The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Aston Tower Community Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Aston Tower Community Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1ASTON TOWER COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Jonathan Moore
Year 5 pupils learning to
grow produce in the school
grounds and cook their
Achieve excellence” is the mission statement of Aston
Tower Community Primary, a two-form-entry school
based in Aston, Birmingham. Headteacher Jonathan
Moore has been at the school since 2005 and in this period has
fostered a desire in staff and pupils to embody such an ethos.
The school also draws students from 35 heritage groups and
aims to embrace diversity through its provision, while promoting
values such as tolerance and respect. Jonathan tells The
Parliamentary Review more about his 14 years at the helm.
Today, Aston Tower is a place of aspiration and achievement, with a particular
strength in the teaching of reading, writing, reading and promoting pupils’
wellbeing. Ofsted inspectors have said that the behaviour of our pupils and the
way we promote their wellbeing is outstanding, while so much of our teaching is
outstanding too. We want our pupils to achieve excellence in all areas of school life
to help them lead successful lives as adults.
Our school draws pupils from many different heritage and faith groups. We are
proud of our differences and the way we live and work togetheras a harmonious
school community.As a community school we are at the heart of the area that we
serve. We are proud of our many local partners who help us make a big difference
to our pupils’ lives. Alongside the parents, we want the very best for our pupils
and for them to achieve the highest standards possible, both academically and
personally. We seek to achieve this vision by holding the values of excellence and
equality, of promoting a commitment to diversity.
ASTON TOWER COMMUNITY
»Headteacher: Jonathan Moore
»Founded in 1972
»Based in Aston, Birmingham
»Type of school: Community
primary and nursery
»No. of students: 460
»No. of staff: 50
Aston Tower Community
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| ASTON TOWER COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL
Rated “good” by Ofsted in our most
recent inspection, the inspector
remarked: “Pupils’ spiritual, moral,
social and cultural development is
excellent. Their outstanding behaviour
and excellent attitude helps them to
learn well and make good progress in
lessons. There has been an outstanding
improvement to pupils’ achievement in
writing.” Our most recent inspection
celebrated the way we have sustained
excellent practice and developed it
further through the long-term effective
partnership with trustees and two
A vision built on values
When I joined the school 14 years
ago, it was clear to me that the
standard of teaching and the level
of aspiration throughout the school
community had to be improved. It was
underperforming and had been rated
as “satisfactory” in its most recent
Ofsted inspection. These difficulties
were largely the result of instability and
staff mobility and this was a cycle I was
keen to address immediately. I started
by building partnerships with senior
staff and gaining their commitment
by clearly laying out my vision for the
school going forward.
A large part of securing the
commitment of teachers, staff and
students was presenting a clear set
of values that they could get behind.
These included diversity, respect,
engagement and understanding. To
help illustrate these in practice we
chose heroes to serve as inspiration.
Today, images of Rosa Parks, Martin
Luther King, Emmeline Pankhurst,
Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai
hang around the school to remind
students of what they can aspire to.
Our community has become more
diverse in my time at the school, but
we have embraced this and behaviour
is now outstanding. Children
understand how heritage differs from
person to person and they engage with
one another in a respectful manner.
They want to learn and they want to
be at school and this is so encouraging
for staff. Again, this is something that
Ofsted recognised in their inspections
of the school.
Reading and writing are the two
areas of the curriculum in which we
truly exceed. This success has resulted
from our embracing of literature and
the way in which we put reading
and storytelling at the centre of our
Mahmood MP about
local issues and learning
Reading for pleasure and
to learn is at the heart of
Tower is a
3ASTON TOWER COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
provision. We have invested heavily
in a range of fiction and non-fiction
books and this has given our pupils
the opportunity to truly immerse
themselves in reading at any time of
the school day. The important skills of
phonics are well taught, along with
development of pupils’ vocabulary.
To build on this success, we completed
our new library development this year.
Pupils can access this during their
breaks, and while we encourage them
to get fresh air and exercise, it is a
fantastic opportunity for them to have
constant access to so many books. We
also use literature in the classroom and
have found that it provides a useful
tool when teaching children about
different genres and styles of writing.
We want them to know when certain
language is suitable and how to utilise
it to the greatest effect and as a result,
we have noticed the clear sense of
voice and passion behind their writing.
