Earlham Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Earlham 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 Earlham 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
Education is building the future
When Daniel Kerbel became head teacher of Earlham
Primary School, Wood Green, in 2015, he took on the
heady task of turning around an institution that was
struggling to attain the basic outcomes necessary for pupils’
futures. After two years of hard work, Daniel and his team have
managed to improve the lives of their students, as evidenced
through the school’s rising Ofsted rating, and a sensation of
hope now permeates throughout. Daniel writes here of the
challenges he has faced and provides a step-by-step strategy on
raising educational standards for schools in the future.
The biggest landmark in our recent history has been achieving a “good” Ofsted
rating in April 2017. The school had been graded “inadequate” in 2012 by
Ofsted, and had been subsequently revisited and graded “requires improvement”
in 2013 and 2015. Decisive action was required to get the school a “good”
grading. One may wonder what the leadership’s approach to turning the school
around was, and how we’ll face future challenges. I write this from the perspective
of head teacher, and presented here are the ideas, strategies and tactics that the
school community and I enacted to save Earlham Primary School.
I arrived in September 2015, shortly after the third Ofsted inspection had left
the school with a “requires improvement” grade. When I arrived, the sense in
the school was one of relief at having survived the inspection. This was the first
challenge – as Her Majesty’s Inspector, visiting in October, made clear, not getting
an “inadequate” rating was not cause for celebration!
»Head teacher: Daniel Kerbel
»Founded in 2007
»Based in Wood Green,
»Type of school: Maintained
community school
»No. of pupils: 375
»No. of staff: 53
»In 2017, Earlham Primary held
pupil school elections, staffed
by a year 1 team of five pupils,
winning the campaign on a
platform of “a desk for each
child” and a “sweeter school”
– they governed for one day
with ice lollies for all
Earlham Primary
The staff had experienced a succession
of leadership changes, including the
disbanding of the governing body
and the installation of an Independent
Examinations Board (IEB) by the Local
Education Authority (LEA). There were
monthly project board meetings with
the LEA and the school improvement
officer visited at least every fortnight.
The IEB resolved to raise the outcomes
for pupils by appointing a permanent
head teacher and an almost entirely
new leadership team in 2015. The
improvement this entailed would
be visibly affirmed by a “good”
The situation in Earlham
Coming in as a new head teacher,
there were various areas that needed
addressing. Staff morale was low –
teacher turnover had been very high
and many of the teaching staff were
new to the school. Earlham School
had undergone so many changes
implemented by successive leaderships
that there was no established “Earlham
way”. The curriculum had to be
addressed, a new form of assessment
strategy had to be established and the
way we implemented teaching needed
to be confronted. National changes in
assessment systems, going “beyond
levels”, came at a fortuitous time, for it
provided the opportunity to develop an
entirely new approach to assessing our
children and establish our “way”.
The children complained of “feeling
dizzy” about staff changes and the
biggest immediate issue was the 2015
KS2 outcomes, following a year in
which every government floor target
had been missed. In 2015, only one
floor target relating to progress was
met and children were leaving primary
school hopelessly underprepared for
secondary school. Making matters
worse, these issues were additional
to other challenges the children faced
due to the socioeconomic sector to
which they nominally belonged –
over 40 per cent of the school at this
time were in the official category of
I acknowledge that previous leadership
teams tried very hard to achieve
improvements and money had been
spent on additional teaching staff,
particularly for year 6. The IEB changed
direction and now spent money on
leadership to get the raised results we
were looking for.
Before even beginning, we addressed
the school mission statement – then
“aim, believe and achieve” – and
changed it to “building the future
today”. We wanted to be clear about
why we were doing what we were
doing. Every action stems from the
belief that we are building the future
through the education of children at
a critical point in their development.
Our vision, enshrined in our school
development plan, became “give
every child in our school the character,
confidence, skills and knowledge
to make the best choices as they
build their futures”. We introduced
character cards and best effort work
commendations known as “golden
marshmallows”. These served to
emphasise character and positive
attitude – and it’s character and
positivity which I believe are Earlham
Primary School’s superpowers.
Achieving through
positive energy
Staff morale
was low –
teacher turnover
had been very
high and many
of the teaching
staff were new
to the school
Highlighting best practice
A three-step plan
We used a three-step plan in
revolutionising the school; a plan
which is currently entering its third
stage. The first stage was to give
everybody a common language of
assessment so that we were using
the same terms to track our progress
and knew what we were aiming for.
We put in place training for staff and
rewrote our assessment policy with a
one-page Earlham assessment strategy
to help teachers plan their lessons,
track their children and report to
leadership, and for myself to report
progress to governors and identify
where we needed to intervene and
support. We are hoping for a third
successive year of raised outcomes
for year 6 children graduating in the
national Key Stage 2 SATs.
The second stage of the plan was
stabilising the teaching force,
including the leadership team. The
previous years had seen high teacher
turnover with most staff coming in on
a short-term basis. We introduced a
phased system with phase leaders at
each stage and recruited a permanent
leadership team. The phase leaders
acted as support and coaches for
teachers. We now have a more settled
teaching staff with clear professional
targets and an understanding that
data claims of successful child
assessments must be corroborated
with evidence from the children’s
work. Ofsted are now more interested
in the books of children than the
internal data of the schools, and our
mode of student assessment must
reflect this.
The third stage of the plan is to
develop a tailor-made curriculum
which supports our vision for our
children. We want to provide more
opportunities for developing student
leadership skills and experiencing
success through teamwork and
participation in challenges, building
confidence and breaking the cycle
of disadvantage. Sports tournament
participation and art competitions are
key parts of this and we’re about to
introduce a system of pupil volunteers
to give students the opportunity
to contribute and see the positive
outcomes of their efforts. We want
to provide our children with the
opportunity to be leaders who can
manifest real change.
Finances are a challenge for us, with a
deficit compounded by falling rolls due
to a regional surplus of schools. We
will, however, continue to work hard,
promoting our school within the wider
community. As our pupils say: “We
never give up; Earlham Forever!”
The first stage
was to give
everybody a
language of
assessment so
that we were
using the same
terms to track
our progress
Teaching children to
make choices that benefit
their development


This article was sponsored by Earlham 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