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 Bookwell Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Bookwell Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1BOOKWELL PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Russell Hardy
Year 1 children working
together to solve maths
Bookwell Primary School seek to combine a traditional
curriculum with engaging experiences, ensuring that their
pupils are able to take control of their learning and develop
a breadth of knowledge. Two years ago, they established a
wooded area on the school site to be used for forest school
sessions, something that has proved effective and popular
across the entire school. Having been rated “outstanding”
since 2011, they have begun to work collaboratively with other
local primaries to share best practice. Headteacher Russell
Hardy explains how they have embedded experiences into their
curriculum and how they are preparing for their 140th birthday.
Bookwell Primary is a popular single-entry school in the small town of Egremont
in Cumbria, serving a mixed catchment area. I have been at the school for 13
years, becoming headteacher four years ago. When I assumed this role, I had the
advantage of knowing the school, pupils, staff and families well. My main focus
was to ensure that the school had continued success.
The school is very fortunate to have a small wooded area on the school site. This is
used to run forest school sessions for the children. We have developed it over the last
two years, with parental support, as we knew children needed more opportunities
to explore the environment and build greater independence. The children take a
real ownership in their learning while outdoors and the impact we have seen in
their confidence and passion for learning has been wonderful to witness.
BOOKWELL PRIMARY SCHOOL
»Headteacher: Russell Hardy
»Established in 1880
»Based in Egremont
»No. of pupils: 210
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| BOOKWELL PRIMARY SCHOOL
The frequency with which our pupils
visit is dependent on their age.
Younger classes go every week and the
time is spent exploring topics relating
to their science teaching. We also
incorporate a literary aspect: children
will spend two hours in the forest area
and then produce a piece of writing
about it. In this way, we can build a
link between practical study and the
Originally, we thought we would just
keep this to the younger students, but
we have seen the most impact in the
older years. Older students show great
excitement and engagement as they
are more willing to take ownership
of their learning. We have trained
our teachers to embrace this new
form of teaching, especially the shift
towards letting the children guide their
A focus on an engaging
We have always been a place where
staff retention has been high, and
consistency and commitment from
staff are two factors that are key to
our continued success. About seven
years ago, however, we had a big
change as a number of staff members,
who had been with us for many years,
retired. Recruitment at this stage was
vital and luckily we were able to source
All staff want the best from the
children and everyone goes above and
beyond to ensure that the curriculum
is engaging and exciting. Our teachers
believe in “quality first teaching”
and understand the importance
of delivering initial teaching that is
appropriate to the children’s needs.
I have found that if staff know their
ideas are valued, they are more willing
to implement changes when needed.
Our staff feel very settled and we
make sure their wellbeing is constantly
considered and treated as importantly
as their work performance. We also
provide middle leadership training
to staff and many feel, because of
collaboratively in year 2
Working together in the
We are really
proud of our
Our priority is
3BOOKWELL PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
our success and support, that they
are happy to stay with us for the
We are really proud of our curriculum.
Our priority is to always ensure
it remains broad, balanced and
creative. To support this, we organise
a number of special events, either
taking place over a day or a week,
which develop and build on our
core teaching. We hold a whole day
dedicated to cooking, for example,
with trophies awarded at the end.
We have a traditional curriculum and
teach in individualised topics. We do
encourage cross-curricular work and
often supplement topics with a special
event such as inviting a Viking into the
school to assist with the year 4 topic or
visiting the local museum and archives
to give children access to quality
primary and secondary sources.
As children approach exams, schools
often focus more heavily on core
subjects to the detriment of a balanced
curriculum. We ensure that we have
a consistent approach for the entire
year, helping to reduce the stress these
exams place on our students.
Each year, during our arts week, the
pupils move around the school to
work in mixed age groups. This allows
children to work together and support
one another in the wide variety of arts
that we cover. This is always a week
that is highly anticipated. At the end of
the week, the children are able to see
all the work that has been completed.
The teachers and children are allowed
to be as creative as they want with
art, music and dance, and ultimately,
the work produced is always of a
To help improve our curriculum, we
work in collaboration with three local
primary schools to develop and share
outstanding practice. Having this
partnership has really impacted on the
teachers’ professional development,
allowing subject leaders to work
across the schools and build a wider
One of the main issues we face is
the universal approach that many
regulations can take. Each school
is different and requires different
techniques. Stifling statutory guidelines
can prevent each school from doing
what is best for them individually.
Because of our test results, we are
often viewed as a test factory, but this
could not be further from the truth.
We show that different approaches
yield positive results and so we hope
both future and current Ofsted
frameworks do not eliminate this
It is hard work, but rewarding, and
with the strong team of staff and
governors constantly wanting the
best for the children, I know we can
sustain our school’s standards. Next
year we celebrate the school’s 140th
anniversary and this event will be
a time to celebrate with the whole
community, as Bookwell is a special
place to the many locals who have
attended here. We will be allowing
past pupils to share their wonderful
memories and to keep with the
tradition of ensuring that “every
Sports and being active
are very important at
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
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.