Buckton Vale Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Buckton Vale 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 Buckton Vale 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


Maths CAP lesson using
equipment and assessment for
learning cups
Children create a thank you
for firefighters for helping
us during the Moorland
fires of 2018
Buckton Vale Primary School, located in Stalybridge, on the
outskirts of Manchester, has been ranked by Ofsted as a
“good” school. The previous Ofsted inspection ranked
the school as “requires improvement”. This rapid rate of
improvement is testament to the hard work and determination
of the whole school, the local community and the local authority.
The school is now a larger than average primary school, with
over 300 children – an increase from 250 pupils just a few years
ago. Headteacher Deborah Brown, under whom many of these
changes occurred, tells
TheParliamentary Review
more about
the school’s upward journey.
In one of our previous Ofsted inspections, concerns were raised about passive
learning and academic standards not being close enough to the nationally expected
ones. Increasing expectations has therefore been a key element in improving the
school. To achieve this, the central goal of the school is to enhance and enrich the
curriculum. Doing so has helped demonstrate to staff, pupils and parents that the
school is on a clear journey of improvement. This, in effect, became an invite to
parents and pupils to join in and work together to make the school better.
Moving forward together
In 2018, the school was successful in obtaining the Leading Parent Partnership
Award for the second time, alongside a glowing report. The local community has
embraced our desire to make the school as good as it can be. This has required
»Headteacher: Deborah Brown
»Based in Stalybridge, Greater
»Type of school: Local
education authority controlled
»No. of students: 304
»In the heart of the Moorland
Buckton Vale Primary School
Highlighting best practice
additional commitment from all those
at the school. As an example, last
year the area was at the centre of the
moorland wildfires. During this time
the school became a hub for the local
community and fire services, offering
support, updates and safety advice to
local residents. Many people from the
partnership of schools; have also been
closely involved in the school’s overall
Buckton Vale Primary School is part of
the Mossley and Carrbrook Partnership
2018, which includes Mossley Hollins
High School, Milton St John’s,
Micklehurst All Saints, St George’s, St
Joseph’s and Livingstone School. This
alliance allows the schools to exchange
best practice and work together in the
best interests of the children. It’s worth
noting, however, that this is not a
multi-academy trust, as all those schools
are presently operating under a local
authority. The partnership has enabled
Buckton Vale to contribute to procuring
a Spanish teacher and Spanish lessons.
It also allows the school to teach musical
instruments and perform concerts, as
well as collaborating on many other
projects. Staff and parents are greatly
in favour of this arrangement – it’s
been a majorsuccess.
Broadening our efforts,
always improving
When I was headteacher, I focused
much of the teaching and learning
changes on the work Amanda
Spielman, chief Ofsted inspector,
had done on the national curriculum.
More recently, I have become a grief
recovery specialist, whereby I share
knowledge and expertise throughout
Tameside with other headteachers,
teachers and anyone working with
children in order to aid and support
pupils who have experienced
bereavement, divorce or other types of
loss. This work is believed to enhance
children’s learning, as mental health is
given firstpriority.
Such initiatives are part of the broader
effort by teaching staff at Buckton
Vale to go the extra mile; it’s the main
reason for the school’s improvement.
The vast majority of the staff have
remained with the school during this
improvement phase. This is because
the school provides them with the
support and help they need to improve
professionally. The great improvements
made by the teaching staff are
especially impressive given the increase
in pupil numbers.
Outdoor learning in
forest school; children
build their own safe fire
To ensure no
child is left
behind, every
pupil has a
simple traffic-
light signal
they can use to
ask for help
Alongside this has come a higher
number of pupils with special
educational needs – in fact, the
number of SEND children has doubled
since 2013. This, however, is not just
because the school has been bringing
in more pupils. It is also because the
school became more focused on
detecting special educational needs
earlier on in the school journey –
something from which children can
benefit enormously.
Involving children with the
real world
The school is positioned in a well-
resourced suburb in Stalybridge,
meaning we can perform an
exceptional amount of work outdoors.
The forest school has proved to be a
great success – the children love it,
and it has been integrated especially
well with the scientific aspects of
We’ve also introduced many practical
steps to improve learning and thus
outcomes. For instance, a teacher will
introduce a problem-solving exercise to
start a lesson, which is the “teach from
the top” concept designed to raise
attainment. The idea is that rather than
getting children to complete pages of
questions, they need only complete as
many as it takes for them to grasp the
concept. After they have, they are then
asked to put this into practice through
a problem-solving challenge. This
“challenge, apply, practice” method
allows the children to feel they are
in control of their learning and can
develop autonomy.
To ensure no child is left behind, every
pupil has a simple traffic-light signal
they can use to ask for help. Each
pupil has traffic-light-coloured cups
which they can place on the table.
If, for example, a child puts their red
cup on the table, this indicates they
need help. It is a simple visual method
which works very well and allows the
teacher to help that pupil without any
disturbance to the rest of the class.
The behaviour policy at the school
has also been integral to its success.
The values of responsibility, honesty,
respect, happiness, aspire to achieve
and believe are expectations every
pupil is expected to follow. The school
even ran a child-led competition to
design stickers for each of the values.
The children really enjoy this system,
and the stickers are now much sought
after and a great reward for children
following those values. The school
even has a rap that was created by one
of the children, which everyone sings
in assemblies.
The result of all these efforts is that 88
per cent of children have now reached
age-related expected standards in
reading, mathematics and writing. In
2018, greater depth standards were
attained by 42 per cent of the children
in reading, 39 per cent in mathematics
and 33 per cent in writing. These are
very encouraging statistics and are just
one indication of the improvements
that have been made. With the help
of its excellent staff, pupils, parents
and school partners as well as the local
authority, Buckton Vale Primary School
will continue to improve and strive to
become an outstanding school.
The result of all
these efforts is
that 88 per cent
of children have
now reached
standards in
and writing
Our partnership schools
perform together at a
brass band concert held
at Mossley Hollins High


This article was sponsored by Buckton Vale 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