Beacon Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Beacon Primary School's best practice article

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 Beacon Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Headteacher Paul Drew
Beacon choir reaching for
the stars
Beacon Primary School has seen a dramatic change since
the appointment of the current headteacher in 2014.
Having been designated “requires improvement” by
Ofsted in 2013, they have overhauled their school building
and adapted the curriculum to ensure that it engages and
stimulates their students. Headteacher Paul Drew arrived at
the school in 2014 when they were 19 per cent below the
national average for reading, writing and maths combined;
they are now 22 per cent above. Key to this change has
been a focus on a thematic method of teaching, something
that stretches from the classroom to the unique design of
the school. Paul tells
TheParliamentary Review
about how
this transformation has been achieved and their hopes for
I became headteacher five years ago, taking this position at a difficult time for the
school. We were a 1.5-form entry, with around 278 pupils, and had failed Ofsted
inspections. Since then, I have overseen a dramatic overhaul of the entire school:
from the building itself through to the curriculum. We are now a unique school:
a school where magic happens and children live a daily life of awe and wonder
where every door leads to another magical experience. The school is now entirely
themed, with each area uniquely designed. We have a fully functioning park inside
the school, a French bistro upstairs and a radio station running three times a week,
completely under the control of the students.
»Headteacher: Paul Drew
»Founded in 1953
»Location: Willenhall, Walsall
»Type of school: Primary
»No. of pupils: 497
Beacon Primary
Highlighting best practice
We have seen a dramatic rise in pupil
results, with the school being ranked
number one for progress in the local
authority. Personally, in 2018, I was
awarded the Silver Award for the
Pearson Headteacher of the Year in a
Primary School.
Supplementing our thematic
I became headteacher 12 months
before the 2014 curriculum had
fully launched, and we embraced
a thematic approach. This helps to
link all of our teaching and means
that the children receive a rounded
lesson. We also embed creativity and
the arts in our curriculum as much as
possible. We have used a voice coach,
who is LAMDA trained, who helps
our students with their pronunciation
and the confidence required to speak
publicly. As we are situated in a heavily
deprived area, with six per cent of
our students having English as an
additional language and 61 per cent
entitled to pupil premium, this is a
vital part of our teaching. The effects
of this curriculum change have been
dramatic: not just in terms of results,
or core subjects, but also in the general
enjoyment of learning. This form of
discrete teaching allows the children
to learn without realising that they are
being taught.
Alongside our voice coach, we have
a number of music specialists in the
school, and each year group works
towards the same goal – a pre-GCSE
level in music. Many of our students
do not have access to many life
experiences, so we always try to give
them as many as we can. We take
them to London and to the theatre
and every half term, we pick a visit or a
visitor that ties into the curriculum and
enriches their learning.
Our numbers have increased
dramatically, and we are now a two-
form entry and support our staff with
non-class-based specialist teachers in
maths, phonics and writing. They dip
in and out of classrooms, assisting
teaching and ensuring that the children
are fully supported. Our pupil–staff
ratio is above the national average, and
we teach in small groups so that our
children get the best possiblesupport.
Creating an engaging school
Certainly, the most visible change
we have made is the renovation of
our school building. When I arrived,
the school was in a state of disrepair:
the vast majority of floors had
minimal carpets and decor, the roof
was leaking in several places and
the heating system was struggling
The first thing we did was to give the
entire school new paint, changing the
drab blue and grey to magnolia. This
gave us a blank canvas to work on.
The building is now fully themed, with
an indoor forest with treehouses, and
Cooking up a stir in the
French bistro
Pupil staff
ratio is above
the national
each section is designed differently.
One of the most impressive features is
our fully operational bank, run by the
children. Every day a student comes
to school, they earn “Beacons”, our
currency, and are given designated
times in which they can visit the
bank. While there, they can pay their
“Beacons” into the bank, ask for a
statement and withdraw at key points
in the year. These “Beacons” can be
spent in our school shop on items
ranging from toys and curriculum items
to a voucher to skip the lunch queue.
Beyond injecting motivation to attend
school, this also develops key life skills
among our students, centrally the
value of money and the importance
Beyond the building, we have extensive
grounds, for which we are very
thankful. Every key stage has its own
specific area, and this is supplemented
by the development of our forest
school. We employ three full-time
sports coaches who deliver above
and beyond the national expectation.
We also organise a three-week
sports festival every year, attended by
1,500 children from across the local
authority, holding tournaments in a
different sport every day.
As our numbers are ever increasing,
we are looking to grow into a three-
form entry school to deal with our
oversubscription. Two years ago, we
absorbed the local children’s centre,
and now our students range from
two years old to 11. This has been
a really beneficial change, and this
is the first year we have truly seen
the results. This extra input makes
a huge difference in the confidence
and phonic development of our
students and helps to make each
We are keeping up to date with any
changes to the curriculum and are
looking forward to the changes to
the early years framework. Inter-
school support is another focus of
ours, and we have supported other
local schools by providing specific
leadership support. We are also
developing our own radio station
to support the efforts we make
to increase the confidence of our
children. By continuing to focus on
these innovative teaching methods
and expanding the school, we are
confident that we can continue to
thrive and develop the lifelong learners
of the future.
One of the
features is our
A specialist gymnastics
Having a cracking time


This article was sponsored by Beacon Primary School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett.

The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett

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. 
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett