Lea Valley Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Lea Valley 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 Lea Valley 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


Maria Kokotsis, head teacher
The school’s year 2
hard at work
Lea Valley Primary School is a two-form-entry school in
an area of high social deprivation in Tottenham, North
London. Most pupils who attend are from minority ethnic
groups, and for two thirds of the pupils English is not their first
language. The proportion of pupils eligible for pupil premium
funding is more than double the national average. Despite the
challenges, Maria Kokotsis took on the headship in September
2014 and was determined that all children would succeed,
regardless of their starting point. Her approach, as detailed in
this article, is to do whatever it takes to ensure success for all.
Above and beyond
One of our pupils would have recently gone without a birthday party had I not
hosted one in my office. Another would have missed three weeks of school had our
deputy head not brought her to and from school each day.
These may seem like minor, ad hoc actions. But they are part of a strategy to
understand our pupils’ lives. At Lea Valley Primary School, we know that we must
remove the barriers that stand in the way of some pupils benefiting from a high-
quality education. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) states that 97.5 per
cent of our pupils live in neighbourhoods registered in the lowest 30 per cent of
Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) bands. Our most recent Ofsted
(Oct 2017) report said, however, that we “have developed a very inclusive school,
where pupils of all backgrounds know that they can thrive.”
»Head teacher: Maria Kokotsis
»Founded in 1976
»Based in Tottenham, Haringey
»Type of school: Community
primary school
»No. of pupils: 450
»Top 5 per cent most deprived
(Index of Multiple Deprivation)
Lea Valley Primary
Highlighting best practice
Thanks to this inclusive attitude, and
because both teachers and pupils share
the school’s motto of “determination
to succeed”, there have been no
permanent exclusions in the last
The Big Read
Our aim is to go from a “good”
school to “outstanding” by Ofsted’s
measures, but we will not achieve this
at the expense of pupils’ overall life
experience. We champion a broad,
balanced curriculum because we
believe that it is most suited to our
pupils’ lives and their future success.
I took on the substantive headship
at Lea Valley in 2014 because I
wanted to help all pupils reach their
potential, in spite of often challenging
circumstances. I am myself a second-
generation Greek Cypriot – I learnt
English when I went to school
aged five, so I know first-hand the
opportunities that education can bring.
I was aware, from a very young age,
that a good education with reading
as a priority was the key to a better
future and this must be instilled in our
One of our priorities at Lea Valley is
reading. Seventy-five per cent of pupils
in Lea Valley Primary come from homes
where English is not the first language.
In addition to this, our children are
from low-income groups and studies
have shown that children from low-
income groups are the poorest readers.
We want to change this. Our aim is for
our pupils to become lifelong readers –
people who truly love reading and who
choose to read for pleasure.
An innovative curriculum is integral to
the success of Lea Valley. We always
start with what our pupils need, both
as learners and as citizens in society,
over the long term.
When the new reading curriculum was
introduced, we made the decision to
avoid quick-fix schemes and a tick-box
approach. We rejected the culture of
text extracts, and are working instead
to ensure that pupils enjoy high-quality
stories from start to finish.
Our Big Read approach, which was
developed by staff at the school, taps
into the creative skills of individual
teachers. Each class studies a high-
quality book and the reading skills
are taught through the exploration
The reception class
enjoying a lesson
We champion
a broad,
because we
believe that it
is most suited
to our pupils’
lives and their
future success
of the book. Classic, contemporary
poetry and non-fiction narratives
are celebrated. Our year 6 children
have just studied Emily Brontë to add
to the collection of books that they
now know. By the time they leave us,
each pupil will have studied 42 books
in depth. This is in addition to their
library books and their home/school
Our whole-class, whole-book approach
has sparked interest across the
borough of Haringey, which has led to
schools receiving training from us. The
schools that have adopted our way of
teaching and reading have all had an
increase in their reading results, with
one school’s results improving by 40
per cent.
We also provide a project-based,
pupil-led STEM (science, technology,
engineering and mathematics)
curriculum, which gives our pupils
experiences through real-world
application. While the strength of
our STEM provision has consequently
resulted in us being the lead school
for our Network Learning Community
(NLC) and having an active role in the
Haringey borough STEM commission,
our pupils aspire to pursue STEM-
based careers.
Beyond the classroom, all children
at Lea Valley have access to an array
of activities to which they would
otherwise not be exposed. After 3.30
each afternoon, Lea Valley is buzzing
with budding ballerinas and would-be
Olympian fencers.
It is crucial that pupils understand
the world beyond the estate they
live in and can excel. We want them
each to find their niche. Beyond the
usual football and netball teams,
we offer a rich and diverse menu
including archery, cheerleading and a
drone club. The list goes on, so that
our pupils have the best chance of
finding the part of themselves that is
outstanding. The impact, although
directly immeasurable by standard
assessments, is shown in the pupils’ lifted
confidence and focus on their learning.
I have spent my headship thus far
developing children and staff as
individuals. The success of Lea Valley
starts with taking time to understand
what children and adults alike need
This has not been a journey of an
individual. It has been supported by
many, including Challenge Partners,
The Prince’s Teaching Institute,
the local authority and Haringey
Headteachers’ Association, to name
but a few.
We will continue to strive to exceed
national standards and, more
importantly, to work relentlessly to
shape our pupils into well-rounded
individuals. One returning pupil, who
is now a doctor, told me just the other
day, “It all started here, Miss.” We
want others to come back and proudly
say the same.
I have spent
my headship
thus far
children and
staff as
The school’s year 3


This article was sponsored by Lea Valley 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 Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister