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 Castle Hill Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Castle Hill Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1CASTLE HILL PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher John Martin
Governing Chair Graeme
Train: Active governors
make a huge difference
Located on the northwest side of Basingstoke in Hampshire,
Castle Hill Primary School is a growing school that is due
to reach a total of 660 children on roll by 2022. The
Greenbank Campus caters for eight classes of junior-aged
children while the newly built Rooksdown Campus is designed
to be a two-form entry site for four to 11-year-olds. It is an
unusual model of two schools serving different communities
operating under one executive headteacher. Expectations of
children are high, and the positive culture permeates both
school communities. Executive Headteacher John Martin tells
The Parliamentary Review
As a newly appointed headteacher in 1991, I inherited Castle Hill Junior School
with a falling roll and only half the classrooms in use. I set to work immediately
with pupils, staff and the wider school community to build self-belief and raise
expectations. Consequently, by 1996 we had turned the school around and were
at full capacity with a waiting list – a status that continues to this day as the school
continues to attract families from the immediate and surrounding areas. It is the
success of the junior school that was a pivotal reason, following a public bidding
process, that we were asked by Hampshire County Council to expand and take on
the running of a new primary school.
One way of raising the self-esteem of the school was to obtain external validation
by gaining numerous National Excellence Awards. These include ITV Meridian
Business Award, triple Charter Mark for Excellence Award, Investors in People,
Healthy School Accreditation, National Gold Sports Award and seven very
CASTLE HILL PRIMARY SCHOOL
»Executive Headteacher: JohnD
»Founded in 1968
»Located in Winklebury and
»Type of school: Maintained
local authority and split-site
»No. of pupils: 458
»No. staff: 63
»Pupil premium: 16.2 per cent
»SEND: 10 per cent
»EAL: 13.6 per cent
»Children from ethnic minority
background: 28.2 per cent
»John D F Martin is a research
fellow of the University of
Castle Hill Primary
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| CASTLE HILL PRIMARY SCHOOL
successful Ofsted reports. We have also
received numerous commendations
from ministers, as well as awards from
three separate prime ministers, and
we are fully committed to celebrating
the arts and sport, winning local
competitions in both areas. All the
above being said, and as exciting a trip
to Buckingham Palace and Downing
Street are, none of it would have been
achieved without my brilliant and
outstanding team. The school was
also profiled in the publication World
Class Britain publication, which led to
national and international interest in
Headship is a continually changing
role where no two days are the same;
I continue to enjoy my job immensely,
and the dedication provided by
excellent staff means that Castle Hill
is a stabilising force for good within
the community. It is affirming when
former pupils, who have grown up and
moved away, move back to the area
so they can enrol their children in their
old school. In fact, so old that we now
have six ex-pupils on our staff.
In 2015 we opened the first new
county primary school for Basingstoke
in 20 years. Overseeing a major
building project, and then growing
a new school from reception up, has
been a fascinating and demanding
task. As an educationalist, it has been
rewarding to positively influence
architectural plans to ensure truly
effective teaching and learning spaces,
and an absolute joy to see happy
children thriving in this new building.
Two schools – one governing
body and leadership team
Castle Hill leadership is a genuine
partnership between myself, as
executive headteacher, an outstanding
deputy, a dedicated and talented
governing body and an outstanding
senior leadership team. Back this
up with a brilliant staff, an excellent
admin team and business manager
and we feel we are truly unstoppable.
In addition, the school works in close
partnership with an exceptional team of
leaders and officers at both Hampshire
County Council and Basingstoke and
Our 2018 Ofsted report said: “The
local governing body is ambitious for
the school and rightly proud of its
achievements. Governors challenge
and support leaders effectively. They
make regular, purposeful visits to the
school and consequently understand
the breadth of its work well.”
So, what is the main driver for success?
The reason Castle Hill, Greenbank and
Rooksdown Campuses, are multi-
award-winning schools is because
everyone feels valued. We achieve this
by continually promoting collaboration
between the pupils, staff, parents,
governors, community groups and
an impressive number of inspirational
visitors to the school, who are
invariably tasked by the Student Senate
to share inspiring stories and advice
for life. I have also been lucky enough
to look beyond our school walls
working on projects such as: serving
on the National Curriculum Review
Committee for three years, being a
board member of the National College
for School Leadership and working as
a government adviser for the DfE with
responsibility for 19 local authorities
in the southeast. Each opportunity
has given me a chance to share and
Staff taking a break
from yet another
‘exciting’ staff meeting
3CASTLE HILL PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
learn new ideas which I readily shared
in my role as advisory head in several
otherschools. Never be too proud
to learn from others, and always be
prepared to share with other schools.
There are great things going on with
highly talented colleagues throughout
the land. We should be sharing and
growing with a win-win philosophy
for both national government and
communities. Every single school in the
country has something to offer. With a
bit more praise, challenge and support,
every school could strive to be world-
A safe and nurturing environment is
regarded by most educationalists as
the optimal foundation for learning.
Our 2018 Ofsted report said: “Personal
development and behaviour are
outstanding. Pupils are consistently polite
and well-mannered and show great care
and empathy for each other. Pupils enjoy
their time at school and see themselves
as a close and supportive community.”
Establishing an emotionally safe and
positive environment helps pupils
achieve their academic potential, and
our pupils consistently achieve above
national average results. The teaching
and support staff are critical to the
school’s success through their focus
on each child’s individual educational
requirements. All of the teaching and
support staff have been recruited
through the leadership team’s exacting
recruitment policy that expects skilled
staff to be able to combine rigour and
compassion, tenacity and humour.
» WORKING IN EDUCATION – TEN REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
»Recognise the highly talented and caring team that
you have the privilege of leading.
»Remember governors are volunteers with the same
hopes and aspirations for the pupils.
»Enjoy the variety of school life, as no two children or
colleagues are the same.
»Listen to a wide variety of parents’ views and
remember feedback is essential.
»Make your school a place where staff and pupils can
laugh freely and work happily.
»There are always new challenges and opportunities
to engage with; currently Castle Hill has undertaken a
new initiative called High Performance Learning led by
Professor Deborah Eyre.
»Hold onto why you came into teaching in the first
place. You are part of a noble profession that makes a
real difference day in and day out to children’s lives.
»Schools are brilliant places to work in.
»Music and laughter soothe the soul. Boost positivity.
»If in doubt get a school dog.
You must always have a
goal in life
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.