Bourton-on-the-Water Primary School

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

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 Bourton-on-the-Water Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


John ap Robert Jones
Teaching our children to
become citizens
Bourton-on-the-Water Primary School bases its pedagogic
practices on a strong foundation of empirical research,
especially that of researcher Dylan William and the
Education Endowment Foundation. Its pupils come from a range
of socioeconomic backgrounds, including high deprivation, which
means that the school must cater for a wide range of needs.
However, its rural location can make it difficult for the school to
access wider support. Overcoming these challenges through high
standards of teaching and learning is the task that Headteacher
John ap Robert Jones has set the school and himself. He says
more about the journey they have taken since he became head.
We’re a village school in the Cotswolds with around 250 children on roll. With new
builds, we are expecting this roll to grow to around 270 or 280 over the next couple
of years. We take on children from reception to year 6, but we also have on site a
governor-led preschool, which takes 34 pupils in the morning and the afternoon,
and a nurture hub. It’s also worth noting that we share a site with Cotswold
Academy, which is the secondary school that our children eventually move on to.
The Cotswold context
The range of pupil backgrounds brings a wide range of different needs that must
be met, be it in terms of aspiration or in terms of more general social support, if a
child is going to succeed. The nature of each year group is so different. In terms of
the number of children who suffer from some kind of vulnerability, ours is higher
than one would suppose as you drive through the village.
»Headteacher: John ap Robert
»Founded in 1902
»Located in Gloucestershire
»Type of school: Primary
converter academy (stand-
»No. of pupils: 258
»Built on an Iron Age burial site
that generated an episode of
Meet the Ancestors
Water Primary School
Highlighting best practice
One of the lesser-known facts about
a rural context is that deprivation
and acute social challenges can be
more concealed, perhaps due to the
overly romantic image given to it by
outsiders. We ourselves are working
with more external agencies than
many might expect.
Understanding what good
pedagogy is
I’ve been headteacher here since 2005
and, when appointed, was the fourth
in two years, so there were quite a
few issues at the school. Once things
stabilised, we were able to look closely
at teaching. The change of focus to
teaching and learning rather than
just quality of teaching allowed us to
properly consider pedagogy. I am lucky
to have on board with me a young and
energetic team who were happy to
start a new journey with me.
One of our starting points was
understanding as clearly as possible
what good learning looks like. To do
this, I felt it was important to delve
into the research literature to clarify my
own view. What particularly stood out
for me was the work of Dylan William,
an academic in this area. His empirical
research on learning formed one of the
main bases of our journey.
As a result of his work, we introduced
a number of new features to our
lessons. For example, we started
developing a greater flexibility
regarding the length of our lessons,
as well as the key phases within them,
punctuating them with mid-lesson
reviews and immediate feedback. We
also became more conscious of what
sort of questions we were asking in
class and how long we as teachers
were speaking for. The latter is
important, because it’s easy to forget
the limitations of attention span, which
have been recognised in the work of
many psychologists. What’s also crucial
is ensuring that children evaluate
their own competencies and ask for
A further focus was ensuring that
teaching assistants were properly
trained in order to meet the rigours
of our developing pedagogy. To
that end, they were trained to be
para-teachers, in the same way one
considers paralegals and paramedics.
Ultimately, teaching should be seen as
an occupation requiring professional
expertise, in much the same way
as being a lawyer or an accountant
is – that’s to say, teachers should be
experts in the science and psychology
of teaching and learning.
Our broader approach is encapsulated
in the acronym “CARE”:
»Challenge – knowing the children’s
needs to challenge them to make
the next step
»Amaze – providing a curriculum
that allows children a sense of
amazement about the world in
which they live
»Respect – teaching that respect
towards one another and our
environment is a non-negotiable
»Enjoy – ensuring we enjoy what we
are doing
Aspiring for excellence
We also
became more
conscious of
what sort of
questions we
were asking in
class and how
long we as
teachers were
speaking for
Looking further ahead
In terms of the wider educational
sector, I believe we need to start
moving away from easy, one-size-
fits-all fixes beloved by politicians.
Ultimately, every situation – every
home, every location, every individual’s
ability – is different. We should
therefore be thinking more about
training teachers to be experts in their
field who can offer tailored approaches
for each individual.
Because of its renewed focus on
curriculum and on the individual, I
welcome the recent changes to the
Ofsted framework and the room this
gives us to provide a broader and more
balanced curriculum. For too long, the
focus was on producing good exam
results rather than focusing more
holistically on the children.
On a broader scale, I think we need
to review society’s values. At present,
too much focus is placed on the
individual at the expense of wider
society. This is why I try to promote a
more communitarian approach within
the school – something sociologists
might call a “household”. Children
need to feel part of something wider
if they are to become bold and
Politically speaking, I believe budgets
should be set over a three-year
rolling average and amended as
political decision-making impacts on
staff costs. Currently, with annual
budgets, there is no opportunity to be
Whatever challenges come our way,
though, I am confident in the future
of our school and our children. This
is because I have a fantastic team,
all of whom are deeply engaged in
the task of providing outstanding
teaching and learning based on strong
research. When expertise and energy
are married in this way, it’s hard to go
too wrong. Every year is different, and
research continually identifies a change
to pedagogy.
In terms of the
sector, I believe
we need to
start moving
away from
easy, one-size-
fits-all fixes
Fostering a love of


This article was sponsored by Bourton-on-the-Water Primary School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.