Oasis Academy Don Valley: Settling into life as a successful through-school 

Three years ago it opened as a nursery and primary school with 54 children and 12 staff on the site of the old Don Valley Stadium.

Fast forward to September 2018 and Oasis Academy Don Valley has 464 pupils on its roll, around 60 staff and has just welcomed its first cohort of secondary school-aged pupils.

The youngest to the oldest pupils at Oasis Academy Don Valley. Picture Scott Merrylees

The youngest to the oldest pupils at Oasis Academy Don Valley. Picture Scott Merrylees

The school has brought much-needed places to the Darnall and Attercliffe communities and in July had its first visit from Ofsted, which saw inspectors give it a ‘good’ judgement.

It is now over-subscribed and staff and pupils are quickly settling into life as a through-school, eventually teaching pupils from nursery age to the end of the GCSEs when it is fully opened.

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Principal James Pape said: “A lot of being a start up and being a new school is wanting to repay the parents who put their trust in the academy.

The first year seven pupils at Oasis Academy Don Valley

The first year seven pupils at Oasis Academy Don Valley

“It is the best feeling to be giving back to the parents who wanted to put their trust in us.

“Many of the original parents put trust in just a vision, but now we are getting a foothold in education in this area.

“Our outcomes are very strong across primary and our Ofsted report shows it to be a successful school.

“One of the things we are most proud of in the Ofsted report was the comments from parents. 

Oasis Academy Don Valley principal James Pape.

Oasis Academy Don Valley principal James Pape.

“We do our upmost for every child wherever they have come from.

“Once you come through the door here you are part of the Oasis Academy Don Valley family.”

All the pupils who attend have access to some of the best facilities around.

The school is situated on the £55 million Olympic Legacy Park and so students have access to a running track and sports pitch.

The first year seven pupils at Oasis Academy Don Valley

The first year seven pupils at Oasis Academy Don Valley

They have had PE lessons at the English Institute of Sport, where they have bumped into boxer Anthony Joshua and Jess Ennis-Hill.

“In theory children can join us at two-years-old, leave at 16, move on to the UTC and then to the research centre,” said Mr Pape.

“They can train for a career without every leaving this site.”

In September the first Year 7 pupils started and have lessons in brand new classrooms, kitted out with the latest technology.

For now they are all learning in close proximity but, as the number of pupils grow, more classrooms will be opened and technology and equipment installed in them.

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Year seven pupils in class

Year seven pupils in class

Mr Pape added: “We have 120 year seven pupils in total – 17 started in the primary phase of the school while just over 100 have come from other schools in the area.

“The biggest challenge we face is that as we grow we make sure that the high expectations we have are maintained.

“The strength of the primary has set a foundation on which we can build a very successful secondary school.”

Mr Pape said that by starting the secondary school phase from scratch, leaders are able to design a curriculum that gets the best out of every child, and in turn will get them the best grades when they are in year 11.

“We are very lucky that we have brought in some very strong staff who are excited to design a curriculum from scratch,” he said.

“If we want the children to get the best grades we work backwards and say to ourselves ‘what does that look like at the end of year seven?’

“We have really fantastic teaching and learning and it is as strong as it can possibly be.

“All children will make strong progress so that when they get to year 11 they have been on that strong journey.”

Year 7 pupil Kasib Ali said being the oldest year group in the school came with added responsibility.

“It’s the best school – it’s so unique,” he said.

“In other schools children have a lot of older pupils around them.

“It is just us year sevens, we have to be the role models. It’s a big responsibility.”

Fellow pupil Faiha Ashrafi added: “We are going to set examples to the younger children.”

Aiyah Asda said she was nervous in September when she started after moving from a nearby primary school.

The year seven pupil added: “It was nerve-wracking because we didn’t know what it was going to be like and what the teachers were going to be like.”

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Mr Pape said the Year 7 pupils are given extra responsibility and have opportunity to thrive as leaders.

“Year 7 pupils have many opportunities to work with the primary school phase,” he said.

“The current cohort have done really well through transition and now we are hoping that they go from strength to strength and develop. There is a real sense of family across the academy.

“The opportunities year seven have across leadership are what older children would normally get, but they have got them here because they are the oldest.

“Opportunities include the chance to lead in the playground.”
 

Year seven pupils Amall Nasser, Ifraah Mohamed, Khadijah Hussain try some bread in a technology class

Year seven pupils Amall Nasser, Ifraah Mohamed, Khadijah Hussain try some bread in a technology class