Great Torrington Bluecoat CE Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Great Torrington Bluecoat CE 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 Great Torrington Bluecoat CE 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

Head teacher, Angela Fleming
(centre), with pupils and staff
Bluecoat C of E Primary School was established in
September 2013 through the amalgamation of Bluecoat
C of E Infant and Nursery School with the town’s junior
school. Prior to amalgamation, the junior school had been
bouncing repeatedly from an Ofsted judgment of “special
measures” to “good”, and back again, as it struggled to cope
with the challenges arising from serving a rural community
struggling with a historically poor uptake of higher education,
and substantial economic and social deprivation. To establish
sustainable success as a primary school, it has been necessary
to tackle the impact of these issues on pupils’ aspirations. This
has involved recognising the wider responsibilities of educators
to adopt an outward-looking approach, addressing the existing
endemic culture of underachievement in a positive and proactive
manner. Head teacher Angela Fleming elaborates.
A sense of purpose
At Bluecoat, our overarching aim is to empower everyone within the school
community to take ownership of their potential and believe in their ability to excel.
We have a heartfelt belief that learning should be a rewarding and enjoyable
experience – one which motivates us all to engage and aspire to be the best we
can be, not only academically but in all aspects of our lives. We measure success
in relation to how effectively we achieve this. The quality of our staff team is
exceptional; professional dialogue is vibrant; teachers observe, support and advise
»Head teacher: Angela Fleming
»Founded in 2013, though
there has been a Bluecoat
School in Great Torrington
since 1789
»Based in Great Torrington,
North Devon
»Type of school: Voluntary
controlled primary school
»No. of pupils: 525, including
»Early Years Teaching Centre
since September 2010 with
conference facilities and a
caféon site
Great Torrington Bluecoat
C of E Primary School
Highlighting best practice
All pupils
engage in
thinking, and
are consistently
encouraged to
reflect on their
own progress
»The percentage of pupils living in relative poverty in the Great
Torrington area is 28.2 per cent compared to a Devon average of
12.7 per cent and a national average of 19.2 per cent.
»Torridge has one of the lowest average weekly household earnings
of any district in the UK. The average (gross) weekly earnings by
workplace are £315.40. This is £127.40 (28.7 per cent) below the
average for the South West, and £189.00 (37.5 per cent) below the
national average.
»There are 4.3 per cent more part-time workers in Torridge than
in the South West and 8 per cent more than the national average
(Profile on Torridge 2015).
»Torridge has a relatively low level of residents with higher-level
(NVQ4+) qualifications, with 8.1 per cent below the South West
and 7.5 per cent below Great Britain.
»Bluecoat C of E Primary School is ranked 21 out of 298 Devon
primary schools when looking at the highest levels of child poverty.
one another; and outcomes of in-
school research projects increasingly
inform practice. Support staff and
many of our parents are now keen to
enrol in higher education with a view
to entering the profession, and a high
proportion of teachers are engaged in
leadership training.
A commitment to early years
Early years provision is the defining
and enduring strength of our school.
Since the amalgamation, extending
the application of early years principles
and pedagogy across the primary age
range has been a priority. In order
to establish continuity for children
and avoid potential barriers as pupils
move through the school, we have
reorganised our year-group teams.
This has involved moving away from
the traditional key stage structure to
a “chapter” system which facilitates
progression and challenges the
philosophy that early years provision
is not applicable or appropriate across
the primary age range.
Every child is celebrated at Bluecoat
as a unique individual. Pupils from
nursery to year 6 have opportunities
to work both indoors and outdoors
wherever possible. Emphasis is placed
on making learning visible, and first-
hand experience is highly valued.
Pupils across the school engage in
“child-initiated” learning, with years
4, 5 and 6 undertaking individualised,
“learning in depth” projects across
a range of topics. All pupils engage
in sustained shared thinking, and are
consistently encouraged to reflect on
their ownprogress.
A rich and innovative
Designing and implementing a
curriculum which engages, motivates
and excites pupils and teachers while
embedding essential skills for lifelong
learning has been both challenging
and rewarding. At Bluecoat, we
have adopted four key “drivers”:
“creativity and innovation”, “building
learning power”, “being part of a
global community” and “the real
world, enterprise and sustainability”.
These drivers directly influence our
provision, ensuring that it is relevant
and meaningful to pupils. Pupils, that
is, whom we are actively preparing
to become global citizens equipped
with a broad knowledge base, critical
thinking skills, self-belief, empathy
Learning in partnership
Our school has two well-stocked,
vibrant libraries; a thriving newsroom;
an established forest school; and
reciprocal links to a range of
community groups. Pupils have the
opportunity to stand for election as a
councillor, peer mediator or collective
worship representative. They can also
apply online to be interviewed and
subsequently appointed to such roles
as news team editor, photo journalist,
arts ambassador or librarian. Residential
trips go as far afield as Germany, to
open vistas beyond the confines of
rural North Devon, and technology is
used to facilitate cultural links such as
dancing with pupils in India. Wherever
possible, teachers are encouraged to
play to their strengths. In my experience,
a teacher given the scope to be creative
and innovative is generally a happy
teacher – recognition of which could
perhaps be pivotal in addressing the
current recruitment crisis.
Working together to
transform children’s lives
Bluecoat is a spiritually vibrant and
inclusive school that caters for pupils
with a range of needs. Decision-
making at a strategic level is driven
by a commitment to our ethos as an
inclusive school, rather than a desire to
be recognised as “outstanding”. It is
of great sadness to me personally that
these two aims, despite the rhetoric,
are fundamentally at odds. The
pressures schools are under to improve
data outcomes can be overwhelming.
However uncomfortable it is to accept,
being inclusive is not conducive to
success against any of the measures by
which schools are currently judged
this skewed climate of accountability,
standing true to the adage “at the
heart of the education process lies
the child” requires both integrity and
courage. Fortunately, recently we
have had the opportunity to develop
specialist provision on-site at Bluecoat.
This has helped us to create an
innovative and more sustainable model
for inclusion which we are hopeful will,
in the future, be successfully embraced
by other schools across Devon.
Although attainment on entry
to Bluecoat has historically been
exceptionally poor, introduction of
provision for two-year-olds and an
increase in uptake of the new 30-hour
entitlement within our school nursery
and local pre-schools is helping to
tackle this issue. The task of raising
standards in the conventional sense
while balancing breadth of opportunity
with the need for a relentless focus on
the development of core skills within a
limited budget is an ongoing struggle.
Our school improvement plan focuses
sharply on key issues aimed specifically
at improving attainment outcomes,
but is set within the context of a
deeper framework for development,
which, as a head teacher, I am not
prepared to compromise on. The need
to recognise the scope of the challenge
we face as educational leaders and to
work collaboratively with families and
communities to influence and enrich our
children’s world remains critical if we are
to fulfil our responsibility to successfully
educate the next generation. As Muriel
George and John West-Burnham
emphasised to me many years ago:
“Making a difference to life chances
entails being mindful of the state
of the sewers as well as the skills of
In my
experience, a
teacher given
the scope to
be creative
and innovative
is generally a
happy teacher
Bluecoat children
taking part in Mayfair
celebrations in Great
Focusing on our

This article was sponsored by Great Torrington Bluecoat CE 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 Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy