Slideshow: Focus on St John Fisher Catholic High School

With plans to expand its sporting facilities and celebrate the Tour de France with Harrogate’s twin town, St John Fisher is on track to take an athletic stride into 2014.

Plans are now being made by schools and businesses across the district to celebrate when the first two stages of the 2014 Tour pass through the district on July 5 and 6.

St John Fisher Catholic High School Headmaster Paul Jackson talks with pupils in the playground.  (131118M1b)

St John Fisher Catholic High School Headmaster Paul Jackson talks with pupils in the playground. (131118M1b)

Students and staff at the Hookstone Drive school are well ahead in their own plans, but headmaster Paul Jackson confirms the school’s sporting ambitions run deeper.

“St John Fisher Catholic High School is based around the pillars of supporting the local catholic and Christian community, being an academic school, and celebrating its strengths in the arts and sport,” he said.

Students and staff are currently involved in one of the school’s most ambitious projects to date - raising money to be in a position from which they can apply for further funding to build an all weather sport pitch, allowing youngsters at the school, as well as visiting students, to play sport such as football all year round.

They hope to reach a milestone of £100,000 by the end of 2014, and to ride the wave of the Tour de France when it passes through the district in July.

Mr Jackson explained: “We have a target of £100,000, and after we have that we will approach the Football Foundation to work with them.

The pitch is a four year project.

“We will do a sponsored walk and possibly host another ball at the time of the Tour de France to help with this.

“We hope to be close to the target in a year’s time.”

This month, the school received news from Badminton UK that its sports hall is to be transformed into a badminton centre, enabling the school to host regional finals after its grand opening in March.

The headteacher said: “We have a badminton group, and two clubs use the facilities in the evenings.

“They come in every week, but now it will be a badminton centre, which will really raise the profile of the sport and those who play it in the wider community.”

Away from badminton, the school has been represented by a team of cross country runners at national finals for the last nine years.

The headmaster says he and his staff work hard to strike a balance in what the school stands for.

He said: “We are a catholic school, so firstly we are here to support the local catholic and Christian community.

“Then we are an academic school, and we have to be outstanding because families have an expectation of schools in the area.”

In 2013, 95 per cent of students achieved five or more GCSEs at A*-C, with over 89 per cent including Maths and English.

Each student achieved five or more awards graded between A*-C with over 89 per cent including Maths and English. Every student achieved five or more awards graded between A*-G and 42 per cent of the GCSE grades were A*/A.

Mr Jackson said: “We are so very proud of the achievements of all our students, so ably supported by their teachers and parents.

“We have consistently had an improving trend for the last five years.”

The school recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Associated Sixth Form it operates with St Aidan’s CE High School.

Mr Jackson said: “The Associated Sixth Form started of as a pragmatic response to providing post-16 education on this side of the town, and it has grown and grown from there.

“There are now 1,100 students, and they come from outside as well as continuing from St John Fisher and St Aidan’s.

“90 to 95 per cent of students return, and we recruit about 200 from outside.

“Sometimes at 16, students need to go and do something different, and at the sixth form that are able to get used to something new, new people and a new teaching style, as well.”

St John Fisher itself has a total of 1,409 students, encouraged at all levels to get involved in the school’s arts programme, as part of its status as an Arts College.

Mr Jackson explained: “We are writing a new Easter celebration, which will involve around 300 primary schoolchildren from feeder schools across Harrogate.

“This year, the lower school is performing Joseph, and, next week, the higher school will present The Sound of Music.

Recently, the school was recognised with an Artsmark Gold award, a status awarded by Arts Council England, and is nationally recognised as demonstrating excellence in arts and cultural provision.

The headteacher said: “We focus on educating the whole child, but we do regard ourselves as an arts school, and we are are proud of our humanities and sporting programmes.

“Every member of staff is trying to get the balance right between our pillars, but I know we have thriving arts, thriving sport and that means we have a thriving community.”

A school cycling team took part in a 160km cyclo-sportif race through the French pyrenees in September, starting in Harrogate’s twin town of Bagnères de Luchon, which is also set to feature in the 2014 Tour de France.

And, next year, pupils from Lycee Edmond Rostand in Luchon will visit St John Fisher, and the school has plans to organise an exchange for some its own pupils to travel to France.

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Read more:

Revitalising Harrogate’s twinning with Luchon

A level results 2013: St Aidan’s and St John Fisher Associated Sixth Form