We delve into the ethos behind Bristol’s new academy, including the design process, performing arts provisions and support system for disadvantaged students

Cathedral Schools Trust’s brand new Trinity Academy, designed to meet the increased demand for secondary school places in Bristol, welcomed its very first students last month. We chatted to headteacher Eiron Bailey to find out more about the school, its specialism and ethos.

So why was the Lockleaze area chosen for the new school?

Trinity Academy is designed to meet the pressing need for school places in north Bristol and the site on Romney Avenue will do this. We believe it is beneficial to open the school adjoining the existing Stoke Park Primary School, so we can work with the community and build on the areas of expertise developed effectively at Stoke Park including dance, drama and gymnastics. The decision as to where the new school is built ultimately lies with the Education and Skills Funding Agency who are providing the capital funding alongside CST. They have worked closely with Bristol City Council to plan the location. (The permanent school building will be located on land adjoining Stoke Park, next to the temporary accommodation. Permission was granted in July and building is due to start later in the autumn.) We are immensely grateful to Stoke Park for hosting Trinity Academy during its first two years of opening. We are finding lots of opportunities for joint working across different year groups and shared use of facilities; our aspiration is for this partnership to strengthen when we move to the permanent site. The great advantage is we can really focus on transition from Year 6 to 7 and ensure there is no dip in attainment; an exciting prospect from an educational point of view, which both schools can hugely benefit from.

Why was music chosen as its specialism?

CST Trinity Academy has a music specialist intake with 10% of each cohort being selected through a musical aptitude test. Music is prominent in the curriculum and all students are offered a free instrument and heavily subsidised lessons in the first year. Choirs and ensembles are developed from the ground up and our ambition is for these to lead to the highest quality groups and strong connections with local ensembles. However, it isn’t just about music – Trinity Academy also builds on the excellent work of Stoke Park Primary School with a strong focus on dance and drama. These subjects feature in the KS3 curriculum, engaging students in a challenging scheme of learning, and there is also drama and dance for all, outside of the curriculum, with the goal of developing an elite dance troupe and theatre Company with their own identity and branding.

How will you support disadvantaged students?

Children from disadvantaged families deserve a world-class education, high aspirations, effective support and access to excellent provision – this will be what Trinity Academy provides. The school opened in September with a well-developed pastoral system led by highly qualified staff including form tutors, pastoral leaders and support staff working effectively to support disadvantaged students and their families. A range of measures is in place to ensure there is a specific focus on supporting vulnerable pupils and their families, including expert teaching, advanced pastoral care, treating all students as individuals by assessing need and personalising pathways and never dropping our aspirations and standards. With our first cohort we have also liaised closely with our feeder primary schools to continue family support where required and ensure our work is well coordinated with other support agencies and family services.

What considerations were most important when designing the school?

The design process has been one of the most exciting elements of starting a new school! We visited lots of new-build schools to find out what works and involved subject experts and architects to ensure all spaces are designed to deliver the ambition of the school. Key considerations have been around the look and feel of the design (internal and external); layout and flow of teaching and social spaces.

How will you prepare pupils in terms of career resources?

We have planned a pastoral curriculum with a strong emphasis on developing life skills, character and employability. This will be delivered through tracking character development with a focus on resilience, self direction, self control, resilience and communication. We will also have a programme of visiting speakers, whole days assigned to exploring different careers and pathways, a PSHE curriculum and a focus on literacy and oracy to ensure that our students have access to any pathway they dream of. We know that this fast-changing world doesn’t need gimmicks in education but needs young people with strong character who are able to care for and respect themselves, their communities and their environment. We want our young people to be engaged in lifelong learning and able to show resilience and flexibility. This is at the heart of our school design.

How will the school look to reduce environmental impact?

Care and respect for the environment is a core principle. On the micro level we’re focusing on recycling and avoiding the use of plastic. On a bigger scale, we are using green energy suppliers and have worked hard to encourage our young people to walk, cycle or bus to school. The new building is built to a high environmental specification with solar panels, a mechanical air control system and the most up to date construction techniques to ensure the least environmental impact.

Tell us about your focus on developing ‘the whole child’

We believe that true education is about the whole child; learning in everything they do, in and out of the classroom, to become happy, confident, successful and engaged adults. We articulate this vision by giving our community three foci: head, heart and soul. The head is a place of learning, central to everything we do. Expert teachers deliver an exciting curriculum which enables our students to have a passion for learning and to find success. The heart: a place of respect. Students are taught to respect and care for themselves, their community and environment and we care for them, ensuring students of all abilities achieve their best because they are safe, happy and motivated. A strong emphasis is placed on belonging to the school community. The soul: a place of engagement. Whole child learning happens in and outside of the classroom and at Trinity Academy there is rich offer of co-curricular opportunities including specialist music and performing arts groups and exceptional sport, to help students find their spark and develop a confidence to pursue any further study or employment.

We have implemented an additional ‘session seven’ in the school day where students show engagement in wider school life by attending additional extra-curricular sessions. We have forged strong partnerships with Bristol Rovers and Bristol Bears RFU who are providing sports coaching at the advanced facilities at the new Lockleaze Sports Centre and team sports have been invested in with excellent curricular and co-curricular time. In addition to the provision of music and arts we are working closely with Bristol Plays Music, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Bristol Old Vic and Trinity Laban School of Music and Dance, among other partners.