Cooks Spinney Primary School & Nursery

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Cooks Spinney Primary School & Nursery'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 Cooks Spinney Primary School & Nursery 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

Highlighting best practice
Stuart Pope NPQH, LLE,
executive head teacher
The Enchanted Forest: one of the
stimulating learning environments,
this one in early years
Cooks Spinney Primary Academy and Nursery, in Harlow,
Essex, is in the top 5 per cent nationally for SATs results
and is graded “good” by Ofsted. However, the picture
was not always bright. Before its sponsorship by the Burnt Mill
Academy Trust in 2013, the school was failing. Today, executive
head teacher Stuart Pope, who is responsible for rapidly turning
the school around, is a local leader of education and shares his
secrets to success with peers across the country.
My philosophy
My philosophy for achieving outstanding outcomes for all young people was
summed up on a simple dress-up day held recently at Cooks Spinney. When
challenged to come into school dressed for their dream job, we didn’t follow the
example set by some other schools of banning footballer, vlogger and popstar
costumes. Why put barriers on young dreams; why not give them the belief all of
those dreams – no matter how wild – really are within reach. That’s what I believe
and that’s what we teach our children. Once they have that belief in themselves,
we give them the tools, the characteristics and the drive to get them there. Our
dress-up day wasn’t just full of YouTubers and racing drivers, though; our young
people – from a deprived community in Harlow – also dream of becoming doctors,
zookeepers, dentists and teachers.
I refuse to let where they have started in life act as a barrier to that success; in fact,
that only makes me more determined to ensure our young people are given every
opportunity to achieve. Of course, a huge shift in attitudes can take some selling
»Executive head teacher:
MrStuart Pope NPQH, LLE
»Established as Cooks Spinney
Primary Academy in December
2013 as part of the Burnt Mill
Academy Trust (previously
Cooks Spinney Primary School,
local authority maintained)
»Based in Harlow, Essex
»Type of school: Mainstream
setting for children aged 3-11
»No. of pupils: 501
»No. of staff: 60
Cooks Spinney Primary
Academy and Nursery
to parents and, sometimes, staff. But,
a change of uniform and colour, a
large investment in the school building
and demonstrating the theory works
by sharing every success with them
has seen the whole community get
It was important to change the culture
and install a growth mindset where
all staff believed our children could
overcome challenges and achieve great
outcomes. That is the thinking which
has had a profound impact on the
community, mindset and achievements
at Cooks Spinney. Our journey has
never been about changing the
children – it has been about getting
the right people in front of them in
the classroom; the right people in
leadership positions; the right team to
inspire them to strive for the very best
in life.
I spotted the talent within our
existing team and developed skilled
professionals into senior roles; many
of my long-term colleagues at Cooks
Spinney now hold vital roles across
our parent Trust, showing other
schools in the partnership how we
have achieved such good things so
quickly. That staff growth shows every
member of the team contributes to
outstanding outcomes. I also rewrote
policies to reflect those new high
standards of expectations, appointed
assistant heads to oversee areas of
weakness and involved the governors
in monitoring. I engaged with external
support to help validate our judgement
and support the improvement plan and
school development.
Everyone has their part to play in our
school. I have always been open about
outcomes and progress with all staff.
Everyone working in the school knows
the contributions they make directly
influence the progress our children
make. My refusal to let barriers stand
in the way of achievement is a belief I
want everyone in my school to share;
in fact, I held CPD sessions with
all staff to write the school’s vision
together. By spending two terms as
head of school teaching full-time, I
motivated staff by walking the walk
and practising what I preached.
Opportunities and investment
It’s one thing to have the belief that
anything is possible, but another to put
that into practice, particularly in tough
financial times.
But, with sheer determination and by
managing finances carefully, I have
again led by example and made things
happen for our young people – even
our own wildest dreams, as adults, are
coming true through hard work and
commitment. That’s quite an example
to set our children.
Some of the children’s
artwork. Art and other
foundation subjects
are taught by specialist
Passionate teachers
develop inquisitive young
minds and a love of
Everyone has
their part to
play in our
Highlighting best practice
While I was already proud of the one-
to-one assistance we were providing
to children with special educational
needs, I wanted even more for our
pupils; I wanted the physical resources
to match our human resources. We
embrace the challenges these children
bring and work hard to give all children
the same opportunities.
Through careful budgeting, I invested
£25,000 in a sensory room to
ensure all pupils are given the best
opportunities to achieve.
I gradually moved the room up the list
of priorities and scrimped and saved
to achieve it. I did not take from the
special educational needs budget; I
made money available from the main
school budget. We worked hard to
make ithappen.
In the near future, I will be
committing further to the vision of
opportunities for all with the creation
of an alternative provision linked to
Cooks Spinney. What we need to do
is to set these children up and arm
them with the skills and strategies
they need to achieve in mainstream
school and to have successful lives like
everyone else.
By creating a nurturing environment,
with those same high expectations
andstrong self-belief, we can continue
to turn lives around. Again, by
removing the obstacles – a troubled
past, unstable family life, low self-
esteem – and showing there is another
way that is achievable, we will see the
same dramatic and positive changes
Cooks Spinney has gone from a
school which struggled to fill classes
and in special measures to now being
discussed around parliamentary tables
as one of the most improved schools in
the country.
It’s not good to think that a child
can only achieve so much; it is about
getting everyone to aim for the stars.
It’s not good
to think that a
child can only
achieve so
much; it is
about getting
everyone to
aim for the
The jungle-themed
library has become a
feature of the whole
school. Children visit
independently and in
their own time to share
and discuss books. It is
crucial to foster a love of
reading at an early age

This article was sponsored by Cooks Spinney Primary School & Nursery. 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 Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister