Charlestown ACE Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Charlestown ACE Academy'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 Charlestown ACE Academy 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

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. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett.

The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett

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. 
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett