We’re so proud of the fantastic schools we have in South Yorkshire that we want to commit to celebrating a different school each month. These schools will be labeled as our very own School of the Month and will each have their own featured article!

We’re kicking off our first ever School of the Month with an exceptional Sheffield-based school that is proud to be loud, lively and full of joy – Malin Bridge Primary School.  We managed to pin down the brilliant and very energetic Headteacher of Malin Bridge, Robbie McGrath. Robbie tells us all about his school, the children and the staff in an exclusive interview with the South Yorkshire Teaching Hub.

Q. How would you describe Malin Bridge in one sentence?

“A happy place that is at the heart of the community.”

Q. How would you describe the last year at Malin Bridge?

“It has brought the community together even more than it already was. One of the real positives is that the children, parents, carers and staff have all worked together in a lot of creative ways to try and navigate what has been a challenging time. It’s made parents, staff and children all realise different skills that maybe they didn’t know before. That could be online teaching, delivering work packs and food packs, helping children at home with reading or maths, or even creating silly videos, or, in my case, reading CBeebies bedtime stories to the kids! This last year has really shown the diversity in schools and the range of ways in which schools impact positively on children’s, and their families’, lives.”

Q. What would you say to any prospective applicants about why they should join your school?

“Well, nobody ever leaves our school so there are very rarely any vacancies which is the best sign I can give you! We do look after staff well, which includes their wellbeing, mental health, workload, professional development, and training opportunities. We have a lot of opportunities that branch out wider than just Malin Bridge, meaning there are many progression paths within a wider range of settings.

The curriculum is always being evaluated and kept up to date with the latest research. Everything is neatly sequenced together and thoroughly thought through. We’re well organised which makes our staff feel comfortable and secure with the safety that they can see what the plan is, what the ethos is and where it’s going.

It’s a very happy school. We always have a good, fun atmosphere and there are lots of social things happening.

The kids are absolutely the best selling point though, they are a joy to be around. They are the warmest, most fun-loving children. They also have high aspirations and high standards for what they expect of themselves but also what they expect of the adults who are going to be teaching them.”

Q. Do you have any good examples of CPD or staff development for your school?

“Yes, we’ve actually really developed our staff CPD over the past year with the challenges that Covid has brought. We’ve started to think more about our staff CPD and how it can be bespoke for each individual with common threads running through it. We’ve produced more video-based content so people can come back to look at it and go at their own pace.

We try to make sure that we get the best quality external speakers and Covid has provided a brilliant opportunity to make that happen. Arranging for some of these high-quality speakers previously would have been impossible from a cost point of view. New video content that is available now makes it possible for us.

The other innovative thing we have is our research library. We use lots of our training time and training days to read a book. Then we get together, give our feedback and share what we thought about it. We trust people to take ownership of their own CPD but then signpost them to the best opportunities and resources and make them available to everyone.”

Q. What are you most proud of at Malin Bridge?

“I’m most proud of the atmosphere that the parents, staff and children create day in and day out. If you walk into the school you are lifted and you become the best version of yourself. Whether you’re a member of staff, a child or a parent, it has a positive impact on your day when you are at the school.”

Q. What do school direct trainees get out of a placement with Malin Bridge?

“They get excellent resources and experienced mentors. They’re completely treated as a member of staff and have access to everything our official staff have. We put the trainees in pairs with someone else from the course, so they’re not isolated. The best thing though, they get access to our children which will give them the platform to teach really well. Behavior is excellent and the curriculum is exciting so they’ll get the opportunity to see fantastic teaching in action.”

Q. Have you ever had a trainee who has then gone on to get a job with you?

“Yes, nearly all the recruitments we make are from School Direct students and we’ve had lots of success with that. We currently have seven teachers with us who trained through that route. Three of those have had rapid career progression and were on the senior leadership team (SLT) within five years of teaching.”

Q. During the pandemic, have there been any particular challenges that you have faced?

“When we reopened in June 2020 to some of the year groups, I bought some new speakers and bubble machines so we could have a real nice carnival atmosphere when the kids returned. I had a real nightmare getting hold of more bubble mixture. I’m also struggling to come up with as many good tunes that are current and the kids and parents can enjoy and don’t have explicit lyrics in them, so that’s causing me a real headache at the moment.”


Q. Is there anything you’ve learned from remote learning that you will take back into the classroom?

“Yes, we’ve seen what a fantastic job our parents have done in terms of helping children at home. Some of our children really want to continue learning at home. We’re trying to look at how we can create more retrievable practice opportunities at home. We want to continue using our learning platform, Seesaw, moving forward to share learning at home and learning at school with parents.”

Q. What would you say to anyone who is thinking about training to be a teacher?

“Do it, no day is the same. You’re never going to be looking at the clock. It’s great fun and really rewarding. The pay for NQTs has just been put up and the holidays are great!”

Thank you to Robbie for taking the time to talk to us. The children of Malin Bridge Primary School are incredibly fortunate to have such a positive, energetic headteacher! Malin Bridge well and truly deserve our first School of the Month title!