Darras Hall Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Darras Hall Primary 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 Darras Hall Primary 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


Highlighting best practice
Victoria Parr, head teacher
Peer coaching in
Darras Hall Primary School, an outstanding school located
in Ponteland, Newcastle, has seen a number of changes
over the past few years, and will see yet more in the
not-so-distant future. In January and then September of 2016,
they appointed a new head teacher and deputy head teacher,
respectively. In 2017, they officially made the transition from a
first school to a primary school. By the end of 2018, they will
have moved into a new, state-of-the-art school building, and
have helped form the Pele Trust, comprising multiple academies.
Head teacher Victoria Parr has been an instrumental part of
these changes since she first joined.
Everyone is a leader
At Darras Hall, we focus on leadership at every level, and professional development
is central to everything we do. All staff members have a collective responsibility for
the school’s continuous development. In short, improvement is everyone’s business.
Key to this is our philosophy of “growing” leaders. This begins with our
methodology of grouping subjects into “curriculum teams”. These comprise
a range of staff, including newly qualified teachers and higher-level teaching
assistants. With a workload spread across the team appropriately, staff are able
to continuously learn from one another. Those in early stages of their career work
incredibly closely with curriculum leaders who mentor them in how best to lead
curriculum areas.
»Head teacher: Victoria Parr
»Founded in 1985
»Based in Ponteland, Newcastle
»Type of school: Primary school
»No. of pupils: 497 in 2017-18
»Converted from first school to
primary school in 2017
»Founding member of
Darras Hall Primary
What is truly central to this is knowing
the strengths of individual staff
members. We create opportunities
for each member of our team to fulfil
their potential and, as a result, remain
satisfied in their work. This goes a
long way toward ensuring that we
are all passionate about success for
every child at Darras Hall. Beyond
that, middle leaders at the school
take complete responsibility for pupil
learning and pastoral care within their
phase. Support from the higher-level
teaching assistants really helps drive
this home, and a close relationship
with all governors allows everyone to
remain deeply involved in the school’s
Partners of all shapes and
We try to look outwards at how we
affect others and how others can help
us in everything we do, the result being
that the school’s structure is not one of
strict exclusivity. Parents take on a really
central role at Darras Hall. Since some
have a limited amount of face-to-face
contact with their child’s teacher, we
use a range of communication methods
to ensure that they maintain an up-to-
date awareness of their child’s learning.
Indeed, many of these parents also
volunteer within the school. Along with
grandparents and other volunteers,
they offer individual reading support
for identified children on a regular basis
and receive training from school staff.
Our move from the original three-
tier structure – where we were a
first school that pupils would attend
before moving on to middle and then
high schools – to a primary-secondary
model has enabled us to form effective
partnerships with our neighbouring
schools. Staff have regular opportunities
to work together on areas such as
assessment, physical education, middle
leadership, SEND and the transition
between years 6 and7.
The partnership between our school,
other local primary schools and the
local secondary school is a strong
one, and will this year provide the
basis for the Pele Trust. Two members
of staff are centrally employed by
this partnership and work across all
organisations within it: an MFL teacher
and an educational psychologist.
With time, we plan on having
more to come. Looking beyond the
traditional 11 to 18 school structure,
we also work closely with Northumbria
University in training teachers through
School Direct, BA and PGCE courses.
Problem solving is a central
element of our curriculum
Determination, ambition and resilience
are key components of the Darras Code
We are all
about success
for every child
at Darras Hall
Highlighting best practice
Values, curriculum and
Our view is that our school values
and vision must remain at the heart
of everything we do. In 2016, we
renewed and revisited six central values
that inform every decision made on
school grounds by our team. These
six values take the place of the school
rules, and instead form a “code”, one
formed collaboratively by all staff and
pupils. It reflects key behaviours and
traits that we aim to develop in every
pupil throughout their time at the
school. The Darras Code is an acronym
which encourages both pupils and staff
to be determined, ambitious, resilient,
respectful, amazing and successful.
At Darras Hall, we keep our standards
consistently high across everything we
do. This is a result of our high-quality,
responsive teaching methodology and
our creative and engaging curriculum.
We value the importance of coaching,
and staff have learning conversations
in place of more traditional feedback
methods. This enables them to engage
in purposeful and collaborative
reflection on their learning as well
as pupils’ learning, and leads them
to their own conclusions about the
quality of teaching and learning in
their classroom.
Going forward
The changes outlined earlier are the
two main points we are looking at for
the remainder of 2018. The transition
into a new school building will be an
undoubtedly eventful one, but will
hopefully be a straightforward process.
Beyond that, by the end of the year,
we want to see the Pele Trust fully
established with the foundation for
even stronger bonds and partnerships
at every level of education in our
With these two important changes
close on the horizon, our school’s
future looks to be positive. As we
move forward over the next few
months and years, we hope to
continue seeking excellence in all
things at the school and see pupils,
staff, parents and partners alike all
keeping the Darras Code at the heart
of everything they do.
A high-quality,
and an
Our aim is for learning to
engage, inspire and excite
Independent learning is fostered
from the early years


This article was sponsored by Darras Hall Primary 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 Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy