Bleakhouse Junior School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Bleakhouse Junior 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 Bleakhouse Junior 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 John Bates and the
Senior Team
Developing our skills
through play and teamwork
Headteacher John Bates believes that his school is in a
difficult position given that it has no control over what is,
arguably, the most important and most formative period
of a child’s education. By the time children reach the school,
at the age of seven, many learning behaviours are already well
established and the foundations of learning laid. Bleakhouse
Junior School’s main focus is thus on ensuring that good progress
is made from the very beginning of the child’s enrolment. This,
John says, requires effective leadership at every level.
Our vision is to raise expectations and aspirations by working in partnership with
parents and the community to help each child reach their full potential. If children
learn through a rich and inspiring curriculum, we believe that they can aspire to be
the best that they can be.
We take our values from the Olympic and Paralympic values, which encourage
children to develop friendships, show respect, aspire to excellence, display
determination and courage, treat each other equally, and be inspired in their work
so that they can be successful. These values are not just for our pupils; they are for
our staff too.
As an inclusive school, we believe that, to get this right for our pupils and staff, it
is vital to have high aspirations as leaders, and so we constantly improve and refine
our leadership skills so that the pupils receive the highest-quality teaching, learning
and assessment. Indeed, these skills and attributes were recognised in our 2017
Ofsted inspection.
»Headteacher: John Bates
»Founded in 1935
»Based in Oldbury, West
»Type of school: Local authority
maintained junior school
»No. of pupils: 241
»No. of teachers: 11
»No. of teaching assistants: 7
Bleakhouse Junior
Highlighting best practice
Leadership at every level
As leaders and managers, we work
together closely and effectively as
a team, with a strong focus on the
development of each member of staff
as a leader at their own level within
the school.
As the head, I have high expectations
of everyone, but I know that if people
at every level are to succeed, then
I must lead a team that effectively
communicates this vision to all staff.
It is imperative that staff feel valued
while being challenged and supported
through realistic and aspirational
continuous professional development.
With a strong track record for growing
our own teachers, we support all
staff in their CPD, developing their
skills to deliver high-quality teaching
and to enhance their personal and
professional development. The CPD
budget is ring-fenced by governors
to support this high-priority area. This
includes the cost of training, supply
cover, consultants to deliver training
and fees for further study. We do
generate funds to offset some of this
expenditure through consultancy,
assessing and inspecting other schools,
and sharing good practice. This system
enables our commitment to CPD to
continue. Indeed, it was commented
on by Ofsted in 2017:
The school’s staff form a
united team who share the
headteacher’s vision of high-
quality education for all.
Morale is very high. […] Senior
leaders target training well to
individuals and issues where
it is most needed. They then
carefully check that it has had
the desired impact.”
– Ofsted 2017
Our middle leaders have received
training in the quality assurance of
teaching, learning and assessment;
observing lessons; and providing
quality feedback. As a result, the
quality of teaching is comprehensively
and regularly monitored, with oral
and written feedback provided by
these recently trained middle and
senior leaders, who take responsibility
for improving learning in their areas.
This feedback includes targets for
the improvement of pupil progress.
A contributory factor in improving
teaching and learning has been the
change of emphasis on the way
planning is analysed to focus on the
evaluation and impact of lessons.
Two teachers are currently completing
the NPQML, and all staff have received
training from the headteacher and
deputy headteacher on middle
leadership. The impact of this is more
focused advice being offered to less
experienced teachers.
The ability to manage and respond to
constant change is a leadership quality
that we endeavour to develop within
our staff. As a school, we constantly
reflect upon, review and improve our
systems in order to allow pupils to
The Learning League
meet to discuss lessons
We constantly
improve and
refine our
skills so that
the pupils
receive the
learning and
The headteacher and deputy headteacher make a formidable team.
They are passionate about providing the best possible education for
each pupil. They lead with honesty and integrity and they command
the respect of pupils, parents, staff and governors. One parent who
responded to Parent View said: “Bleakhouse is a very well-managed
school which encourages parental involvement.”
– Ofsted 2017
make better progress. Our tracking
data and observations show that our
more able children are being provided
with greater challenge, which has
had a significant impact on results in
English and maths.
Through an improved focus on
“Assessment for Learning”, children
are now more aware of what they
must do in order to make progress and
to recognise their achievements. As
an Ofsted inspector, my main aim is to
develop evaluative skills and accuracy
of judgments across the whole staff.
As head, I aim to develop all my staff
as leaders through effective and
intelligent professional development.
Leadership at every level includes
developing the leadership skills of the
children. In addition to the school
council, a group of pupils called the
“Learning League” represent the
pupil body and work alongside staff
to drive good teaching and learning.
All pupils, parents, staff and governors
complete questionnaires annually –
the results of which inform the school
Governors do more than just ensure
that statutory requirements are met.
They understand the school’s strengths
and weaknesses and are involved
in school self-evaluation and the
monitoring of school improvement.
Governors work effectively with the
school to promote good teaching and
pupil progress, and their presence
allows us to evaluate subjects and year
groups. Governors also support the
curriculum through their experience
in reading and swimming. As “Critical
Friends”, governors have produced
reports on aspects of the school such
as reading and mathematics provision,
trips, and the role of the governing body
in relation to Ofsted inspection and
strategic direction. They also monitor
the administration of Key Stage 2 SATs.
Leading curriculum
We have been working on ensuring
breadth and balance within our
thematic curriculum, and our book-
based approach has greatly increased
pupils’ enthusiasm for learning and
engagement. Evaluation shows higher
attainment in writing and reading
and increased pupil enjoyment
and parental involvement since the
curriculum was revised. Our cross-
curricular links and extracurricular
activities enable children to practise
the basic skills of English, maths,
science and computing in a range of
subjects. The curriculum enhances
children’s personal development and
With a strong
track record for
growing our
own teachers,
we support all
staff in their
Head Girl and Boy lead
the team of prefects
Computing in our
Learning Hub

This article was sponsored by Bleakhouse Junior 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