Davington Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Davington 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 Davington 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
Chilton Saint, head teacher
Pupils blossom in a culture of
respect and opportunity
Based in the historic market town of Faversham, Kent is
Davington Primary School. Despite facing numerous problems
of a socioeconomic nature, a strong will to bring its children
the best possible learning experience has helped surmount them.
The head teacher, Chilton Saint, has sought to bring all children
at his school – no matter their background – education of the
highest possible standard, as well as a genuinely happy learning
space. What follows is his account of this approach.
Our starting point
Upon first becoming head teacher, the situation was inconsistent. To get a sense
of this, consider that there had been 46 exclusions over the course of three years;
the SLT had left the summer prior; there existed no deputy head nor special needs
coordinator; school results were wavering below national expectations; and there
was no formal methodology to either teaching or feedback systems. On top of this,
there was a marked lack of aspiration in the area; for some segments of Faversham,
this is an intergenerational problem. Seeing the severity of these problems, I
immediately got to work on them.
One of the first tasks for me was to establish a fundamentally new modus operandi
for the school. Indeed, on day one I jettisoned detentions, with a focus instead
on promoting positive behaviour. This marked the beginning of a journey. In the
first 15months, I had to establish a set of hard and non-negotiable rules, in terms
of both behaviour and learning – not least because there was something of a
procedural vacuum preceding my time at the school. The staff were invited on this
»Head teacher: Chilton Saint
»Founded in 1882
»Based in Faversham, Kent
»Type of school: Primary school
»No. of pupils: 420
»No. of staff: 72
»Has a classroom in the middle
of a one-acre woodland area,
partially built by the head
teacher himself
»One of the earliest schools
established in the area
Davington Primary
journey, with the aim of promoting
shared values. More specifically, I
wanted staff to take responsibility
for the children’s development.
For some, this was an unwelcome
development, and resulted in some
leaving. Nevertheless, the staff we
have now are stable and are afforded
opportunities to engage in continuous
professional development – and not
just for the teachers either; the support
staff are similarly engaged.
Creating experiences
But not all is so regimented. At the
heart of everything we do at our school
is the children’s well-being. From this
foundational value, everything else
follows. In terms of their long-term
futures, education is an obvious path to
this end. In the shorter term, however,
we are committed to providing the
children the best possible experience
at school. Quite simply, we want them
to have fun and be happy, particularly
those children whose backgrounds are
not conducive to a good childhood. It
is for this reason we built a classroom
in the middle of a one-acre woodland
area, with a pond, orchard and story-
telling area – a project which I had a
personal and physical role in making.
This particular area makes our staff
and pupils proud of their school.
In addition to this, we have in place
for our students a scheme called
“Experience Days”. On an Experience
Day, we will suddenly announce to
students on certain days that they will
be going on an adventure of some
kind – without them knowing prior. As
one would expect, this causes much
excitement. On one occasion, we
even procured tonnes of sand in order
to emulate a beach on the school
premises. By making school fun in
this way, the children indelibly inherit
warm memories of childhood, and – by
extension – associate a learning life
with a good life.
That’s not to say, however, that the
children are merely passive recipients
of what we have to offer. The children
play an active role in making their
school a happy, functioning space.
In creating an orchard village, for
example, the children had almost
entire discretion over the requisite
materials and project management.
This meant exhaustive searches
around the school for potential
resources for its construction, as well
as the formation of roles, rules and
responsibilities among each other.
When done correctly, this imbues
our children with empathy, resilience,
resourcefulness, creativity and
Developing confident,
articulate learners Learning through creativity
At the heart of
everything we
do at our school
is the children’s
wellbeing. From
everything else
Highlighting best practice
Community spirit
To us, fostering a genuine sense of
community spirit is crucial. This is
why, at the end of every school day,
we ensure there is a strong teacher
and staff presence at the school
gates. This allows us to engage with
the parents, and them with us. We
are very approachable, and parents
do indeed take advantage of this
opportunity – something to which
our recent Ofsted report attests.
Moreover, we hold a breakfast,
afterschool and holiday club every
day of the year except Christmas
– sending a strong message to our
pupils and the community as a
whole that our role goes beyond the
prescribed school hours.
Beyond that, we also play an
active role in the Kent Association
of Headteachers (KAH) – a body
representing over 500 head teachers
in the whole of Kent. The purpose
of this organisation is to coalesce
around common issues and to lend
support to one another. One of our
common areas of concern right now
is special educational needs (SEN)
funding, an issue we at Davington
are currently taking up with the local
authority – which brings us to a more
general point about politics, namely
governmental funding.
SEN funding has been difficult for us,
particularly given how tailored the
interventions must be for some of our
pupils. There is no blanket solution
to the problems afflicting pupils in
this category, so focused efforts
are necessary for their amelioration
– and, quite simply, this cannot be
adequately achieved in the absence
of funding. One of the principal
reasons we’re struggling to procure
these resources is because funding
schemes for SEN at their inception
were too indiscriminately used, leading
to a strong reaction in the opposite
direction from those who handle the
funds. This, we believe, is a problem
for central government to deal with,
and, if done correctly, could help not
just our school, but schools up and
down the country.
Such matters are not in our hands,
though. What is in our hands is how
we comport ourselves as a school,
which for us entails the commitment
to the children’s well-being. Doing
so is not just an exercise in day care;
its effects will have an enduring and
formative impact on the children’s
approach to education and life more
generally. This is especially needed for
areas with high pockets of deprivation,
where not everyone is afforded the
best opportunities in life.
By making
school fun in
this way, the
indelibly inherit
memories of
childhood, and
– by extension
– associate a
learning life
with a good
Nurturing a love of
Rich and fulfilling
educational experiences


This article was sponsored by Davington 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