Charlestown ACE Academy

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 Charlestown ACE Academy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Headteacher Mark Clutsom
enjoying a pasty on St Piran’s Day
Children enjoying “Fly to
the Line”, our latest STEM
Charlestown Primary School, of the Atlantic Centre of
Excellence Multi-Academy Trust, had been given a
judgment of “requires improvement” by Ofsted despite
consistently being in the top 20 per cent of schools nationally
for outcomes. When Headteacher Mark Clutsom arrived at the
school in October 2016, he and his team started to turn things
around. In March 2019, Charlestown was finally awarded its
long-awaited “good” judgment; Mark tells
about the systems they put in place to achieve these
results and how he doesn’t believe good education is all about
SATs and inspections.
It was clear to all of us that we needed a more rigorous system for monitoring how
things were going. There had been one in place previously, but there was little
evidence of how this impacted improvement; the challenges of expanding from
one to two-form entry to meet the needs of a rapidly growing town had meant
that following up on monitoring had slipped.
In spite of these issues, our team recognised the quality of the curriculum offered
at the school; my mantra has always been about encouraging everyone to work
smarter rather than harder, so we set about evaluating what was good and looking
where we could streamline and improve processes. At the same time, however, we
knew that we needed to rebuild our confidence, which had been badly knocked by
the judgment.
»Headteacher: Mark Clutsom
»Established in the 1800s,
moved to current site in 1974,
extended in 2015
»Converted to academy status
in 2011
»Type of school: Two-form-
entry primary academy
»Based in St Austell, Cornwall
»No. of pupils: 335, but due to
be 420 by 2020
»No. of staff: 12 teaching and
33 support
»The school is set near the
picturesque fishing village
where Poldark was filmed
»ACE Charlestown is part
of the Atlantic Centre of
Excellence Academy Trust with
another 6 schools
Charlestown ACE
Highlighting best practice
Slight changes, not wholesale
Within weeks, the quality of our
teaching and learning became clearly
evident. We were thankfully able to
retain a non-teaching deputy head,
and with her years of experience, Celia
Leonard was well positioned to tweak
observation processes; this allowed
us, in turn, to quickly refer to outlined
points for development from previous
monitoring sessions. We celebrated
good and outstanding practice and
made doubly sure that we were
sharing it with one another.
Celia also supported colleagues to
challenge each other during whole-
staff moderation meetings; with
further support from our trust and
Kernow Teaching School Alliance
moderation sessions, we all became far
more confident.
Another aspect we have focused on
is coaching, both in and out of the
classroom. Middle leader development
has been key, and we regularly meet
in groups of three; one of us will act
as an inspector or challenge partner
and another as an observer while
the third colleague is asked about
their subject leadership. This has
had a really empowering effect; as
leaders, we are now all constructing
improvement and impact plans
to identify the next steps for our
respective subjects.
A creative curriculum
In 2017, after another year of good
results, we had substantial evidence to
indicate the quality of provision across
all areas. We have always had a great
reputation for sport in the local area,
but it was clear that there was much
more on offer for our children.
For example, our year 5 teacher,
Matthew Tooke, inspired his class with
the Bloodhound SSC rocket-powered
car. Not only did children visit
Newquay airport, where the car was
being tested up to 200 miles per hour,
and meet driver Andy Green, but they
also constructed their own rocket cars
and tested them at speeds of up to 38
miles per hour on their own track.
Our year 1 children built a model of
London as part of their history project
and set fire to it to illustrate the Great
Fire of London, before the St Austell
Fire Brigade kindly extinguished it; their
only comment was a request for a
bigger model the following year.
Meanwhile, our outdoor learning
team – Taryn Montgomery-Smith,
Freddy the learning dog
hard at work
We celebrated
good and
practice and
made doubly
sure that we
were sharing
it with one
Year 6 pupils wrote instructions for their year 3 friends to learn about
lighting fires safely. For us, the most pleasing thing was when we
heard two children talking:
»Year 3 child: “I like watching the flames.”
»Year 6 child: “What colours can you see in them? Can you hear
»Year 3 child: “It’s amazing: oranges, yellows and reds all glowing
together. I can hear a hissing sound and some crackles.”
This is an outstanding example of how practical experience can
develop academic skills, communication and resilience.
RosieGranger and Jess Daw – have
inspired all of us to get out and about
on our amazing site – we are located
near the idyllic fishing village where
was filmed – to illustrate the
value of the outdoors to our children.
Across all of these areas, one thing
has become evident above all else: a
creative curriculum builds resilience.
We have seen, first hand, the impact
it has had on our children; they are
now more inspired than ever to try
new things, make mistakes and, more
importantly, learn from them as well as
new experiences.
The next phase
Our team has developed, in terms of
both confidence and creativity, and
this growth is only set to continue. All
schools have been subject to budget
cuts and, as a leader, that is the most
difficult thing I’ve encountered; it’s
not always easy to encourage our
passionate professionals to be brave
often without any additionalresources.
We’ve also enhanced our school-
wide sustainability initiatives by way
of upcycling, recycling and reusing.
As Celia has had to go back into
the classroom, we can now utilise
and develop our middle leaders
Our learning environment only
continues to develop; everyone shares
children’s ideas and shapes the spaces
around the school. Many of us have
adopted my mantra, “work smarter,
not harder”, and it paid off in March
this year when Ofsted judged us as
In a recent survey, 82 per cent of our
children said they enjoyed learning, a
14 per cent increase on 2016’s figure
of 68 per cent, and now enjoy writing
– 77 per cent – and maths – 79 per
cent – more than ever before.
We are proud to say that we are
a learning community. Many of us
are taking on additional studies
to supplement our existing skills,
from outdoor learning courses to
postgraduate studies. All of us are
leading, learning and inspiring our
children to want to achieve more.
As leaders, we
are now all
and impact
plans to identify
the next steps
for our
Learning happens both
inside and outside, in all

This article was sponsored by Charlestown ACE Academy. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.