St. Patrick's Academy
Sheffield, UK – Situated in one of the city’s most deprived areas, St. Patrick’s Academy is making a profound impact on its community through its unique culture, goals, and dedication to student welfare. Since its conversion into an academy in 2013, the school has embraced its role as a beacon of hope, catering to a diverse population while addressing the challenges of deprivation.
Central to St. Patrick’s mission is providing support to not just the students, but parents and families alike. The academy recognises the importance of creating a nurturing environment, where everyone feels valued and included. From Mrs McKeown, the head teacher, down to the caretaker, each staff member plays a vital role in fostering a sense of community. The school’s catering team, for instance, goes above and beyond their duties, providing a lending ear to students and creating a welcoming environment that students and teachers can go to in a time of need.
We are the only school in Sheffield and one of very few in the country that give free meals to all children in school.
However, what truly sets St. Patrick’s apart is its commitment to providing free meals to all students, irrespective of their eligibility for existing government-funded meal programmes. By bringing catering services in-house, the school ensures that profits are reinvested into nutritious meals for every child. This approach not only removes the stigma associated with traditional free school meal programmes but also alleviates financial pressure on struggling parents. In addition, it eliminates the fear of children being turned away due to unpaid meal fees, creating a supportive and inclusive environment for all.
With a focus on meeting school food standards and offering healthy options, St. Patrick’s promotes optimal development and concentration among its students. The initiative also addresses the time constraints faced by busy parents who may find it challenging to prepare nutritious meals, further reinforcing the school’s commitment to student well-being whilst supporting their families also.
We firmly believe that no child should be too hungry to learn. There are some parents that, in between three or four jobs, really don't have time to prepare and cook a healthy meal, so offering a free school meal for all provides that support to the parents that need it.
Moreover, the impact of free meals extends beyond physical nourishment. By assuring parents that their children will receive daily meals, St. Patrick’s significantly improves attendance rates. Parents recognise the school as a place where their children’s nutritional needs are met, fostering a sense of security, and reinforcing the importance of regular attendance.
Alongside the provision of free meals, the school operates an early bird club (formerly the breakfast club), which begins at 8am. This spirited club welcomes all students, including those with special educational needs (SEN), who find solace and joy in the vibrant atmosphere. And a curated playlist, with age-appropriate songs, allows students to embrace their inner Elsa or Maui.
In and amongst her role as the Business Manager, Mrs Kathryn Fox also manages the early bird club, liaises with senior members of the school and works closely with the children that need the support. Kathryn explains: “After the early bird club finishes, which has up to 140 students, I then spend my day supporting the needs of the school, from my Business Manager role through to being Safeguarding Lead and helping to regulate children and their behaviour. I’m currently doing the Trauma Informed School Diploma so, I’ll be a Trauma Informed Practitioner from October. Ultimately, a child doesn’t get up and think, oh, I’m going to misbehave today, there’ll be something behind it. So, it’s part of my role to get them back regulated and support them back into class. There’s a lot of variety in my job but I do love it.”
As for the day-to-day operations, St. Patrick’s Academy leverages technology to streamline processes and enhance learning experiences. From electronic signing systems for attendance tracking to incorporating music into the early bird club, technology seamlessly integrates into the fabric of the school. The academy acknowledges the invaluable role technology plays in education but emphasises that it should remain in the background, serving as a facilitator rather than the focal point.
To navigate the complex IT landscape, we’re proud to say that St. Patrick’s Academy partners with AAG. Mrs Fox, the dedicated Business Manager says: “I’m no expert, which is why we need AAG to have our backs on that one. It is great that when I really don’t know how something works, I can just send this over with a note and off AAG go. A big example recently was the Cyber Essentials certificate that we achieved; I wouldn’t know where to start with that. So AAG took that on board and did all the background work for it, they liaised with me, asking me lots of questions about it to help us reach this accreditation. Because in the Keep Children Safe in Education, there’s an update in there that is about online safety and you have to have a recognised cyber security certificate. So now I feel like we are ahead of the game by making sure that we’ve got that, which means it’s really important that we have a company that we can absolutely rely on, trust and go to with anything like that.”
St. Patrick’s Academy continues to make significant strides in its community, driven by its commitment to holistic support, free meals for all, and the integration of technology. By creating an inclusive and caring environment, the academy nurtures its students, enabling them to thrive academically and personally.
I’m no expert, which is why we need AAG to have our backs on that one. It is great that when I really don't know how something works, I can just send this over with a note and off AAG go. A big example recently was the Cyber Essentials certificate that we achieved; I wouldn't know where to start with that. So AAG took that on board and did all the background work for it, they liaised with me, asking me lots of questions about it to help us reach this accreditation. Because in the Keep Children Safe in Education, there's an update in there that is about online safety and you have to have a recognised cyber security certificate. So now I feel like we are ahead of the game by making sure that we've got that, which means it's really important that we have a company that we can absolutely rely on, trust and go to with anything like that.