Castlefort Junior & Infant School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Castlefort Junior & Infant 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 Castlefort Junior & Infant 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

Senior Leadership Team: Jennie
Platt (SENDCo), Gareth Hawkins
(Deputy Headteacher), Jo Wilson
(Headteacher), Gillian Locke
(Deputy Headteacher)
Our school environment
promotes inclusivity and
emotional wellbeing
Castlefort Junior Mixed and Infant School has undergone
a dramatic transformation from the brink of falling into
“special measures” to achieving consistently “good”
Ofsted inspections. The school is situated on the Walsall and
Staffordshire border, and 40 per cent of pupils are eligible for
pupil premium funding. Joanne Wilson became headteacher
in 2008 and tells
The Parliamentary Review
how they have
achieved this dramatic progress and how they hope to sustainit.
I joined Castlefort as a new headteacher ten years ago. Historically, the school had
consistently achieved “satisfactory” grades from Ofsted. After just three months,
the school received its first inspection under my leadership. The inspector felt
that the school could have fallen into “special measures” but acknowledged my
capacity as a leader and the improvement plans that I had set out for the school.
The inspector also took into account the difficulties this would have created in
terms of the loss of pupils to other nearby primary schools. With this platform, our
improvement journey began.
Initially, there were significant changes in both teaching and support staff.
New appointments facilitated rapid improvement, including an overhaul of the
curriculum and the processes for assessing children’s achievement. Along with
this, development of the school’s aesthetics breathed life into what was formerly a
dull and uninspiring learning environment. The first “good” grading from Ofsted
was achieved in 2012 and was maintained in our 2016 inspection. We now have
a school with a strong leadership team, supportive governors, inspiring teachers
and highly skilled support staff. Our pupils’ achievement at the end of Key Stage2
»Headteacher: Joanne Wilson
»Established in 1961
»Based in Walsall Wood, West
»Type: Junior and infant school
»No. of pupils: 258
»Ofsted: “Good” since 2012
Castlefort Junior and
Infant School
Highlighting best practice
demonstrates a positive trend of
progress, placing us in the top 10 per
cent of primary schools nationally.
Attainment is at least at, and in
many cases above, national figures,
including the outcomes for our most
disadvantaged pupils.
We endeavour to make learning
exciting and enjoyable, enabling our
pupils to reach their full potential.
We provide a nurturing environment
in which children thrive so that,
ultimately, pupils make a positive
contribution to our diverse world. Our
school mascots, Ned the Knight and
Digby the Dragon, help us to promote
the core values we want our children
to develop during their time with us.
These are respect, kindness, ambition,
courage and the desire to become the
best they can be.
Team Castlefort
In the early days, the staff changeover
allowed me to recruit young,
enthusiastic teachers who wanted to
be part of our improvement journey.
Professional development has always
been key to ensuring that the staff
have the right skillset to bring about
the positive changes we desire for our
pupils. When you enter a Castlefort
classroom, you will immediately
feel the high expectations that the
staff have for all of the children and
the consistent approach we have
developed over time.
Teaching assistants play a critical role
in delivering a range of high-quality
interventions and, as a result, we now
have a proven track record for closing
the gap for disadvantaged children.
Castlefort has been recognised as a
“Centre of Excellence” through the
National Inclusion Quality Mark. Our
most recent review affirmed that
“the staff work cohesively to provide
a positive climate for learning and
are always seeking the next step for
Experiential learning
Our creative curriculum is taught
through a range of engaging topics,
which are enhanced by experiential
opportunities. Our new outdoor
education facility complements this
and brings learning to life. Alongside
each topic, children are immersed in a
quality text written by either a classic
or contemporary children’s author.
The books are specifically chosen to
broaden vocabulary, provide topics
for discussion and create purposeful
opportunities for writing. Off-site
visits, such as whole school theatre
Building dens with
staff and parents in our
woodland area
It’s the
willingness to
change in all
its forms that
is a particular
strength of
the school
Inclusion Quality Mark
and seaside trips, further enrich the
curriculum and create long-lasting
memories for all children, regardless of
their socio-economic background.
Our learning environment is all-
encompassing and central to the ethos
of the school. As you enter the building,
you are met with rich and colourful
displays that celebrate the achievement
of our pupils. The Basic Skills Quality
Mark described the setting as “an
inspirational process which offers
children the opportunity to achieve and
develop confidence through hands-on
learning experiences.”
Developing responsibility
A key feature of our school is the
responsibility we extend to our
pupils. We empower children to
take ownership of their learning
and behaviour through a range of
initiatives. Pupils who consistently
display highly positive attitudes to
learning and who support other
children to achieve their learning
goals are recognised as Little Learners
at the Early Years Foundation Stage,
Learning Champions in KS1 and
Learning Ambassadors in KS2. At
lunchtimes, Peace Patrollers help to
resolve minor conflicts, and Playground
Leaders organise fun games and
activities. All of these systems assist the
development of mutual respect and
responsibility among our pupils.
Quality pastoral care is fundamental
to the success of our school. Staff
regularly go above and beyond to
support the wellbeing of our children
and their families. Despite financial
constraints, we maintain our extended
services as a key priority; for example,
parents have continuous access to a
family support worker. Castlefort was
also the first school in Walsall to be
awarded the Families First National
Quality Mark, recognising the school’s
excellence in providing information,
advice and assistance to local families.
Recently, we have developed two new
provisions to enhance our inclusive
practice. Our Forest Room provides
a calm and tranquil environment to
promote good mental health and
emotional wellbeing. Our Magic Room
offers a unique experience to support
children with sensory processing needs.
We recognise that fun and laughter
are an important part of developing
healthy minds. Our staff are always
happy to make fools of themselves to
entertain the children. Regular features
on our school calendar include The
Castlefort Bake Off, Castlefort’s Got
Talent, Good to Be Green reward days
and the Mini-Marathon, to name but
a few.
Looking ahead
As a forward-thinking school, we
always have a plan or a project in
the pipeline. We recognise that our
children are growing up in a world
that offers exciting opportunities but
also highly complex challenges. The
education we provide encourages
children to have high aspirations
for themselves and to develop the
resilience they will need to achieve
their personal goals in life.
Inclusion lies
at the heart of
Inclusion Quality Mark
At Castlefort, we
endeavour to make
learning exciting and
enjoyable to enable our
pupils to reach their full
potential. We provide a
nurturing environment
in which children thrive
so that ultimately,
they make a positive
contribution to our
diverse world.
Nurturing young minds
in our “Forest Room”

This article was sponsored by Castlefort Junior & Infant 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 Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development