Dartford Grammar School for Girls

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Dartford Grammar School for Girls'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, its uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Dartford Grammar School for Girls is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature The Rt Hon Lord David Blunkett, MP
Pickles signature The Rt Hon Lord Eric Pickles, MP
Sharon Pritchard, head teacher
We seek to inspire a love of
reading throughout the school
Dartford Grammar School for Girls (DGGS) has been on a
remarkable journey. Two months after Sharon Pritchard
became head teacher in September 2011 they were
inspected by Ofsted. Although overall effectiveness was judged
as “good”, there were “outstanding”, “good” and “requiring
improvement” grades within the report. Sharon had a very clear
and ambitious plan for the school, and this judgment provided
additional information to help make the changes needed. With
the support of the chair of governors and governing body, Sharon
was determined that DGGS would become an “outstanding”
school. Most importantly, their aim and drive was to do the very
best for the students they had the privilege to educate. This very
much remains their focus and reason for everything they do.
Our vision
Engaging with people – staff, students, parents/carers and the local community – was
a very important part of how I envisaged the school developing to become a “centre
of excellence for teaching, learning and leadership”. It was vital to establish a common
ethos and shared understanding of what we were about as a school. Following
consultation with all stakeholders, a new school vision statement was designed –
“Working together to achieve academic excellence and personal potential”. We
collectively decided on our principal school values – respect, responsibility, excellence,
dedication and creativity – and rewrote our school aims. They continue to be at the
core of our community and are embedded in our policies, practices and the daily life of
»Head teacher: Sharon Pritchard
»Founded in 1904
»Based in Dartford, Kent
»Type of school: Selective girls’
grammar school with a mixed
sixth form for students aged
»No. of students: 1,147, with
312 in the sixth form
»Ofsted: “Outstanding” in all
areas, June 2016
»It is the lead school in a newly
established multi-academy
trust, The Areté Trust
Dartford Grammar
School for Girls
Highlighting best practice
the school. We place great importance
on the value of being, and belonging to,
a very special and unique community,
and being proud of our individual and
collective achievements.
This emphasis on community helped to
frame our development and ensured
that we focused on the right things. We
pursued excellence in all the school’s
activities through high expectations and
ambition for all. We monitored and
identified priorities for improvement and
we were relentless in seeking to do the
very best for the students. Significant
changes to the senior leadership team,
sixth form restructuring, a new pastoral
support system, excellent teaching
and support staff appointments, an
innovative in-house personalised
professional development programme
as well as a considerable number of
new policies and procedures all made a
significant and immediate impact.
Changes to teaching and
There was a fundamental change to
our teaching and learning, however,
and we are particularly proud of how
this has been transformed. Our strong
sense of community means we believe
in the importance of collaboration and
learning from each other. The DGGS
“high impact teaching strategies”
(HITS) emerged from extensive
observation of teaching and reflection
by the whole team. They encapsulate
the most effective and dynamic
teaching strategies used across the
school to challenge, engage and
support our students.
For each of the HITS, there are
reflective questions to aid planning and
development, key practical classroom
strategies and a cohesive programme
of professional development. This
includes research-informed seminars
and professional learning groups,
led by teachers at different stages of
Two of the HITS have been developed
to form the basis of“thinking hard”.
With the advent of more challenging
curricula and the demands of broader
and deeper subject knowledge,
students are required to developdepth
of knowledgeand understanding, the
ability toanalyse and evaluateand
greaterflexibility of thought.These
three themes are the foundation of the
“thinking hard” process – we believe
that learning happens when people
must think hard.
We are delighted to have shared
“thinking hard” at a national level
through the PiXL Club, a partnership of
3,000 secondary and primary schools,
sixth forms and providers of alternative
education. We have presented to more
than 2,500 senior leaders and delivered
training to over 1,000 secondary
and primary school colleagues and
Engaging learning in
, performed by
students in years 7 and 8
We place
importance on
the value of
being, and
belonging to,
a very special
and unique
Community values
Our community emphasis and values
very much continue today. We believe
it is even more important considering
the increasing societal pressures on
young people, particularly from social
media. We try to think of our school
as a “bubble” from the outside world,
with no mobile phones permitted
during school hours. Our standards
and our expectations of behaviour are
perhaps even higher now precisely
because of the challenges that young
people face. We are extremely proud
to be a very culturally diverse and
inclusive school, preparing our students
for life in modern Britain.
We take every opportunity to
recognise and celebrate our differences
as individuals. We now have nearly 70
different languages spoken and 53
per cent of our year 7 in 2017 have
English as an additional language. We
strongly believe in the potential of
education to change lives and improve
social mobility – this is reflected in our
admissions policy, which prioritises
eligible pupil premium students. As a
result, 19 per cent of students in year
7 qualify for pupil premium, and we
anticipate that this figure will increase
in the coming years.
Today and tomorrow
Today I feel very privileged to be the
head teacher of such a remarkable
school. For September 2018 entry, we
have 1,241 applications for the 180
year 7 places available, an increase
of nearly 500 in the last five years.
Our 2017 Progress 8 measure places
us in the top 7 per cent of schools
nationally, and our attendance
figures are outstanding. Our sixth
form numbers are the highest in the
school’s history and we have a truly
excellent, dedicated and professional
teaching and support staff team – we
are indeed veryfortunate.
The future for DGGS is exciting.
Although there are many significant
challenges ahead, including funding
and teacher recruitment, there are
also great opportunities for us to
make a real, lasting impact on the
young people of our community. In
June 2017, a year after Ofsted judged
the school to be “outstanding” in
all areas, DGGS became a converter
academy and we established our own
multi-academy trust, The Areté Trust.
This decision was not taken lightly – it
had been discussed by the governing
body for over two years. We felt,
however, that the time was right to
take control of our own destiny and,
crucially, it would enable us to expand
our expertise and success to impact
on students and communities beyond
the school. The trust’s name is from
theGreek word“arete”
“excellence of any kind”, which
signifies moral virtue. The Trust’s
principal aim is toprovide opportunities
and maximise life chancesfor all young
people,regardless of background,
which is very much aligned with the
school’s belief in supporting social
mobility. We hope to welcome like-
minded schools into our community so
that we can play an even greater role
in genuinely changing lives.
Our 2017
Progress 8
places us in
the top 7 per
cent of
Students are proud to be
members of our school

The Parliamentary Review Publication, in which this article originally appeared, contained the following foreword from the prime minister.

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

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

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