Ellington Infant School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Ellington Infant 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 Ellington Infant 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


Headteacher Nicola Brown
Discovering the importance
of caring for our world
Since arriving at the school in 2012, Headteacher Nicola
Brown has overseen a number of changes, the foremost
among which involved incorporating a play-based curriculum
for their youngest students. The school have also designed
their provision to meet the needs of their local area, offering
swimming lessons from reception to year 2. As members of the
Challenge Partners Network of Excellence, they receive a range
of continuing professional development opportunities and work
with schools across the country. Nicola tells
The Parliamentary
about the changes made to the school and how they
have adapted to east Kent’s falling birth rate.
I joined the school in 2012. It is in an area of significant deprivation, with 38 per
cent of pupils eligible for the pupil premium. The school had been classed as
“good” by Ofsted, and while it had many good features that staff were justifiably
proud of, there were also many aspects of the curriculum, teaching and learning
that needed updating. There was no established assessment for learning practices
and, at that time, the school did not work in collaboration with other schools.
The school had many exciting themed days, but analysis showed that the curriculum
was narrow and that the subjects taught were not always relevant to children’s
lives or interests. As a team, we reviewed our curriculum, adapting it to make
sure that it reflected the needs of our children beyond the core subjects. We are
situated in Ramsgate, by the sea, but many of our children have had few swimming
experiences. In a seaside town, the ability to swim is a life skill, so we introduced it
for all of our year 1 and 2 students. This year, we have also expanded this to include
»Headteacher: Nicola Brown
»Established in 1939
»Based in Ramsgate
»Type: Infant school
»No. of pupils: 173
»School motto: Love to learn,
learn to grow
»Ofsted: Good
»Pupil Premium: 38 per cent
Ellington Infant School
Highlighting best practice
reception children. These lessons are
paid for with school funding, as we
view them as essential. Although these
curriculum changes began in 2013/14,
the perception that we were a “good”
school made facilitating change
difficult and the process slow. The
catalyst came in 2015 when we were
assessed as “requiring improvement”
by Ofsted. This acted as a wakeup call
for us all and increased the momentum
Developing experiential
In an area with high deprivation and a
significant number of children entering
reception with poor language skills,
we believed our children would benefit
more from a less-formal, high-quality
play-based curriculum. We have a small
forest area with a covered pond and
have invested in wet weather gear to
allow our students to explore outside
at all times. We do not have fancy
equipment, but what we have we use
well. To support this, we recruited a
reception teacher with the remit to
develop our outdoor environment.
Following these changes, we have had
lots of visitors to see our practice, and
I was invited to speak to other heads
about the benefits of outdoor learning.
As this worked well, we began to
look at the rest of our provision. We
felt that the transition into year 1 was
quite pronounced and that we needed
to ease this. To achieve this, we have
incorporated play opportunities in Key
Stage 1. Each class now has a role-play
area and access to an outdoor area.
It was also important for us to redefine
our school values. The values of
respect, high expectations, teamwork,
happiness and courage are now
embedded across the school. These
underpin our assemblies, school houses
and newsletters and are even central
when teachers write reports. They are
core to our behaviour strategies, and
parents have reported that the children
discuss them at home. Whenever we
do anything, we check that it fulfils
the high expectations we have set
ourselves. For instance, when we
employ new staff, we ensure that their
values are aligned to ours. Over time,
this has meant that we have a body
of staff with high expectations and an
inclusive attitude.
Learning goes beyond
the classroom
In a seaside
town, the
ability to swim
is a life skill, so
we introduced
it for all of
our year 1 and
2 students
Ensuring continual
We are determined to continue to
adapt our style to meet new challenges
and needs. This includes professional
development, trying many different
forms of CPD. We have used a “book
club” approach in which staff study
pedagogical practices and trial them
before giving feedback to the wider
team. We also hold joint evaluation
meetings in which subject leaders
discuss the profile of their subject,
what is working and what isn’t and we
collectively agree the steps we all need
to take to improve.
After we received our successful
Ofsted evaluation, we sought to
continue our improvement, so we
joined the Challenge Partners Network
of Excellence. This allows opportunities
for nationwide peer review and
support from different schools in
different contexts. It also offers quality
professional development. We try to
source CPD from as many different
avenues as possible, and we ensure
that our focus remains on collective
development and unity.
Adapting to curricular and
population changes
One of the main challenges we faced
was adapting to a curriculum without
levels. During the period in which
we were between inspections and
classified as “requires improvement”,
we were reluctant to take risks
with our assessment systems and
adopted Kent’s School Information
Management System template. We
quickly realised that it was not fit for
our purpose. We devised our own
system to replace it, which didn’t just
capture the data but was also a “live”
document, informing planning and
ensuring that the teaching focused on
the needs of every child. This started
as a very basic template but has
evolved and is owned by both staff
Another challenge we face is the
fact that east Kent has a falling birth
rate, bucking the national trend. Pupil
numbers are dropping: a problem
exacerbated by the opening of a
new free school locally and others
expanding, and currently we are 97
children under capacity. This in turn
means decreased funding, which
makes it difficult to make decisions
without compromising the quality of
our curriculum. As we look to reduce
published admission numbers, we are
left with unused areas of the school.
We hope to develop an SEN provision
on site but are aware that funding is
currently difficult to access.
We are always striving to continue
the development we have begun and
are constantly looking to improve our
provision. We work to make sure that
diminishing budgets won’t impact the
quality of our curriculum and that we
will still be able to deliver a broad and
enriching education.
leaders discuss
the profile of
their subject,
what is
working and
what isn’t and
we collectively
agree the
steps we all
need to take
to improve
Developing a love of


