John Spence Community High School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by John Spence Community High 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 John Spence Community High 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 Jonathan Heath
Year 11 pupils enjoying
some extra revision sessions
John Spence Community High School has a long and proud
tradition of serving its community in North Tyneside. Its
catchment area is diverse and ranges from areas of high
socio-economic disadvantage to more affluent; the school itself
sits on the edge of this catchment area so works hard to bring
the community in alongside building a sense of community with
the school population itself. It is a stable school with high levels
of staff retention, reflected in the fact that retired Headteacher
Jim Stephenson worked at the school for 41 years. Current
Headteacher Jonathan Heath, explains how he has sought to
build upon this stability and the significant opportunities available
for students, while also developing the school’s Fit for Life ethos
through a range of systems that permeate daily schoollife.
Modern life, let alone education, is full of so many variables that it can be
challenging for leaders to navigate change without losing a sense of identity. A
key strength of ours is that we have managed to achieve this through rigorous
recruitment processes, strong induction and a consistent message based upon a
core set of values.
Our stability is a critical factor in our success in supporting students, a strength
that is recognised by parents, the local authority and Ofsted. Many of our students
come from challenging backgrounds where stability can be difficult to achieve or
maintain as a result of poverty, work commitments and other challenges associated
with disadvantage. With this in mind we have set about a process of evolutionary
»Headteacher: Jonathan Heath
»Founded in 1957
»Based in North Tyneside
»Type of school: 11 to 16
mixed comprehensive
»No. of students: 850
»No. of staff: 104
John Spence Community
High School
Highlighting best practice
change that builds upon the strengths
of the school, including the mentoring,
careers opportunities, the sport college
ethos and rewards so that students are
Fit for Life.
Fit for Life
John Spence was one of the first
specialist sports colleges that were
introduced in the late 1990s and
embraced the concept of specialist
colleges. The ethos of sport quickly
became integrated within the
curriculum and the opportunities
available for students. The Fit for Life
slogan grew from this starting point as
it assimilated the benefits of healthy
living and sport with the duty of
schools to prepare students for their
lives beyond school.
Inevitably, as years progress ideas
evolve and the initial thinking becomes
lost – even though the principles still
underpin many of the systems and
practices in place – so it has been an
important part of our evolution to
reboot Fit for Life. A key factor within
this has been to explore Fit for Life in
its widest context without any specific
references to sport as our specialisms
extend way beyond a single subject.
The outcome of this exploration was
to break the concept of being Fit for
Life into three strands: being resilient,
skilled and considerate.
There is nothing particularly
groundbreaking in these strands, but
what they allowed us to do is refresh
the Fit for Life ethos without changing
the core principle, thereby maintaining
a sense of continuity and stability
that is so important for us. What we
needed was a mechanism by which
we could launch the strands so that
they were ever present in the minds of
students, parents and staff, and that
mechanism was rewards.
The impact has been tangible with
students more regularly looking
to support staff and each other in
order to achieve a considerate ticket;
students more readily answering
questions to achieve a skilled ticket or
simply persevering with problems to
achieve a resilience ticket. The tickets
are awarded for going above and
beyond the norm and every day our
students are aspiring to do this. The
ripple effect of the rewards system can
be seen throughout the school with
staff routinely referring to the strands
and being Fit for Life within lessons,
in letters home to parents, assemblies
and so on. It genuinely has returned
to the heart of what John Spence
At John Spence, pupils
enjoy a multitude of
sporting activities
Our stability is
a critical factor
in our success
in supporting
The participation
A key part of being Fit for Life at the
school has been participation, and while
there are numerous opportunities,
there is no better example of this than
the success of our sports academy
programme. This is another example
of where it was important not to
disrupt a provision that is central to the
school’s profile, while recognising the
need to increase opportunities in other
areas to demonstrate a broad range of
opportunities so that we appeal to all
students and potential parents.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the academy
programme emerged from the
Specialist Sports College status and
was initially an elite programme
to support transition into a club
environment. Since then, it has
developed into a fully inclusive
programme involving a range of sports
from the trampoline to rugby. The
programme is co-ordinated by our
Director of Sport Adam Pilkington,
who works hard to ensure that the
coaches and teachers delivering at
the academies adhere to the Fit for
Life strands. In this way an existing
opportunity for students is fully
integrated with the new Fit for Life
strands so that the continuity of the
academies sits within the context of
evolutionary change for the school.
The numbers involved in the
programme increase year on year
and we now have over 200 students
regularly attending on a weekly
basis. This is all the more impressive
considering that they need to arrive in
school 45 minutes early to participate.
The success of the sport academy
programme can be seen in attendance,
behaviour and progress data for the
school with academy participants
out-performing non-academy students
in virtually every measure. Staff and
governors recognise the value of the
sporting academies and it truly reflects
the ethos and values of the school.
The challenge
The challenge is to build upon this
fantastic work, and the numerous
other programmes that we run,
within the ever increasing challenges
of shrinking budgets. The Fit for Life
approach does allow us to do this
in creative ways as it is a thread that
runs through everything we do, a
final example of which is our careers
provision. We are one of only two
schools in North Tyneside who are
part of the National Careers Hub,
meaning that we have the opportunity
to successfully meet the Gatsby
benchmarks’ More importantly, we
aligned the programme with our Fit
for Life ethos, which enables us to
deliver provision that is packaged
within the identity of the school. This
was a simple thing to do and as we
know simple solutions are more often
than not the best ones, and it is this
simplicity that we will pursue to help
ensure that all our students access
provision throughout their five years
with us that prepare them to be Fit
Staff and
recognise the
value of the
and it truly
reflects the
ethos and
values of the
Pupils exploring
Northumberland as
part of their Duke of
Edinburgh expedition

This article was sponsored by John Spence Community High 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 Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development