupils to the event, which is held annually at Sheffield Arena.