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 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