Feature: Inside Barking’s newest secondary school
13:14 22 September 2016
Imagine a secondary school with 100 pupils and just seven teachers.
No, it’s not a school in a quiet little village but a comprehensive in Barking.
Nestled in the heart of one of the borough’s busiest council estates, Greatfields became the borough’s newest school when it opened a fortnight ago.
Temporarily cohabiting with Gascoigne Primary in its newest building in The Shaftesburys, the secondary school will move into its own building in King Edward’s Road next year.
Alongside the seven full-time subject teachers, the staff roster includes a headteacher, teaching assistant, learning mentor, business manager, administration assistant and trainee maths teacher.
The free school is run by the Partnership Learning Trust, the group behind Riverside, Sydney Russell, Eastbury Primary and Thames View Junior schools.
Around half the pupils come from Gascoigne Primary, with 15 per cent each from Northbury and Ripple schools.
“It’s a chance for them to really put their mark on the school,” headteacher Richard Paul, who formerly worked as deputy headteacher at Riverside in Thames Road, Barking, said.
“They’re the pupils that future year groups will look up to.
"I want our students to have ambitious goals and to believe that they can achieve them, whatever they may be"
“We’re a Gascoigne estate school so we’ll be very much fed by Gascoigne Primary and being in the same building this year really helps us develop that partnership, working with the staff and getting to know Year 6.
“This school is for the Gascoigne community so I’d like to see students from the Gascoigne estate coming here.
Richard – who also spent seven years at Robert Clack, in Green Lane, Dagenham, where he taught history – said parents have been supportive of the new school.
“It takes a leap of faith to send your children to a school which at the time doesn’t exist but now we’re up and running and people know who we are,” he said.
Kamile Vaitkute, of Somerby Road, Barking, likes the independence and maturity that comes with secondary school.
“I like the way the teachers teach,” the 11-year-old said. “They are all really approachable and normal.
“The building’s really cool and it’s a real pleasure to be in each classroom.
“It’s a nice calm environment, which I like.”
Muhammad Mashjid-ul-Haque, of North Street, Barking, also prefers Greatfields to primary school.
“I’m learning a lot here,” the 11-year-old said. “The teachers are much better than the other schools I’ve been at, I really enjoy it.
“My favourite bit’s the roof though, it’s really nice to be able to play with that view.”
Greatfields will take another 100 pupils next year, 120 the year after and eventually become a 10-form entry, or 300-pupil, school, with the number of staff set to treble over the next three years.
“This year I want to embed the positive, calm environment we have been working towards,” Richard, 36, explained.
“I want our students to have ambitious goals and for them to see them through and make them believe that they can achieve those goals, whatever they may be.”
The building share with Gascoigne is only a temporary measure though, with Greatfields due to move into a new building next year.
The secondary school will boast 18 times its current number of pupils when it reaches full capacity of 1,840 over the next decade.
The vast majority of these, 1,500, will be made up of Years 7 to 11 but an additional 320 pupils will make up the sixth form.
The school will also have facilities for 20 special educational needs (SEN) students.
Plans submitted to the council earlier this month would see a 2,390sq m two-storey teaching block to accommodate the 18 classrooms needed for next year’s 120 Year 7 intake.
A 40-space car park and a full size all-weather pitch will also be built while a single coach and four car drop-off spaces will be available outside.
The plans are part of the wider Gascoigne estate renewal programme, which also includes an extra three-form expansion to the primary school and a 1,400sq m community centre alongside 1,500 new homes.
For more information, visit greatfieldsschool.com