Hey with Zion Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Hey with Zion 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 Hey with Zion 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


Headteacher Andrew Clowes
The children all learn to play
a brass instrument
Hey with Zion Primary School, based in Oldham, are a
church school committed to ensuring high attainment and
positive learning outcomes for all of their students. Having
been in the bottom seven per cent of schools in the country for
progress, they have achieved a rapid turnaround. Beyond their
curriculum, they are committed to providing extracurricular
activities for their pupils, with their football teams having played
at Anfield and both Manchester City’s and Manchester United’s
training complexes. Headteacher Andrew Clowes explains their
involvement with external experts to improve outcomes.
Currently, we are ranked among the top schools in our local area, but the school
has not always enjoyed such happy times. In 2006, data suggested the school
was in the bottom seven per cent of the country for progress and had been so
for two years. We have worked tirelessly to change this. Most recently, 95 per
cent of our pupils reached expected standards in reading and maths, and, for a
number of years, the school has also offered GCSE maths to its highest-attaining
mathematicians, with 37 pupils doing this since 2013. Our “disadvantaged”
children make faster progress than the norm and outperform “advantaged”
We are renowned locally for our high academic standards, our inclusive and
nurturing feel, and the wide scope of our extracurricular activities. Our football
teams have recently played at Manchester City’s and Manchester United’s training
grounds, at Anfield and at Oldham Athletic in front of a crowd of thousands. Our
school is also a beneficiary of the Sir Peter Ogden Trust and runs afterschool clubs
»Headteacher: Andrew Clowes
»Founded in 1978
»Based in Oldham
»Type of school: Church of
England / Methodist primary
»No. of pupils: 309
Hey with Zion Primary
Highlighting best practice
with the support of the Regional
Science Centre, Oldham. We have a
thriving chess club and allocate lesson
time to chess so that all our pupils
are introduced to the game while at
In order to achieve this, we made
a number of changes. Governors,
children, teachers and headteachers
have all been and gone, but a focus
on the present has remained. This is
coupled with an acceptance of what
has gone before and detailed attention
paid to the priorities of now: having
awareness of targets but concentrating
on the details.
Throughout this process, we have
remained aware of the fact that the
school was built for the benefit of the
children and that high achievement
is our overriding goal. It is essential
that the children join in with lots of
activities, doing so with enthusiasm,
and continue to treat each other well.
Our Christian ethos
The requirements above could be
stated for any community school, but
we are a church school with a mix of
Christian, Muslim and non-faith pupils.
Our mission statement is explicitly
Christian: “Within the love of God,
we strive to do the best we can for
ourselves and others.”
Christians believe that Jesus came so
that we may have life to the full, as
outlined in John 10:10. We can only
have life to the full if our achievement
is maximised and optimised. The
need to treat others well, and to be
treated well in return, is in complete
accordance with Galatians 5:22-23,
which states that “the fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
In 2001, Oldham saw some distressing
racial violence, and we feel it is
our duty to educate children to be
accepting of people with different
faiths or no faith. The school does
this in Christian-based but explicitly
inclusive assemblies, PSHE lessons and
its everyday routine. Our most recent
statutory inspection of Anglican and
Methodist schools stated: “there is
a direct link between the Christian
vision and the consistently improving,
remarkably high standards achieved”
while becoming more inclusive of
others than everbefore.
Working with experts
Our approach to raising achievement
in specific subjects includes involving
experts, approaching learning with
humility and never letting ego get in
the way of development. We are a
research school with the Education
Endowment Foundation, and our
Staff and children of Hey
with Zion
We can only
have life to
the full if our
achievement is
and optimised
subject leaders have a major influence.
They consult with experts and think
through their proposed developments.
To this end, four teachers have worked
with the National Centre for Excellence
in the Teaching of Mathematics. This
includes following the Maths Specialist
Teacher programme, working as a
professional development lead and
working in one of the research hubs.
The benefits of having a pool of
very well-trained teachers have been
evident in our marvellous maths results
year after year. We have also not been
afraid to dismiss guidance we thought
was misdirected. Some would have
discouraged offering GCSE maths, for
example, but the response from the
children has been exceptional: they
do it if they want to because they love
Other subjects have also benefitted
from the involvement of outside
experts. The school has won awards
from the Association for Science
Education, the Historical Association,
Historic England and the Geography
Association. These awards are used
to support subject leaders in their
development, helping them to lead the
school forward in an optimum manner.
In English, while investing heavily in
creating and stocking an attractive
library, which all children access
each week, we have worked with a
specialist school improvement partner.
Ros Ferrara, an expert in the field, has
helped us to make the learning richer,
more cohesive and more core text
based. The Institute of Education from
the University of Central London has
also helped us to audit our provision
and ensure that we are doing the
best we can. We were awarded their
prestigious Excellence in Literacy
Award with the statement “Overall, the
main strength which the school seems
to have is a capacity to maintain an
evaluative stance and to develop and
change, while being very clear about
reviewing what works and holding on
to practice which is deemedeffective.”
Navigating budget constraints
The continual tightening of our budget
presents a challenge, especially in
terms of recruitment. Recruitment
issues can often vary depending on the
time of year, but we have managed
to avoid most of these difficulties by
maintaining our own workforce and
ensuring that we create a positive work
environment. Funding for education,
health and care plans is often not
allocated as soon as it is needed, and
this can present a problem. Currently,
we are obligated to provide more
hours of extra support than we
receive funding for. More individual
allocations, provided speedily and
based on the needs of each school,
could alleviate these difficulties.
Looking ahead, we aim to continue
our progress and strive to improve
even further. By ensuring that we
maintain a positive work environment
and a vibrant learning environment,
we are confident that we will be able
to achieve this.
They consult
with experts
and think
through their
Staff and children in the
school library


This article was sponsored by Hey with Zion 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 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