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The long and the short of things at St Gregory + audio
IT is a thriving secondary school, with lanky teenagers chattering as they walk between lessons. But now something has changed.
Adding to the general hubbub are the sounds of shrieking, laughter, and noisy, messy play.
St Gregory the Great School, in Cricket Road, Oxford, is the first maintained school in the county to become an all-through school, with a class of 22 four-year-olds joining the school earlier this month.
Older and younger pupils are mixing – with the senior pupils acting as role models for their more junior school colleagues. And teachers say the four-year-olds have already brought fresh energy and enthusiasm to the school.
While not everything has gone smoothly – the school must wait for the lease of the adjacent Cricket Road Centre to be approved before the class can move into its permanent home – the six-strong team running the early years stage is already getting on with the business of educating the school’s newest members.
Executive headteacher John Hussey said he believed the school already felt different since the four-year-olds arrived.
He said: “It’s gorgeous. “There has been a lovely feel across the whole place and I am sure it’s because we have the energy coming from these little ones to inspire us.”
The head already has a wealth of primary school experience. He was executive head at St John Fisher Primary School, in Littlemore, for three years and is now executive headteacher of the six Catholic primary schools in the Dominic Barberi Multi-Academy Company.
In that role he has overseen no fewer than four primary Ofsteds.
Mr Hussey said: “I believe the little ones have given us a renewed drive – we are starting to think what the big picture looks like.
“When they graduate from here it’s another 14 years. What’s the world going to look like then?”
About £3m has been set aside to develop the Cricket Road Centre into a two-form entry primary school, and, if the lease gets Department for Education approval and work goes to plan, the children should move in before Christmas.
It is planned for a nursery to open as well, which could provide wrap-around services for pupils at the school.
Early years manager Hannah Forder-Ball said: “It’s going really well. The school is very good at being inclusive.
“Since we have arrived the staff have been completely supportive. They have really taken an interest in what we are doing and offered support wherever possible.”
That includes design and technology staff making items such as doorstops. Mrs Forder-Ball said: “It’s just little things that have really made a difference and made us feel included in school.
“We are now in the process of really thinking about how we can include the older children so we can gel and really feel part of a through-academy.”
Each week music specialists from the main school will come into the early years section to work with the children, while the youngsters will use the academy’s top-class sports facilities, including the dance studio, each week for PE lessons.
Mrs Forder-Ball said: “We are about to introduce a reading programme with the sixth formers that will be a really managed way for the children to interact with the school as a whole.
“The older children have been really positive to us as our group has gone out to the library or to lunch. They have behaved impeccably and actually set really good examples for these children.
“I have been really proud of how they have been included in the school.”
Not all the children who started at the school chose St Gregory’s.
The group includes pupils whose families wanted a Catholic education but were unable to find places in other Catholic schools, those who had recently arrived in the country and a small number who did not receive places at any of the schools their parents had requested.
Some have older siblings in the school, and the class reflects the ethnic and religious diversity of the rest of the school.
Among the 22 children, nine languages are spoken, and three youngsters joined the school with no knowledge of English.
In the rest of the school there are 85 different languages among pupils and staff, and about 60 different nationalities. The school roll currently stands at 1,250. With up to 60 children joining each year, it could ultimately house 1,800 children.
What the pupils have to say about it
‘School is good. It has good books. I like it. My favourite thing is playing in the office. The worst part is playing with the silly children.’ Livia Hoxha, four
‘My favourite thing is playing in the playground. It’s nice. My favourite thing is the play dough. I like the people.’ Isla Koci, four
‘It’s good. It’s very nice. My favourite thing is playing. We did jumping in the puddles. I have seen the big children and it is strange, but it’s not scary.’ Amira-Jay Pember-Adebowale, four
‘The food is good. I like playing with the cars and on the bikes. I am a bit nervous about the older children. I think when I’m big I will still be at this school too. I like playing with my friends.’ Naden Sutendra, four
‘I like playing with my friend Samuel and I like playing cars with him. It wasn't scary at all coming here.’ Lucas Wellman, four
‘I like playing with cars and my favourite things is playing with toys. I have met some of the big children. It was okay. They were friendly.’ Samuel Bibawi, four
‘I think it’s a great idea because it not only benefits the sixth formers, but benefits the younger pupils as well. We can come and spend time with them and even give the teachers a break sometimes by reading with the kids and playing with them. The school doesn’t really feel different – a bit noisier, but it's a lot better. It’s better to have a more varied age of students around.’ Head boy Lewis Vaughan, 17, from Littlemore ‘
I think it’s really good adding foundation years into our school. We have become more of a community in the fact that we have got these younger years and our older years. We can impact on them because we have already been at their stage, spending time with them, reading with them – it’s just like the cycle of life.’ Head girl Chipego Siamuwele, 17, from Kidlington
Timetable for the early years set
Children arrive on site through the main gates and have a separate access to the early years building.
They are dropped off in class at 8.30am.
Children register and then go into what is known as free flow play.
They will be invited to take part in small group activities, one of which will have a phonics focus, the other of which will link in to the current topic, the great outdoors.
At 10.15am the key groups of eight children will have a group story.
From 10.30am each of the key groups will be able to access free snacks including milk and fruit.
Then another adult-led activity will start, which has a maths focus.
At 11.35am all the children come together for five minutes of quiet reflection.
Children get ready for lunch, and wash their hands, then they are escorted over to the main Gregory’s Restaurant for lunch.
They eat in key groups together. Lunch will always include something, such as salad or bread, which is served at the table.
Children can take as long as they wish eating lunch.
After lunch, from about 12.45pm, is library time, where books taken out from Cowley Library by the class will be shared.
After that there will be free flow play, along with two focus activities, one on fine motor skills. School finishes at 2.45pm, and children are picked up from the classroom by parents or carers.
The rest of the school starts at 8.45am, with lunch at 1.35pm, and school finishes at 3.10pm.
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