As well as our primary school provision,
we have a nursery on site where we
place a great focus on developing
key skills from an early age. Our
deputy head has developed a literacy
and language programme that has
been implemented from nursery level
upwards. With such a diverse intake
of pupils each year, the years spent
in nursery are vital for developing the
language skills, particularly of children
coming from families where English is
not their native tongue.
Finally, we have improved the school
grounds extensively through the
completion of a new classroom block.
This was opened by our local MP
Shabana Mahmood, who was also kind
enough to run a session on democracy
and meet with our school council.
Maintaining our improvement
After 14 years at the school, I am
proud of the progress we have
made but I am unwilling to relax my
approach to improvement. School
funding is an ongoing challenge that
we must continue to contend with,
as without new efficiency measures it
is hard to fund the new programmes
that could drive us forward.
Finally, as an academy school we are
looking into the possibility of becoming
the lead school within a multi-academy
trust. We have a great level of
expertise and a wealth of experience
in taking an underperforming school
forward, so it is just a matter of
finding the right opportunity to share
When I joined
the school 14
years ago, it was
clear to me that
the standard of
the level of
to be improved
Children making an
excellent start and
relationships in the
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
A new Prime Minister, a new Education Secretary and, as we're all painfully aware, a deeply uncertain future. It is in this context that the education service continues to deliver for individuals, communities and of course for our nation.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the education service as a whole, schools, post 16/Further Education, and yes, lifelong learning, needs the most enormous injection of cash. Independent analysis shows that there has been at least an 8% average reduction in the amount of spend per pupil in our schools. Those damaged most by this have been pupils with special educational needs, whose voices are sadly rarely heard. The necessity of urgent action was underlined in July by the report of the all-party House of Commons Select Committee on Education. They could not have been clearer about the need for substantial funding and a long-term 10-year commitment.
At the same time, there are a number of reviews taking place. One of them, in relation to post-16 qualifications, is in danger of a classic mistake by politicians and officials who have little or no understanding of the complex territory they're dealing with. Namely, the ridiculous proposition that BTEC National Diplomas might be set aside because 'T Levels are the gold standard'!
I'm in favour of T Levels, but in the right context and for the right outcome. They are intended to be extremely focused specialist qualifications in defined areas of employment. When and if they eventually take off – there is predicted to be just a thousand students in 2021-22 taking up the qualification – they will not replace the BTEC, which has been the workhorse providing a general and high-quality education for decades. The BTEC has equipped young people for a variety of opportunities in a very changing employment market where the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and changed working practices makes confining the choice of vocational pathways to one narrow focus, frankly ridiculous.
Meanwhile, her Majesty's Opposition continue to throw out titbits which do not give, as yet, a very clear idea of what, if elected, Labour would do in office. What is needed is positive proposals. Abolishing this, that or the other – assessments/tests for those leaving primary school, for instance – is not the same thing as a very forward-looking agenda for radical improvement in standards and equity between those who can and cannot afford additional help for their children.
There are a handful of Labour Party members, supported by some people who ought to know better, who have decided that a full-frontal assault on private education would be a good idea. For those worried about this, stop worrying. A party that put this in its manifesto wouldn't get elected, and if by some fluke it did, it would be challenged in the courts to the point where all the contradictions would be exposed for everyone to see.
Just contemplate one simple fact. 20% of secondary schoolchildren in the borough of Hackney attend private schools! Yes, Hackney. This is because a large number of parents, some of whom scrape the money together, are sending their children to private education in London which happens to be the area of England with the best academic outcomes from state education. What's more, very large numbers (again, particularly in London) pay for private tutors. At the last estimate 40% of parents in London had at some point over the last year paid for a tutor for their child!
Perhaps therefore an opposition party, hoping to provide unity rather than division, opportunity for all rather than a futile class battle against educational privilege, would seek ways of ensuring that those who can't afford tutors have the kind of support outside school that would put them on equal terms.
One thing is very certain, no government would be able to stop parents buying additional tutoring for their children.
So, a practical agenda for equalising opportunity, for investing where it's needed most, for transforming the pipeline from school through college, apprenticeships, or university, is a goal worth fighting for. A positive way of linking business and education through political decision-making, with the delivery by excellent professionals in the education service, to the children of today and the economy of tomorrow. Surely that is a much more progressive and less negative way forward for both government and opposition.