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 Barnwell Primary Academy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Barnwell Primary Academy
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP
1BARNWELL PRIMARY ACADEMY |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Ashley Emmerson
Everyone can achieve their
Ensuring that every child achieves their full potential,
whatever their ability, is a central goal of Barnwell Primary
Academy in Sunderland. They have received considerable
recognition for their efforts in tackling bullying, especially
homophobic bullying, as well as in promoting physical exercise.
Making sure that the curriculum strikes the right balance
between academic and non-academic skills is, they believe, an
essential part of developing a child’s potential. Headteacher
Ashley Emmerson tells
The Parliamentary Review
their efforts to get a curriculum that’s right for their pupils.
We’re a single-form primary school, operating for those aged between 3 and 11
– that is, from nursery to year 6. The school has roughly 300 children enrolled,
with nine teaching and seven support staff. We also have a children’s centre on
site, which is run by the academy trust and contains day-care provision. We have
achieved an “outstanding” rating from Ofsted for our day-care provision. We
eagerly repeat our motto, which is “Learning together and having fun”.
We’ve received recognition in many areas, not least as an anti-bullying school, as
well as being an especially physically active one with excellent early-years provision.
We’re also proud of our status as a Stonewall school champion.
Forging a path forward
On becoming headteacher in September 2015, I immediately acquainted myself
with the school, its position, its culture and the context within which it is situated.
BARNWELL PRIMARY ACADEMY
»Headteacher: Ashley Emmerson
»Founded in 2014
»Located in: Sunderland
»Type of school: Primary
»Academy converter in 2014
»No. of pupils: 295
»“Good” Ofsted rating (2017)
»“Outstanding” Early Years
Ofsted rating (2016)
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| BARNWELL PRIMARY ACADEMY
One of the main contextual factors to
note is that 14 per cent of our intake
have special educational needs.
For me, it was important that the
school embarked on a holistic
approach – one that ensured our
school raised children who are healthy,
ethical and equipped with useful life
skills for all areas of life. In doing this,
it’s also important that we forge a
strong leadership team who share
these ambitions for the school. One of
the goals we promote the most is that
of ensuring the aptitudes and abilities
of all are catered to and reach their
What’s also important to this endeavour
is the creation of a real community and
developing relationships with home.
Being community oriented in this
way means that we have a breakfast
club, community sports provision
and an afterschool club, and always
seek to keep ourselves as open as
possible to parents. The parents are
always kept up to speed about their
child’s progress and where, if at all,
there are areas of difficulty. Indeed,
we do parent workshops in reading,
phonics and maths, including our
“every child a talker” scheme. If this
connection between school and home
is done properly, it can have untold
benefits for the child’s long-term
Our staff are passionate about
improving the learning and outcomes
of all – and are well qualified to do
so. Understanding children’s interests
and knowing their starting points is a
critical aspect of letting children reach
their full potential, and staff are always
seeking to do just this. An assessment
is used for early intervention in order
to be sure that developmental needs
are met. However, this approach
needs to go beyond just looking for
where help is needed; one must also
give confidence and encouragement
to children when they are performing
well, especially at the early-years stage
– which research shows is vital for
outcomes in the long term.
As good as our provision is, we always
have to keep abreast of funding. At
the moment, we are seeing funding
cuts to schools across the country. In
Sunderland, this is being especially
felt in SEN circles. We are therefore
looking to do everything we can
to combat this. To this end, we are
seeking new initiatives through adult
support and careful timetabling for
adults. Sometimes, we’ll have to use
outside agencies to help with this, but
in any case it’s a challenge we have to
surmount as best we can.
Outdoor learning is key
to achievement in our
Year 4 scientists
‘Learning together and
is the creation
of a real
3BARNWELL PRIMARY ACADEMY |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Although not necessarily a challenge,
developing our curriculum can be
nonetheless challenging. After all, this
is our school’s centre of gravity. It’s the
basis upon which children learn and
develop, and can be the difference
between potential fulfilled and
potential unfulfilled. Knowing this, we
frequently look at the curriculum and
review whether or not it sufficiently
reflects our pupils’ backgrounds and
life experiences. This experiential
aspect of the curriculum is, in fact, a
focus of ours. We want children to
undergo a holistic upbringing that
brings them the sort of experiences
that broaden their horizons and shows
them what opportunities lie in front
of them. In short, we carefully craft
the curriculum in such a way that
it’s both broad and balanced – this
means in practice things like sports,
archaeological digs and engaging
school trips, as well as the core
academic subjects. At Barnwell Primary
Academy, we believe we’ve got this
balance right, but not without a lot of
hard work. There is, however, always
more work to be done.
Going forward, we are working on
making our children more active and
embedding this in the curriculum.
This, we hope, will bring the children
greater wellbeing, both mentally and
physically. Indeed, this general attempt
to improve wellbeing is integral to our
future plans for the school. In addition
to hosting multi-youth games and
more active lunchtimes, we’ve also
become a KidSafe school. This means
we have received training in supporting
children, both physically and mentally.
Among other things, this means we
are taking a very proactive approach
towards tackling bullying, especially
homophobic bullying. We’ve also
done in-house training, which means
that we don’t have to refer children
elsewhere when they’re experiencing
difficulties. For these reasons, we
believe firmly in a bright future for our
school and our children.
At the moment,
we are seeing
funding cuts to
Meet the pupils at
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.