Blidworth Oaks Primary Nursery School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Blidworth Oaks Primary Nursery 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 Blidworth Oaks Primary Nursery 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 Shaun Walker
High expectations for pupils
Blidworth Oaks Primary School have undertaken a significant
programme of improvement in the last six years, aiming to
improve both academic achievement and pupil numbers.
One of the main ways they have achieved this is through the
creation of a set of seven school values that help to bind staff
and students together. They have also undertaken a campaign to
alter local perceptions of the school, particularly among parents,
to ensure that their student population rises. Headteacher Shaun
Walker assumed the role in September 2013 and discusses their
programme of change and the importance of collaborating with
other local schools.
On taking my first headship at Blidworth Oaks Primary School in September 2013,
the newly established senior leadership team – me, a deputy head teacher and a
school business manager – didn’t quite understand the size of the challenge ahead
of us. Poor results in 2013 had left us extremely vulnerable to outside intervention,
and a falling school roll, alongside other budgetary factors nationally, meant a
projected deficit. Staffing reductions soon followed. Our challenge: we needed to
do more to get our results up and get parents to choose our school but we had less
money and fewer resources to achieve this.
Developing our school values
The key to the success of the school over the past six years has been grounded in
our school values. In 2013, with the input of all school stakeholders, we established
a set of seven values. These were key principles we wanted our children to adopt in
»Headteacher: Shaun Walker
»Established in 2007
»Based in Blidworth
»Type: Primary school
»No. of pupils: 350
Blidworth Oaks Primary
Nursery School
Highlighting best practice
their lives in order for them to become
excellent human beings. They are not
just a set of written words: they need
to be lived and breathed around the
school by all stakeholders, including
our leadership team. We actively
teach them in weekly assemblies,
special values days and through
day-to-day work around the school
by deconstructing what each one
would look like in different scenarios
and situations. We established a
public system of giving value points
to children, and we celebrate this
regularly in high-profile ways. We
saturate our children with sought-after
awards, such as trips out and overnight
camps, for showing and living these
principles. Our children are totally
invested in this system; as such, we
no longer have rules or charters – our
values are what dictate their behaviour
in class and beyond.
Once we had established a common
base from which to work, we moved
on to the quality of education we
give to our children. This started with
developing a belief that education can
improve lives and that no child should
be left behind. We have introduced
rigorous tracking systems in order to
identify and intervene quickly where
pupils are not making progress.
We introduced a framework that
identified what good teaching and
learning actually look like. Teachers
and leaders both appreciated this
transparency, and this framework is
now an integral part of our appraisal
and quality assurance processes. We
also introduced half-termly coaching
sessions for teachers and teaching
assistants using this framework in
order to give staff the time and space
to review and improve their own
practice regularly. We have tackled
underperformance in teachers, robustly
where necessary, but we are more
interested in working alongside staff
to improve their practice and looking
at ways we can support them in doing
the job. We now deploy class sizes
capped at 23 pupils per class across the
school, which supports personalised
learning for pupils and reduces the
workload for our teachers.
Targeting parental choice
With a range of good primary schools
in the area, we soon realised the
importance of parents choosing our
school. We set up breakfast and
after-school care in order to support
families who require this. We also
rebranded and marketed our school
in the community to let people know
that changes were happening. This
was supplemented by a plethora of
parental engagement events, such as
family breakfasts, fundraising events,
weekly celebration assemblies and
regular headteacher coffee mornings.
The leadership of our school is visible
and approachable on a daily basis,
and I believe our parents appreciate
that. Communication was another
key area to address, and we have
done this through weekly newsletters,
social media sites, a text messaging
service and an app for bookings and
payments. More parents are now
choosing our school, with its size
having increased by a third since 2013.
Quality early years
The key to the
success of the
school over
the past six
years has been
grounded in
our school
Children need to want to come to
school, and they do this when they are
totally engaged by the curriculum that
the school offers – both the academic
curriculum and the wider curriculum.
We now offer a wealth of exciting
trips and experiences every term for
our children, complementing their
topic-based learning. We also offer a
range of after-school clubs every night
of the week, and some weekends and
holidays, free of charge and aimed
at involving children in sports, arts
and other activities. Our school has
received gold sports awards for the
last four years, as well as winning
several gardening awards, including
Best School Allotment in 2018. This
supports our school attendance
because our children want to come
to school and behave well while they
Working collaboratively
Recently, our school embarked on
some close collaborative work with
four other local primary schools.
Entitled “Better Together”, our work
is focused on sharing the different
expertise found in each of our
schools, as well as creating networks
for office staff, teaching assistants,
teachers and leaders. Although still at
an informal stage, this collaborative
work has already seen many benefits
for all of our schools in the sharing of
continuous professional development
and resources, as well as being a great
form of easily accessible advice.
One of the biggest challenges we have
faced is the increasing importance
of the pupil premium agenda. We
received a letter in 2013 from the
minister of state for schools telling
us that we were one of the bottom
200 schools in the country in terms of
the pupil premium. To adapt to this,
we have changed the mindset of the
school and the community to provide
equality of education for all pupils.
Looking ahead, we are developing
a formal collaboration with another
local primary school, which should be
completed in September. This will offer
a different way of working and mutual
budget support – a great benefit to
both schools.
We also
rebranded and
marketed our
school in the
community to
let people
know that
changes were
Engaging children
and building character
through sport

This article was sponsored by Blidworth Oaks Primary Nursery 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