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 Byker Community Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Byker Community Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1BYKER COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Linda Bradley
The headteacher is
relentless in her drive to
ensure all pupils achieve
their best (Ofsted 2017)
Byker Primary School is situated in an inner-city area,
approximately two miles east of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Based in an area of high deprivation, they have undertaken
a significant programme of change which resulted in the school
being judged “outstanding” in all areas in July 2017. Linda
Bradley became Headteacher in 2000 and worked to instil a new
mentality within the school. She tells
The Parliamentary Review
about how they achieved this turnaround.
We are a two-form entry primary catering for 518 children, with two nursery
classes and two classes for two-year-olds. When I became headteacher in
September 2000, the school was suffering with a bad reputation and pupil
numbers were falling. Fortunately, over the last nine years, we have doubled in size
and have nearly reached our capacity. As a headteacher at a previous school, I had
experience of turning behaviour around; my first step was to get out of my office
and get into the classrooms.
It was important for the children to understand that for them to learn effectively,
they had to be 100 per cent focused, all of the time. I had to ensure that poor
behaviour was not allowed to go unnoticed; it had to be dealt with head-on, with
zero tolerance. Following these efforts, I’m proud to announce that our children
have been judged as “outstanding” for both their behaviour and their attitude to
learning in every Ofsted inspection since 2006.
The support of parents was also key to this improvement. It was important to
show that I was willing to speak to and support parents at any time without an
appointment, many of whom were seeing similar behaviours at home and were
»Headteacher: Linda Bradley
»Established in 1995
»Based in Byker, Newcastle
»Type: Two-form entry primary
»No. of students: 518
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| BYKER COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL
crying out for help. This open-door
policy has been a real strength.
The expectation then reverted to
teachers to provide engaging and
enjoyable lessons that would foster a
love of learning. Foundation subjects
became more engaging, focusing on
developing the skills of the children,
rather than testing their knowledge
with how much they could write. We
now run three residential trips: Ford
Castle in Berwick for year 4, High
Borrans in the Lake District for year
5 and Normandy for year 6 with a
focus on teaching about the Second
World War and interacting with a
Progress of our children
The core strength of our school centres
on the level of progress that our
children make over the course of their
time here with us. Over the last few
years, we have regularly been in the
top 15 per cent of schools nationally
for progress between years 2 and 6,
and in the top 10 per cent for progress
of pupils in numeracy.
The entry level of many of our
children is significantly lower than
that of other cohorts across the city
but our staff are highly skilled and
a “no excuses” culture is in place to
ensure that no child is left behind. We
employ dedicated staff to ensure that
children who are working below the
national expected level make better
than expected progress. Lessons are
skilfully planned and executed in
order to ensure that all children can
achieve realistic goals. We also run
40 free out-of-school clubs to pick up
any children who may dip below the
level we expect. Vigorous monitoring
of pupils’ achievements and progress
highlights these children to staff
very quickly. We have never had any
difficulty in appointing and retaining
We also have a significant number
of children “working at the expected
level” and making the jump to
“greater depth”, while our high-ability
children are encouraged to aim as
high as they can. Every year, we have
children who go on to secure full
scholarships at various public schools
within Newcastle and we are also
extremely proud of one of our pupils
who was successful in gaining a full
academic scholarship to Eton.
across early years are
highly stimulating and
provide a good range of
activities (Ofsted 2017)
Over the last
few years, we
been in the
top 15 per
3BYKER COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
One of our targets has been to
improve both reading and writing.
We have worked hard to instil a
love of reading by ensuring that our
children have access to a wide range of
literature. Every half-term, each child
is given a copy of the book that they
are studying in class. This book is theirs
to keep and take home. The sense of
ownership is powerful and if a child is
with us from nursery to year 6, they
will have received 48 books, free of
charge, to build up their own library
at home. This love of reading has had
an impact upon their writing with the
children becoming more confident in
using trickier features and writing in
the styles of their favourite authors.
As a school, we are fortunate to be
very culturally diverse. Out of our
518 children, 222 have English as an
additional language, a total of 43 per
cent. We have 42 different nationalities
with 30 different languages spoken.
When a child arrives with no English,
we have a vigorous programme
that allows them to engage quickly
and effectively. This is done both in
class, with support from staff and
peers who speak the same language,
and in intervention groups. These
children and their families value
education and we often find that
when they have mastered English, they
make more progress than English-
Their parents are always keen to
engage and take advantage of all
the workshops on offer to help them
embed themselves into British society.
We also have clubs, such as Portuguese
and African dance for example, which
are led by parents and that all children
take part in, not just those from that
culture. The accepting nature of our
pupils is something that we are proud
of and celebrate regularly.
We are determined to continue all
the activities that make our school
an outstanding place to both learn
and work. The high level of support
that we provide to children and their
families will ensure that we remain a
focal point within the community and
maintain our outstanding reputation.
for both their
Pupils’ attitudes to
learning are exemplary.
They are eager to learn
and keen to share their
knowledge. Pupils are
rightly proud of their
achievements and proud
of their school (Ofsted
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.