Blackrod Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Blackrod 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 Blackrod 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 Ian Dryburgh with
a group of reception children
Controlling my own
Judged as “outstanding” by Ofsted for the last eight years,
Blackrod Primary School have weathered countless changes
to the educational landscape, always focusing on their core
goal: to develop students who are prepared for, and excited
by, the world of tomorrow. They featured in the Channel 4
documentary series
Class of Mum and Dad
and are currently
redesigning their curriculum, moving away from a linear
teaching process and adopting a cyclical model to promote
deeper understanding. Headteacher Ian Dryburgh has been in
post for over 30 years and tells
The Parliamentary Review
the importance of a stable internal vision.
I have been the headteacher at Blackrod for 32 years, and in that time, the
landscape of education has changed immeasurably. When I started, there was no
internet, Ofsted or national curriculum. Educational trends have come and gone,
and the challenges we have faced have changed monumentally. The key to our
ongoing success, and our “outstanding” rating since 2011, is the bedrock of
humanity that lies at the foundation of the school. While professionalism is a close
second, this humanity, and the values we have championed, is central.
There are immutable aspects of education, things that will never change:
aspiration, empathy, optimism, integrity, respect, responsibility, trust, commitment
and resilience. We ground our educational offering in encouraging enthusiasm
and confidence and nurturing positive relationships between all the individuals
involved in school life. This covers the relationships between the students and
»Headteacher: Ian Dryburgh
»Assistant Headteachers: Karen
Chadwick and Kath Mead
»Established in 1968
»Based in Bolton
»Type of school: Primary
»No. of pupils: 266
»Ofsted: “Outstanding”
»Recipient of the Artsmark
Platinum and the Wellbeing
Award for Schools 2019
Blackrod Primary
Highlighting best practice
the relationship between each staff
member and each pupil: all are
underpinned by our core values.
Allied to these core values is a
commitment to professional expertise
and innovation. Key to this is assessing
the character of each individual, not
just their qualifications; we appoint
the person first, the teacher second.
This is what has maintained excellence
over 30 years. Education has changed
so significantly that if we had followed
every trend and change, we would
have been thrown from one extreme
to another, and this type of instability
can easily lead to falling standards.
A solid internal vision will always be
better than trying to please a myriad of
differing external forces. What would
have been judged “outstanding” 20
years ago could easily be “requires
improvement” or even “inadequate”
in 2019.
The importance of developing
The world may have changed, but the
importance of children’s entitlement
has not: the entitlement not only
to the basic skills but also to PE,
dance, music and the opportunity
to be creative and to participate.
Our status as an Artsmark Platinum
school reflects this belief in action.
Thecentral principle of this approach is
to prepare every child for the world of
the future, not of the past. To achieve
this, we nurture and encourage
particular character and personality
traits: independence, resilience, group
working, social strength and cultural
awareness. Although we cannot
predict what the world will look like
in the future, these qualities will
always be invaluable and broaden our
children’s life chances.
As society grows more risk averse,
parents worry about children’s
security and wellbeing. We try to
develop children’s self-confidence
such that they see the world as full
of opportunity and challenges they
are eager to tackle. This is part of our
raison d’être and informs everything
we do, including high attainment in
mathematics and English and meeting
external accountability standards.
The success of this approach is perhaps
demonstrated best by our feature in
the TV series
Class of Mum and Dad
We were selected from thousands of
other schools because the producers
recognised how articulate our children
are, their honesty and openness, and
how effectively they are supported by
our parent community. The filmmakers
identified some special things about
the school, notably its culture, bravery
and compassion.
Redesigning our curriculum
We believe that educational trends
have now caught up with our vision
and share our emphasis on breadth
and balance. We have been planning
a redesign of our curriculum for two
years and are excited to put these
changes in place. We are aiming
to produce children with a deeper
understanding of their learning,
eschewing a linear progression model
of learning in favour of a cyclical
one. We were concerned about the
lack of depth in many curriculum
Hard at work during our
first week in reception
Teachers who
are enabled to
flourish and
grow are
more likely to
achieve the
same aim with
the children in
their care
models and the gaps in learning this
causes. Our new curriculum will be
far more integrated and will include
revisiting past topics in greater depth,
reminding pupils of the fundamentals
while developing deeper learning.
A tick-list approach is inadequate;
we need to ensure that children
are actually engaged with learning.
Rather than teachers simply teaching
knowledge, we aim to deliver depth of
In order to make this practical, rather
than a fuzzy concept, management
needs to be allied to the strategic
direction; key to this is bespoke,
high-quality continuing professional
development. Those who have the
vision need to work closely with the
people who bring the concept into
practice, developing the teacher as
both artist and artisan. We pilot new
initiatives and combine different
aspects of the school together to
work in a team-based approach. Both
teachers and teaching assistants work
on these pilots and the associated
evaluation measures.
Finding a committed group of
The biggest challenge any school faces
is finding those with the expertise
and commitment to implement
these ideas successfully. The crucial
element is that each individual brings
something of themselves to the school:
not paying new plans lip service but
wholeheartedly engaging with them.
We don’t want a series of clones: we
want professionals who will help to
drive the school forward. Although
our values are non-negotiable, we
encourage freedom to deliver our
engaging curriculum in classrooms that
recognise our teachers as individuals
with differing skills and approaches.
Teachers who are enabled to flourish
and grow are more likely to achieve
the same aim with the children in
Looking ahead, we are studying new
ways to represent the curriculum
within the school. We are developing
our forest school provision and looking
to promote outdoor learning even
further. We are extending our role
as a Bolton cultural ambassador. We
are also looking into how to extend
our strategy beyond the school day:
both after school and during holidays.
Many schools, because of increasing
pressures, have become insular, and
we aim to get out and support our
community as much as possible. We
are using our curriculum redesign to
reinvigorate all of our outward-facing
links, both locally and regionally. We
aim to use this expertise to become a
hub, centred on our new curriculum,
which celebrates every child.
We try to
children’s self-
such that they
see the world
as full of
and challenges
they are eager
to tackle
Enjoying my school and
my friends

This article was sponsored by Blackrod 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