This article was sponsored by Ellington Infant 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 Professor The Lord Blunkett.

The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett

A new Prime Minister, a new Education Secretary and, as we're all painfully aware, a deeply uncertain future. It is in this context that the education service continues to deliver for individuals, communities and of course for our nation. 
There is no doubt whatsoever that the education service as a whole, schools, post 16/Further Education, and yes, lifelong learning, needs the most enormous injection of cash. Independent analysis shows that there has been at least an 8% average reduction in the amount of spend per pupil in our schools. Those damaged most by this have been pupils with special educational needs, whose voices are sadly rarely heard. The necessity of urgent action was underlined in July by the report of the all-party House of Commons Select Committee on Education. They could not have been clearer about the need for substantial funding and a long-term 10-year commitment. 
At the same time, there are a number of reviews taking place. One of them, in relation to post-16 qualifications, is in danger of a classic mistake by politicians and officials who have little or no understanding of the complex territory they're dealing with. Namely, the ridiculous proposition that BTEC National Diplomas might be set aside because 'T Levels are the gold standard'! 
I'm in favour of T Levels, but in the right context and for the right outcome. They are intended to be extremely focused specialist qualifications in defined areas of employment. When and if they eventually take off – there is predicted to be just a thousand students in 2021-22 taking up the qualification – they will not replace the BTEC, which has been the workhorse providing a general and high-quality education for decades. The BTEC has equipped young people for a variety of opportunities in a very changing employment market where the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and changed working practices makes confining the choice of vocational pathways to one narrow focus, frankly ridiculous. 
Meanwhile, her Majesty's Opposition continue to throw out titbits which do not give, as yet, a very clear idea of what, if elected, Labour would do in office. What is needed is positive proposals. Abolishing this, that or the other – assessments/tests for those leaving primary school, for instance – is not the same thing as a very forward-looking agenda for radical improvement in standards and equity between those who can and cannot afford additional help for their children.  
There are a handful of Labour Party members, supported by some people who ought to know better, who have decided that a full-frontal assault on private education would be a good idea. For those worried about this, stop worrying. A party that put this in its manifesto wouldn't get elected, and if by some fluke it did, it would be challenged in the courts to the point where all the contradictions would be exposed for everyone to see. 
Just contemplate one simple fact. 20% of secondary schoolchildren in the borough of Hackney attend private schools! Yes, Hackney. This is because a large number of parents, some of whom scrape the money together, are sending their children to private education in London which happens to be the area of England with the best academic outcomes from state education. What's more, very large numbers (again, particularly in London) pay for private tutors. At the last estimate 40% of parents in London had at some point over the last year paid for a tutor for their child!  
Perhaps therefore an opposition party, hoping to provide unity rather than division, opportunity for all rather than a futile class battle against educational privilege, would seek ways of ensuring that those who can't afford tutors have the kind of support outside school that would put them on equal terms. 
One thing is very certain, no government would be able to stop parents buying additional tutoring for their children.
So, a practical agenda for equalising opportunity, for investing where it's needed most, for transforming the pipeline from school through college, apprenticeships, or university, is a goal worth fighting for. A positive way of linking business and education through political decision-making, with the delivery by excellent professionals in the education service, to the children of today and the economy of tomorrow. Surely that is a much more progressive and less negative way forward for both government and opposition. 
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett