Callis Grange Nursery & Infant 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 Callis Grange Nursery & Infant School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Headteacher Alison Marshall
The School Council
evaluating a recent special
event at their weekly
Callis Grange is an infant and nursery school based
in Broadstairs, Kent. When Alison Marshall became
headteacher in 1998, she put in place carefully
considered plans in order to implement the changes that were
required. Over 20 years on, and the improvement is clear. Alison
TheParliamentary Review
how her determined approach
allowed her to enhance the learning environment throughout
the school.
When I became headteacher, my initial concern was the quality of the working and
learning environment. The school had been built in the 1950s and there had been
little maintenance and development of the building and grounds. There were six
old mobile classrooms and toilets, the staffroom was so small that the staff could
not sit together, administration facilities were cramped and there was little security.
The original outside playground was uninspiring and the early years foundation
stage outdoor area consisted of a small concrete area, while the nursery was
operating from a very small classroom.
I considered how the school worked on a day-to-day basis, clarified my aims and
prioritised achievable improvements. We bid for refurbishment projects grants and
new builds and worked closely with the local authority. The pupils were allowed
to engage in the building and maintenance project and much of the work was
planned for term time. Although this required extra time and effort being put into
health and safety, each project taught the pupils the enormity of the work that
goes into creating and developing a building. This allowed them to incorporate
such understanding into their learning and take pride in their school.
»Headteacher: Alison Marshall
»Founded in 1950s
»Based in Broadstairs, Kent
»Type of school: Infant and
»No. of students: 292
»No. of staff: 47
Callis Grange Nursery
and Infant School
Highlighting best practice
Committed staff team
On my arrival, I reviewed the staff
provision and established a leadership
structure. The new deputy head was
the only other person in a leadership
role, while many teachers were on
short-term contracts. The staffing
structure I put in place was more
appropriate, and while this was not
an easy process, what is right for the
pupils was at the forefront of my
mind. We developed our own roles
and created job descriptions that met
our needs. I created a school business
manager role working alongside the
local authority, and underperforming
staff were highlighted and difficult
conversations took place. Today, our
staff know that every appointment is
fair and undertaken with complete
Our staff share an ethos whereby we
expect total professionalism, drive
and dedication, in order to guarantee
the best for our pupils. We focus on
appointing high-quality staff who have
a range of expertise, and I have always
been keen to attract new talent,
bringing new ideas and experiences
from which we can learn and develop.
Part of the leadership team is made up
of class-based year group leaders and
this ensures informed decisions can
be made with regards to the school’s
direction. This also impacts on a
powerful whole-school team.
The governors have also been a key
part of our strategic development.
Initially, I inherited a long-serving
chair of governors, who enabled me
to assess the strengths and areas for
development. On the appointment
of a new chair of governors, trusting
relationships had to be developed,
especially as she was a parent.
Together we agreed to trial a chair and
headteacher relationship coaching and
mentoring project over the course of a
year. This was invaluable.
By establishing working governor
groups, we built an understanding of
our performance and direction. The
governing body has twice undertaken
the Governor Mark, which has focused
it on its strategic role. They are now
proactive and visible, being known to
the pupils while also ensuring their role
is strategic, trusting the professional
staff to do their job.
There is a relentless drive to sustain
our outstanding performance and
improve year on year. Constant
evaluation is embedded, and we
have worked towards a number of
awards as part of this. These awards
encourage us to reflect on current
thinking and best practice, helping us
to determine future improvements.
We consider new initiatives carefully
and, if deemed appropriate, use trials,
reviews and adaptations so it is tailored
to ourneeds.
Our curriculum is reviewed and
developed to ensure it is appropriate
Being curious and
having fun in the forest
Our staff share
an ethos
whereby we
expect total
drive and
dedication, in
order to
guarantee the
best for our
and engaging for our pupils. We use
our unique locality features to enhance
learning, and fundraising has allowed
us to invest in our outdoor learning
provision. We now have an outdoor
learning area for each year group and
a forest school. Due to budgetary
constraints, all subject leaders bid
annually to ensure our resources meet
learning needs and are of the highest
quality. Learning is carefully and
tirelessly planned to ensure that the
basic skills are taught while making
learning exciting, engaging and fun.
Pupil voice
Listening to our pupils and allowing
them to make decisions for the school
has been an extremely powerful part
of our ongoing development. Pupils
see their ideas come to fruition and
know that they are valued. We initially
decided that we would establish a
school council and then elect a head
boy and head girl.
A number of observers commented
on whether infants were capable of
such roles; however, our pupils have
embraced responsibility and it now
forms a big part of school life. The
whole process involves campaigning
and pupil voting at our polling station.
The pupils now meet weekly and
report back to their peers on their
decision-making and evaluating our
special events. The governors also
receive a termly report.
Clear systems and procedures have
been paramount in ensuring our
staff are on board. We started by
assessing teaching and learning,
pupil performance, our goals and
the role each member of staff had to
play. We have established an annual
day dedicated to discussing pupil
outcomes, celebrating achievements
and creating the strategic plan for the
year ahead.
Therefore, each academic year begins
with everyone knowing what needs
to be achieved and the part they
are playing in this. There is total
ownership, and everyone is trusted to
play their part and expected to give
their all. This has resulted in ongoing
improvement in pupil attainment.
When staff make mistakes, they are
seen as learning opportunities.
We have created a dialogue with
parents who enjoy clear lines of
communication and visible leadership.
We have crafted useful information and
guidance to help parents support their
children’s learning and have worked to
develop a range of transition activities
that focus on wellbeing. Parents have
been invited to share their professional
roles with pupils and take an active
part inlessons.
We have
created a
dialogue with
parents who
enjoy clear
lines of
and visible
Pupils have been at the heart of
establishing “Our Four Thumbs up!”
– special aspects of the school that
they value. They have also created our
school values, which describe a good
learner: bravery, respect, curiosity,
pride and independence. Pupil learning
is celebrated through our weekly best
learner celebration and our range of
pupil learning displays. Nursery children looking
at the flowers they have
grown in their outdoor

This article was sponsored by Callis Grange Nursery & Infant School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.