Bisley CE Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Bisley CE 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 Bisley CE 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 Clare McConnell
Attainment and progress
measures have seen
significant improvement in
recent years
Bisley Primary School are based on the border of Woking
and Surrey Heath and have seen a dramatic improvement
in SAT attainment levels since September 2016. By
focusing on stripping lessons back to their bare bones, and
placing significant emphasis on the original learning objective,
they have managed to turn results around. Headteacher Clare
McConnell joined the school in 2016 and discusses how they
have expanded their published admission number, how they
have dealt with funding issues and how she has shifted the
culture in school to being truly all inclusive, underpinned by
their strapline: “Everyone Successful Everyday”.
Before I assumed the role of headteacher in September 2016, I received a phone
call concerning recent SATs results. The school’s maths results were the lowest they
had been in many years, with 33 per cent attainment in maths and 64 per cent in
reading, leading to a combined score of 29 per cent. The progress score in maths
was –5.4 per cent, placing the school below the floor standard. Before this set of
poor results, the school had been performing well and so my first task was to find
out the cause.
I found that these results were primarily caused by a lack of teacher training. As the
new curriculum had been introduced, teachers had not adapted or been instructed
on how to change. This became our top priority. In my first year, we managed to
raise maths results from 33 to 79 per cent, with a combined result of 61.5 per cent,
and reverse the negative progress, improving it to a positive 0.9 per cent. This trend
continued and last year we raised all three of our progress scores above zero and
»Headteacher: Clare McConnell
»Established in 1967
»Based in Surrey Heath
»Type of school: Primary
»No. of pupils: Circa 310
Bisley CE Primary
Highlighting best practice
further improved our combined score
to 67 per cent. We are immensely
proud of the speed of this turnaround
and this has been recognised in our
Ofsted report in February 2017 and
SIAMS report in June 2019.
Refocusing on the core
learning objective
After identifying teacher training as the
crucial factor, we began a concerted
campaign to improve it. This was
especially vital for our maths teaching.
We started to work closely with Surrey
Maths Hub in order to improve our
maths lessons across the school. We
also implemented targets for teachers
and trained and coached them to
improve results. This coaching was
modelled around the curriculum and
a major part of this involved stripping
lessons back and returning focus to
the core learning objective. We found
that teachers had often got too caught
up in the vehicle for learning rather
than the central lesson and so ensured
that lessons were stripped back to
To improve our maths curriculum,
we pursued the Maths Mastery route
and one of our teachers was accepted
onto the national Maths Mastery
course run by the NTCEM. This
assistance, alongside our work with
Surrey Maths hub, helped to shape
our maths curriculum. We undertook
these changes while still ensuring that
our year 6 students were able to pass
their exams. We are still working on
developing our English teaching and
are currently planning three-week
units based on quality texts. We are
also collaborating with four other
local church schools to develop our
Improving staff morale
We also instigated “Bisley Basics”:
a series of small documents that
concisely explain objectives and
timetables. We also focused heavily
on staff wellbeing as morale was very
low when I arrived. We ensured that
they had ample support from the
senior leadership team and designed
a specific Bisley Basics document
Extracurricular subjects
are of great importance
at Bisley
We focused
heavily on
staff wellbeing
as morale was
very low when
I arrived
that centres on staff wellbeing and
retention. We allocate one full day
fortnightly for planning, preparation
and assessment, which can be done
off site, and we have limited the time
staff spend on emails. They are also
eligible to apply for up to five days
unpaid leave per year and/or a one-
year sabbatical. We have tried to think
outside the box and apply techniques
that are used in other sectors. Looking
after staff members is key, especially in
terms of staff retention.
In 2016, the school’s published
admission number was increased
from 45 to 60. The entire school was
expanded at the same time and so
we faced the challenge of unwinding
mixed year groups. When I began
working with the school, we had 246
pupils; we are now over 310 with
a nursery opening in September,
which is already full. As Woking is
relatively overpopulated, especially in
terms of local schools, we absorbed
a lot of this overflow. Although this
presented a short-term challenge, in
the longer run it is the right decision
to cope with the steadily increasing
Difficulties with the annual
This increased student population
led to further issues, primarily
concerning funding. Although we
have expanded, we are still not at
our 420-pupil capacity. Beyond this,
as we have expanded, we have not
received increased funding to cover
this growth. Funding is allocated based
on an October census. Last October,
we had 265 pupils and our previous
funding allocation, which ran until
April 2019, was based on this figure.
As we now have over 310 pupils, this
presents a significant shortfall. This
was exacerbated by the fact that we
did not originally receive growing
school funding and we were forced to
fight to claim it. As we continue to fill
our vacant spaces, we will not receive
additional funding until October. Many
new students are entitled to pupil
premium, and thus are required to
have extra funding, and again this has
not been allocated to us as they arrived
after the census.
Before I arrived, the school was quite
distant from the community. We
have endeavoured to change this
and spent time forging community
links. We have also expanded our
teaching beyond the classroom and
different year groups now undertake
a short course which focuses on
transferable, character-building skills.
These courses could involve visiting
the elderly, outdoors education or
courses that focus on key values such
as perseverance. This helps with our
goal to educate the whole child: their
head, hand and heart. By continuing to
place our students at the heart of what
we do, we are confident that we can
continue to develop and grow.
Our goal is to
educate the
whole child:
their head,
hand and
Developing resilience
and character beyond
the classroom

This article was sponsored by Bisley CE 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