Behind the scenes at St Pius X in Preston
PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 November 2017
Modern teaching and traditional values are at the heart of this independent Preston school
ALL heads think their school is special, but Helen Porter and the team at St Pius X have the trophy to prove it. Just over a year ago, four pupils from the school, in Fulwood, Preston, won through to the final of Top Class, a nationwide televised competition on CBBC to find the country’s brightest youngsters. Happily, the St Pius children walked away as convincing winners.
It was no fluke. This was simply a reflection of the impressive academic record. In 2017 they had outstanding Key Stage examination results with 95 per cent of children achieving the national standard. Fourteen children passed the 11+ grammar school entrance this year and 100 per cent of youngsters passed the entrance exams to the independent school of their choice. By any yardstick, the children of St Pius are getting well educated. But there is more to this friendly independent Catholic school than books and learning. ‘I’ve been teaching here for 17 years and it is a pleasure and a joy teaching at St Pius,’ said acting headteacher Helen Porter. ‘It’s a happy, caring and nurturing environment for both our children and our staff.’
The school takes children aged between two and four at the Oak House Nursery and they then move into the main school until they are 11. ‘This allows for a really smooth transition through to the main school,’ Mrs Porter added. ‘It’s seamless and we are one big family. There’s a true community atmosphere at our school.’
Oak House Nursery has an attractive setting and operates independently while sharing the main school’s excellent facilities. There are five light and spacious rooms, and all are well equipped with a variety of learning resources, providing space for exploration, investigation and creativity. All classrooms have free access to the outdoors, where children can learn in a natural environment.
The infants’ department has small class sizes and this means lots of individual attention while the staff teaching the juniors aim to maximise each child’s potential and focus on academic excellence to deliver results that match abilities.
The school has just over 200 pupils in the three divisions and the catchment area extends to places such as Adlington, Chorley and Lancaster. One of the reasons for this is a school bus scheme which has proved so popular with parents that plans to extend the service are under consideration.
While the school has a modern outlook, traditional values are very much at the fore. ‘This is something we pride ourselves on,’ said Mrs Porter. ‘Good old fashioned manners, politeness and good conduct. Our children hold doors open for adults and are encouraged to treat everyone with courtesy. The exemplary behaviour of our children is something that is always commented upon by people who come into contact with the them.’
Respect for others is also instilled in pupils. ‘We are a Catholic school and gospel values are at the core of our teaching. However, our school embraces children from all faiths, we teach respect for all and celebrate each others similarities and differences.’
Sport is also an important part of the St Pius way of life with a keen staff involving the children in a wide range of activities such as gymnastics, cricket, football, netball, rounders, tennis, swimming, hockey, and track events. There is even a ski club.
The older children take part in a sporting tour each year playing against teams from independent schools in the north east of England. Swimming is a hot topic at St Pius thanks to pupil Mark Tompsett, who has shown remarkable promise as national IAPS (Independent Association of Prep Schools) 25m U-10 champion. The creative arts also play their part with dance, music, singing and acting.
Each year children are involved in an annual show, and this year the children will also be performing in a show at Preston Guildhall. The school choir sings Christmas carols at Preston railway station to raise money for charity and often visit local nursing homes to perform for residents.
Helping others and charity is a key activity at St Pius. The school council is busy raising money to buy a Community Public Access Defibrillator box which can be used to aid members of the public and give the best chance of survival for a patient who is suffering from cardiac arrest. Over the last eight years pupils have been helping to support Bharabhuri School in Nepal, raising money that, among other things, pays the wages of a teacher. That help is now more important than ever as the school and the community rebuilds following the recent earthquake.