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 Fulwood St Peter's CE Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Fulwood St Peter's CE Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1FULWOOD ST PETERS CE PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher David Merritt
and Deputy Gareth Allen with
Children generate their
own questions and
criteria for answers
Since they achieved an “outstanding” rating in their Ofsted
inspection in 2012, Preston-based Fulwood St Peter’s CE
Primary School’s quest has been to continue to adapt
and improve. For the last two years, more than 90 per cent of
their pupils have reached the expected standard in reading,
writing and maths. Last year, 100 per cent of children reached
nationally expected standards in maths, and the proportion of
children reaching a high level in maths has not been lower than
48 per cent in the last three years. Headteacher David Merritt
expands upon their story.
Doing things a bit differently for us has sometimes been driven by having a long,
hard look at why a specific area isn’t improving. One area of development we have
struggled to improve has been the achievement of higher-ability readers.
The first idea was to put children in maths ability groups. We knew of no other single-
form entry school where this had been done. Having already achieved very positive
outcomes for our pupils, we were concerned that this could go wrong and that
parents would question the usefulness of children being placed in different classes
for maths. The method didn’t involve any children dropping down below their own
year group; children could only go up. At times, children in year 4 working alongside
year 6 was an unusual sight, but, ultimately, their abilities matched. We compensated
for the additional children in year 6 by having a parallel group led by a very capable
teaching assistant. The method worked well and has since become the norm.
A key focus has been to enable staff and children to be more independent and
responsible for their own learning. There aren’t many adults in a school building
FULWOOD ST PETERS CE
»Headteacher: David Merritt
»Founded in 1976
»Located in Preston, Lancashire
»Type of school: Voluntary-
aided Church of England
»No. of pupils: 238
»No. of staff: 23
»“Outstanding” rating from
Fulwood St Peters CE
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| FULWOOD ST PETERS CE PRIMARY SCHOOL
if you think about it, and the more
decisions and learning that are
exclusively dependent upon them, the
less that will be accomplished.
We have also targeted specific awards
to enhance the core curriculum,
such as the Eco-Schools Green Flag
award, the Flagship National Health
Schools award and the School Games
A specialised role for teaching
Having attended training on coaching
and having also read about the
subject, we started to further develop
teaching assistant skills by using this
method. Teaching assistants usually
have a specific role that builds upon
their strengths. We wanted to ensure
they developed a wide range of skills
which supported learning effectively.
Initially, writing became a focus for
development using the coaching
method. A key area for improvement,
we found, was to develop children’s
appropriate use of the various
features of writing when working
independently. Once our teaching
assistants were upskilled, they were
given a key role in developing this
Following a skills audit, we found
many of our teaching assistants had
experience or qualifications prior to
working in school that would prove
invaluable in developing their role.
The more they gained experience
in an area of prior knowledge, with
teacher input, such as phonics, maths,
comprehension and behaviour, and
the more autonomy they had in
working out how to work in this area,
the better they became. Teaching
assistants carrying out this enhanced
role felt trusted and valued and had
strong feelings of responsibility for the
Coaching methods for
This initiative involved training some
higher-ability children in coaching
methods. They went on to work
in pairs carrying out activities such
as reading together, explaining
vocabulary, summarising, asking
questions and then discussing answers.
It has been fascinating to watch
how the coaches develop their own
autonomous style and method as
they are given responsibility for the
other child’s learning, substantially
developing their self-esteem. The
children being coached reported that
they found another child easier to
understand than an adult, and that
their thinking and ways of explaining
were the same – expressed in a way
Outdoor learning is also
A key focus
has been to
to be more
Sharing ways they have
3FULWOOD ST PETERS CE PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
they could “better understand”. Some
children developed IT programmes to
help their learning partner practice and
were as excited about the other child’s
progress as they were about their own.
As the year progresses, the coaches
use their own “question stems” (the
basic format of the questions that
they need to be able to answer), select
texts, and make and apply marking
criteria. They share the ways they have
learnt themselves. One of the proudest
achievements has been observing 10
or 12 children locked into a learning
discussion together for almost an hour
without anyone having to directly tell
them what to do.
We are fortunate that the teaching
assistant involved in this area holds
coaching qualifications from a previous
occupation. However, the same
model is used with others if they
grasp the concept. Crucial to success
is the teacher and teaching assistant
selecting the right children, monitoring
closely what is happening and making
due adjustments. Their role, however,
is very different as they change from
instructor to trainer. For all the children
involved, there is huge impact in the
learning going on. Children who have
less developed English language have
more opportunity to expand their
vocabulary and understanding of the
subtleties of meaning.
We had some initial concerns that
the coaches might not be learning
themselves, as it would seem that
they are not being taught. Soon we
realised, though, that they are, just in
a different way. As they have to learn
what needs to be learnt, they learn it
themselves. All the children involved
have gained just as much, or more, as
previously in their own achievement
levels, with several reaching near
maximum scaled scores in their
We are now moving this child-centred
approach further across the curriculum.
Having identified on an inset day the
different roles that teachers can have,
we are now focused on teaching
methods that give children as much
choice in their own learning as
possible, where these flexibilities are to
be found in the national curriculum.
A key area for
we found, was
of the various
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
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.