Are these six schools really the best in Sheffield?
Plus, a chance to see the cathedral in a brand new light
Good evening readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing. It’s a bit later than usual today because Dan is away and I am manning the fort in his absence, but I hope it’s worth the wait. We’ve got lovely snow pics, news of huge flocks of starlings flying en masse and some recommendations for the week ahead, including a spectacular light show.
Our big story today: A few days ago, the Times published their ranking of all the secondary schools in the country and a handful of Sheffield schools fared well, with one even making it into the top 100. But how much do the scores really mean?
Victory lap: We’ve just finished a vintage month — November was our second most successful month of member growth ever, with 127 newbies joining our paid ranks. Lots of the new members joined soon after reading our long read about Kommune and they have been flooding in ever since. A very warm welcome to our new members — we hope to see you at our next event and we hope you enjoy getting to know our vibrant community in the comments. You’ll be getting an extra eight members-only editions from us every month.
🎁 Hunting for a thoughtful, local, sustainable gift for a Sheffield friend? Look no further! For a limited period we are offering 25% off Tribune gift subs so you can give the gift of quality local journalism for just £52.50 a year. It’s a present that gives someone a year of enjoyment — with no planet-destroying plastic wrapping and no need to fight through the crowds at Meadowhall. Just click the link below before the offer runs out.
Catch up and coming up
For our weekend read, Victoria looked into the history of Jews in Sheffield and spoke to those working to keep the small but vibrant religious community alive. (While, of course, not all Jews are religious, we focused mainly on the faith community in this piece.) You can read that article here.
Last week, we sent out two members-only pieces to our more than 1,800 paying subscribers. In the first, Jack Dulhanty — a colleague from our sister paper the Manchester Mill and something of a restaurant expert — went behind the scenes at one of Sheffield’s top restaurants, Tonco. For the second, data wizard Daniel Timms crunched the numbers on who exactly is moving to Sheffield. Read an excerpt from the first piece below.
“A lot of sustainable restaurants,” says Flo, pausing to shimmy her knife through a hulking celeriac until it cracks, then tears, then finally bisects, “aren’t. It’s so hard to make money, you can see why corners are cut.” Supplying any restaurant is difficult in the current climate, but supplying a restaurant with mostly sustainable ingredients and fostering relationships with local growers (a good chunk of Tonco’s ingredients come from organic farmers in the Moss Valley) is another challenge that many restaurateurs would sooner avoid.
Next week we’ll send out two more, including a deep dive into Sheffield’s numerous rivers and an article on the difficulty of donating your body to science. To help fund a new way of doing journalism based on subscriptions rather than clickbait, please subscribe using the button below if you’re not a member already. It costs just £1.34 a week or 23p a day if you pay for 12 months up front (£70).
Patagonia, Tony's Chocolonely and Faith in Nature join line up for Better Business Summit
From today’s sponsor: Following a sellout conference last year, the Better Business Summit is coming back to Manchester in January (Wednesday 17th – Friday 19th). Hundreds of purpose-driven individuals, change-makers, and innovators will be joining the two-day conference on the theme of Radical Utopia – exploring how businesses can be part of building a truly sustainable future. The final day will put words into action, with a choice of nature-based activities.
As well as the big name businesses above, the keynote speakers will include Dr Brett Stainland (slow fashion advocate and ex-Love Island) and Yvonne Cobb (BBC chef, who will be speaking about food waste and demonstrating cooking in British Sign Language). And the best part? Tribune readers can get a 20% discount. Buy your tickets here and use the code TRIBUNE20 at the checkout.
The big picture: Snow in Sheffield
Katie (@sherunssheffield on Instagram) refused to let the cancellation of the Percy Pud 10K put her off this weekend and braved the wintery weather for what must have been a very refreshing run.
This week’s weather ❄️
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say the current cold spell will gradually give way to milder conditions from the south and west, with unsettled conditions favoured for the most part.
Tuesday 🌦 Often rather cloudy with a few showers rattling through, with the best of any brighter conditions later on. Highs of 5°C with an overnight frost.
Wednesday ⛅️ Low pressure exits east but with another winding up to the west. In between, we catch a dry and bright piece of the week, though feeling cold with 3°C the high.
Thursday ☔❄ An unsettled day with rain, perhaps preceded early on by some sleet and snow moving in from the west. Windy with highs improving to 6°C later on.
Friday 🌦 Milder and still breezy from the southwest with unsettled conditions favoured. Showers or longer periods of rain and highs of around 8°C.
Outlook: Staying relatively mild and unsettled into next weekend with further showers or periods of rain across many areas. Brief drier and brighter interludes.
The big story: The Times identifies Sheffield’s ‘top’ schools
Top line: Last week, the Times published its annual ranking of secondary schools in the country. Six Sheffield schools were ranked among the best in the North of England and one school even made it into the top 100 nationally.
The top five: At least according to the Times, these are Sheffield’s best schools:
Sheffield Girls’ GDST is a private girls’ school (as the name suggests) in Broomhill, with fees of £4,995. It is ranked 83rd in the country, having dropped from 70th the year before.
High Storrs School is a mixed comprehensive school in Ecclesall. It is ranked 201st nationally, having risen from 240th last year.
Birkdale School is a mixed private Christian school in Endcliffe Crescent, with fees of around £5,351. It is ranked 208th, after rising from 257th last year.
Silverdale School is a mixed comprehensive school in Bents Green. It is ranked 218th, having dropped from 197th last year.
Tapton School is a mixed comprehensive school in Fulwood. It is ranked 244th, having risen from 285th last year.
King Ecgbert School is a mixed comprehensive school in Dore. It is ranked 320th in the country and was not featured in The Times’ league table last year.
Who was left out? Towards the end of its write-up, the paper notes that where a school doesn’t appear on the league table “it is most likely because it did not respond to our requests for its A-level and GCSE results, and the results could not be found in the public domain”. This is likely the reason behind a startling omission, which features highly in other lists of the city’s best schools: Mercia School (if you’re involved with Mercia or can help with an upcoming story on the school, please get in touch).
A common thread: Plug the schools highly commended by the Times into Google Maps and it becomes immediately obvious that they all have something in common.
The south-west of Sheffield is, as one of our most well-read pieces points out, by far the most well-off corner of the city. While only two of the six schools on the list are fee-paying, the four remaining state schools will draw their pupils from a catchment area that has a far higher average income per household.
What’s in a table? However, parents should be warned to take league tables with a pinch of salt. The Times’ table is largely based on GCSE and A Level results, which don’t paint a full picture of how much added value — to use a horrible business word — the school is offering. These rankings tend to feature a lot of schools in affluent areas where students benefit from private tutoring or come from families who can offer lots of extra support.
What do you make of lists like this? Please let us know in the comments.
The Weekly Whitworth ✍️
Our resident cartoonist James Whitworth with his own inimitable take on the week’s big story.
Our media picks 🎧
Demonstrators outside Sheffield Crown Court 🏛️ A protest formed outside Sheffield Crown Court earlier today, Now Then reports, as part of a national Defend Our Juries campaign. The campaigners say they want to protect the centuries-old principle of 'jury equity', which allows juries in UK courts to acquit defendants according to conscience, irrespective of the directions of the judge. This principle has seen a number of climate activists acquitted of charges stemming from direct action protests but it has received pushback from some judges and Conservative politicians.
Sheffield United set to sack manager 🟥 According to the BBC, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom is set to be sacked within the next day. The Blades, who lost 5-0 at Burnley on Saturday, are bottom of the Premier League after losing 11 of their opening 14 games. Following defeat at Burnley, Heckingbottom criticised the club for making "financial rather than football decisions" by selling key players in the summer following promotion. Former manager Chris Wilder is among the leading contenders to take over.
Are we ready for skyfuls of Starlings? 🪶 Regular Tribune contributor David Bocking has his eyes on the skies right now as we enter into murmuration season. Murmuration is, you may not know, the official term for huge flocks of starlings flying en masse. “I was lucky enough to see one of the Peak District’s most spectacular murmurations ten years ago,” he writes. “They don’t happen every year, and no-one really knows for sure how and why they occur at all.”
Home of the week 🏡
This “stunning and deceptively spacious” end-of-terrace house in Crookes boasts four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s currently on the market with a guide price of £400,000 — find out more here.
Tribune Tips: If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first poll instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
Things to do 📆
Christmas 🎄 Tomorrow evening, a popular annual event returns to Sheffield Cathedral: the Luxmuralis spectacular lightshow. This year, they’ll be opening up the forecourt so everyone passing by can watch starlight projected across the building’s ancient walls. Inside, contemporary light and sound artwork will bring to life stained-glass windows and beautiful paintings, taking you to the heart of the Nativity story.
Write 📝 Tomorrow afternoon, poet and musician Ray Hearne will lead a welcoming and relaxed group for anyone interested in writing at The Bradbury Makers' Shed in Hillsborough Park. “Whether you've been writing your whole life or have never put pen to paper before, come down and enjoy a cuppa and some time with other creative folk.”
Talk 📰 On Wednesday afternoon, join a seminar on “Migration in the Media” to discuss the challenges of shifting the dominant narrative about migrants in the UK. The speakers will include researchers, journalists from The Times and The Guardian and “journalist in exile” Abdalle Mumin. The event will take place 4-6pm and will be followed by a drinks reception.