Gawthorpe Community Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Gawthorpe Community Academy'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 Gawthorpe Community Academy 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

CEO of Inspire Academy Trust
Susan Vickerman, Head of
School Andrea Mitchell and
Deputy Head of School Paula Gill
Outdoor learning
encompasses many skills
including working together
and team building
Gawthorpe Community Academy is a one-form entry primary
academy with a nursery. It has been rated “outstanding”
by Ofsted since 2005, despite having been previously
rated as “inadequate” prior to Executive Principal Sue Vickerman
coming to the school in 2003. After becoming an academy in
2011, it has continued to progress and its attainment scores
in English and maths are now some of the best in the UK. The
school was a first cohort Teaching School. Head of Gawthorpe
Academy Andrea Mitchell tells
TheParliamentary Review
When Sue first came to the school, it was a very different place from that which
you see today. Parents were disenfranchised and there was poor engagement
between the school and the community, a community that had a history of low
academic aspiration. Creating a new culture that engaged the parents, the children
and the community, while respecting the tradition and history of the area, was
therefore our first job.
Our journey
One of our first steps was to reinvigorate the annual maypole festival, an event that
now reflects the whole-school ethos. The annual maypole weekend is central to
community life, and over the last few years we have fought hard to maintain this
100-year-old tradition. We now work in partnership with the maypole committee
and we help manage an event that brings together over 1,000 members of the
community. This proved invaluable in building support for the school and re-
engaging the stakeholders who we needed in order to succeed.
»Head of School: Andrea Mitchell
»CEO of Inspire Partnership
Multi Academy Trust: Sue
»Founded in 1926
»Based in Ossett, Wakefield
»Type of school: primary
»No. of pupils: 235
»No. of staff: 42
Community Academy
Highlighting best practice
On the teaching side, we developed
a creative curriculum that looked
to inspire our children, and the
results have been incredible. The
overwhelming majority of our children
are now meeting the age-related
expectation, and our attainment
in 2017 was in the top two per
cent nationwide. These results are
historically high and we put much of
this down to our use of an innovative
and forward-thinking curriculum
Our mission has always been to
provide a happy, stimulating, inclusive
and supportive environment in
which all partners are valued and
respected, and in which there are
equal opportunities for all. The school
will continue to develop its work in
order to provide quality education,
rich learning opportunities, high
expectations and challenge. In these
ways we seek to enable each child to
achieve their potential in all aspects of
development, year-on-year.
Innovative and specialist
At our school we support every child
and we make them believe that they
can achieve anything. Our focus is,
and always has been, on the wider
curriculum, where we encourage
students to become geographers,
historians and scientists, and we
ensure that not every lesson is a
literacy lesson. We have a core of
steel areas which are non-negotiable,
allowing children to rise to the high
expectations that we set. We develop
a love of maths because children are
taught to be logical thinkers – skills
they can apply to diverse problems that
relate to the world we live in.
In addition to our reception to year 6
provision, we have a detached nursery
school that is part of our school. All
of our children up to year 1 have
access to all our outdoor learning
provision, which plays a big part in
how we educate our children. We
utilise our qualified staff in leading
exciting and enriching lessons – our
sport and dinner staff are now trained
in den building, and we have focused
on developing play at lunchtimes. If a
child enjoys themselves in their time
off and keeps active, they are far more
likely to be prepared to learn when it
is over.
Outdoor learning provision is also
extended to our older children, and
we take a lot of classes outside in
order to increase engagement and
real-world understanding. Conducting
science, geography and history lessons
outside the classroom can also help
develop practical skills that the children
wouldn’t gain indoors.
In terms of English and maths, basic
skills are taught throughout the school
and build an important base for the
rest of the children’s education. We do
a lot of problem-solving in class and
help build a greater understanding
Sports leaders coach
and mentor a younger
provision is also
extended to
our older
children, and
we take a lot
of classes
outside in
order to
and real-world
of the logic and reasoning behind
numbers. When children appreciate
how maths fits into the real world
and understand why they need
these skills, engagement rises. With
English, outdoor learning helps pupils
write from experience and draw on
knowledge that goes beyond what
they are told in the classroom.
Our focus on English and maths is
never at the expense of other exciting
and stimulating subjects. We also
want to avoid the situation when a
child’s struggles it impact the rest of
their learning, and we run before-
school interventions for those who
need additional help. Our staff also
screen for learning disabilities such as
dyslexia to ensure pupils receive all the
attention they need.
Maintaining our progress
In 2003, when Sue first arrived at
the school, the community was
disengaged, and yet through our
dedicated work, we have turned
the school and its relationship with
the community around. The parents
are now supportive and active, and
we owe so much of this to our
participation in the maypole festival.
We haven’t rested on our laurels,
however, and we continue to innovate
and encourage parents to involve
themselves in new ways.
We have established homework
projects that parents and children work
on collaboratively, our year 6 serve
a celebration afternoon tea for the
parents and we run inspire mornings
when we invite parents in to work
alongside the children. Our children
have also ventured into the community
to speak with elderly people, play
games with them and use their
research as part of geography projects.
Budget restrictions can influence our
approach and we have had to cut one
of our learning mentors as a result.
Mentors conduct incredibly important
work, helping children struggling
with broken families or bereavement
issues, and we have tried to empower
our support staff and offer training
to cover for the services that we have
had to cut back on. Our team is very
stable and many members have been
with us for a number of years. They
are always willing to improve and learn
new skills, and this means we can keep
improving. We will stay on top of the
latest trends and continue to push
for improvement, never satisfied with
standing still.
We seek to
enable each
child to
achieve their
potential in all
aspects of
Maypole dancers in the
local town of Ossett

This article was sponsored by Gawthorpe Community Academy. 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