Best Practice Representative

Best Practice Representative | Published November 30 2017

Bure Park Primary School

Bure Park Primary opened in 2000 to serve a new housing development and has been growing steadily ever since. It began with 69 pupils and now has more than 500 pupils and 100 staff and is currently full in most year groups. The first Ofsted in 2001 recorded a Good grade, followed by two Satisfactory judgements. We needed to improve but were determined not to compromise the educational ideals that were so valued by the parents.

Striving to improve a school, whilst maintaining its teaching and learning ethos, is a big ask. This is particularly true when the school is serving a new and developing community which has no well-established roots. It requires careful planning and decisive leadership, having the staff, parents and pupils on board and carefully juggling change without compromising the unique characteristics and traits that have made this into an oversubscribed and popular school.

We have always prided ourselves on our creative, broad and balanced curriculum. We believe in educating the whole child with knowledge and skills that will serve them in life. Our aim is to raise standards by pursuing the topic-based curriculum that engaged our pupils so well. The challenge was to ensure that this went hand-in-hand with the increased rigour and the higher levels of accountability that were required.

One of the first things the senior leaders did was to raise the status of subject co-ordinators. This vital group of professionals were given greater responsibilities which included being more proactive in class, monitoring data and progress and bringing their conclusions to staff and Key Stage meetings.

In this way we began paying greater attention to detail with continuing analysis of groups and individuals in strategic pupil progress meetings between:
 » Class teachers 
» Head and Deputy 
» Inclusion and Pupil Premium Lead Teachers

Expectations of all pupils are high and the pace of lessons also reflects this.

Through their enhanced roles, subject coordinators also pinpointed school training needs and brought in advisory teachers to up-skill staff further in the bid to improve learning. There was a greater focus on lesson observation and work scrutiny which allowed teachers to share their plans with colleagues to improve the achievement of identified pupils and groups of children. Different teaching strategies supported this
Now, subject teams work together effectively using formative assessment and co-ordinating special themed days and events to enrich teaching and learning. The literacy and numeracy teams have been particularly proactive in testing and promoting initiatives such as the new assessment model and the introduction of greater depth across the curriculum. The creation of inclusion, pupil premium, music, art and PE teams has not only raised pupil attainment in these important subjects but also helped succession planning too.
Teaching assistants (TAs) are vital to the success of our school and have become champions for a range of interventions. TAs who are responsible for a particular strategy are sought out by colleagues for advice and training and, where appropriate, lead staff meetings. As support from local authorities shrinks, this approach 
has been successful in making us more focused on the progress of all children.

Raising standards has put pupil learning at the heart of whole-school improvement. Pupils have become more reflective learners as feedback, both written and oral, has improved. Children love knowing where they have been successful and where a little more effort or input is needed, and they react accordingly.

Involving pupils in whole-school decision and policy making is part of our school improvement programme and has undoubtedly contributed to our school’s growing success.

 » Schools councillors, elected by their classmates following their presentation of a manifesto, are involved in discussions on issues such as premises, energy and eco policies, healthy eating and the review of key policies such as antibullying. Occasionally they may undertake some appropriate lesson observations.  
» Our global ambassadors’ council leads the way on international matters and our links with schools overseas and helps to organise events such as Fairtrade Fortnight and our international Family Food evening. 
» House and Sports captains lead initiatives, organise whole school events and hear younger children read, whilst spurring their House on to achieve the House Cup.

We have influenced student voice beyond our own school gates. Bure Park leads Bicester’s children’s town council, which comprises representatives from each school who meet with an agreed annual 
focus. This might be a health-based campaign or an environmental project.

However, our main priority is a broad, balanced and creative curriculum, taught in a vibrant environment. Work on topics always begins with a stimulating and exciting activity, such as asking the pupils to dress up for the day as their favourite animal, turning a classroom into a crime scene or having a Mexican Carnival. The aim is for children to develop a range of skills and abilities that will serve them throughout their education and beyond. Through investigating, researching, collaborating and presenting in all sorts of different ways, children who may struggle in literacy and numeracy come to the fore as leaders or orators, demonstrating their creative skills in a way that raises their self-esteem and confidence. It gives every pupil an opportunity to shine.

Our annual Arts Week, when we invite professional artists to work with pupils and share their expertise, is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the school calendar. At the end of this, the pupils show off their work with an exhibition which is always a joyful occasion and well-attended by families and the wider community. The standard of work is invariably high as we allow teachers – and therefore, pupils – to be as creative as they like, incorporating art, design, music and dance into their work. 

Our hard work is paying off. Bure Park Primary is now a Good school with Outstanding features but the challenge is to sustain the strides we have made with systematic evaluation, reflection and development. Our strong team of staff and governors constantly strive to build on our experience and expertise to provide outstanding learning opportunities for all our pupils.