Chilton Primary 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 Chilton Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Highlighting best practice
Pupils seeing how they measure
up to the raised expectations
Chilton’s school council
with Headteacher Ben
Collaboration and hard work are the keys to success, says
Ben Hemmings, the headteacher of Suffolk-based Chilton
Primary School. After working closely with a school rated
as “outstanding” by Ofsted in another area of Suffolk, he and
his highly supportive team have managed to raise the prospects
of the children in Chilton Primary School considerably – a feat
recognised as such in the local press and by Ofsted inspectors.
Improving behaviour and outcomes have been key goals of his –
something that Ben expands upon.
Before going into detail about how we operate, it’s first necessary to understand
the context that we’re situated in. As a school, upwards of 40 per cent of our
children can be in receipt of free school meals. This alone gives a strong indication
of the levels of deprivation within our area. When I first arrived, the first year of
year 6 data showed that as far as reading, writing and maths were concerned,
there was a combined achievement of 15 per cent at KS2.
Behaviour too was a big challenge. Before I became headteacher, this had been
tackled inconsistently. Too frequently, staff had been confronted with physical
attacks by pupils. In short, a lot of change was required.
Not taking no for an answer
Immediately, in the first term, we looked at what steps needed to be taken to
improve the school. The local authority helped us out in this regard by putting me
in touch with an outstanding school: Oulton Broad Primary School. It was after
Chilton Primary School
»Headteacher: Ben Hemmings
»Founded in 1962
»Located in Stowmarket
»Type of school: Community
»No. of pupils: 148
»2018 phonics outcomes were
in top nine per cent nationally
getting in touch with their school’s
headteacher, Jamie White, that we
began developing links with their
school. Jamie was very generous with
his time, and he allowed us to send
staff there to determine what we
could extract from them in terms of
The thing to understand when
trying to effect change is that it
doesn’t happen overnight. Raising
expectations and aspiration, for
example, is not something that can
be done by simply declaring it. You
have to nurture it fully at every stage
– it is something that happens over
time and only gradually. My fear was
that people felt that the school’s poor
standards were more or less set in
stone – that the teachers had done
what they could and that things were
out of their hands.
With a lot of time and much energy,
the staff have indeed managed to
raise expectations and outcomes. Since
implementing these changes, children
are now performing much better in
key areas, not least in phonics. In
mathematics and reading, too, the
children are producing work of ever
higher standards. This was achieved
in Early Years by teaching in a more
formal structure. We also made
efficiencies in terms of resources, so
that every penny was going towards
improving outcomes based on
evidence-led best practice. We are now
delivering the high-quality education
that our pupils deserve.
Much of this progress can also be
attributed to the improvement in
behaviour throughout the school.
We implemented a school-wide
policy which replicated those of many
successful schools – the main aspect
being recognition and reward of
positive behaviour. We also introduced
a nurture provision which, in addition
to good quality-first teaching,
helped to turn around individuals
and classes that were previously
Alongside this, we have worked hard
to increase children’s experiences and
enjoyment at Chilton. Prior to my
arrival, too many children mentally
associated school with negative
experiences. Now, however, we invest
heavily in encouraging a positive ethos
around the school and making every
one of our pupils feel valued. All kinds
of extracurricular activities help us to
achieve this goal. Our music provision
is especially good in this respect, with
the availability of musical tutoring
and lessons, as well as the option of
playing flute, violin and drums, among
other instruments.
Reading results have
improved dramatically
since 2016
A rich curriculum keeps
children engaged in their
these changes,
children are now
performing much
better in key
areas, not least
in phonics
Highlighting best practice
Hoping and working for a
better future
Funding, or lack thereof, presents a
significant challenge at the moment.
The current budget crisis in schools
is alarming. The vital role that our
teaching assistants play in our
vulnerable children’s education should
not be undervalued, and cutting
TA hours will be felt by our most
vulnerable children the most. Children
with SEN, those with mental health
needs and those with difficulties at
home rely heavily on the support and
kindness that our staff provide. Until
the government remedies this issue,
we’ll remain squeezed in terms of the
provision we can offer the children
who are most in need.
Broadly speaking though, I have great
hopes for the future of our school.
Our “good” Ofsted rating is a source
of much optimism for me, given how
difficult the initial circumstances we
were operating in had been. The
report confirmed how far we had
come in a short time and recognised
the hard work that all the staff had put
in to get us there.
As long as the budget doesn’t take
a severe turn for the worse, I believe
Chilton will continue to grow in the
right direction. Each new crop of
children coming in have developed
very positive attitudes, and they will
benefit from the improved education
and experiences we are providing.
We are continuing to develop as a
team, and I am fortunate enough to
have a brilliant and supportive deputy
head and a strong senior team who
are increasingly embracing a system
of distributed leadership so that we
can grow the school together. For our
school, it’s onwards and upwards.
We have
worked hard
to increase
and enjoyment
at Chilton
Excellent teaching,
starting in Early Years,
gives pupils the
confidence as they move
through the school

This article was sponsored by Chilton Primary School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.