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 Lindens Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Lindens Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1LINDENS PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Simon Griffiths
Getting ready to celebrate
West Midlands-based Lindens Primary School has set
itself the goal of making sure children, parents and
the wider community all feel included in its journey
towards a better future. Indeed, for his efforts in promoting
inclusion, headteacher Simon Griffiths was awarded an MBE.
Such efforts have also resulted in the school being recognised as
“outstanding” by Ofsted. Simon tells
The Parliamentary Review
this collaborative and inclusive approach and how it is achieved.
Here at Lindens Primary, we’re a two-form-entry school on an amazing – indeed,
“outstanding” (Ofsted) – journey. It’s my genuine belief that I have one of the best
jobs in the world. In my role, I have the privilege of seeing children grow up and
become ethical and responsible people in the process of finding their way in the
world. Everyone here, including myself, is grounded by their purpose: it’s about
ensuring children are happy, feel valued and want to contribute.
When I joined the school, there were just over 200 children on our roll, but they now
number 480 and we are oversubscribed. The children at Lindens form a rich and
diverse community who are all gifted and talented. It’s a community in which we
come together, support each other and celebrate and embrace everyone’s differences
as well as our similarities. The motto that guides us all is “reach for the stars” to
the tune of S Club 7, because we want children to aspire and believe in themselves.
A community in which everyone is valued
One of the key characteristics of Lindens, in my view, is the extent to which it’s a family-
friendly school. When parents come and visit, I want them to “feel the atmosphere
LINDENS PRIMARY SCHOOL
»Headteacher: Simon Griffiths
»Founded in 1960
»Located in Walsall, West
»Type of school: Mixed primary
»No. of pupils: 486
»National Teaching School;
National English Hub;
Appropriate Body for NQTs;
Additional resource provision
for children with complex
medical issues or physical
»Has a physical disability
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| LINDENS PRIMARY SCHOOL
and vibe” to ensure it’s the right place
for the family. In other words, I want
the school to be an unmissable friendly
environment in which everyone feels
valued and respected.
Not a day goes by without a golden
moment being shared, be it with a
child or with a family. Each and every
day, we make sure that success does
not go unheard or unrecognised, but
instead is celebrated. If we can make
school an enjoyable experience, then
learning comes along for the ride.
We provide children with a whole
range of experiences, which allows
them to love the world and love
themselves. This adds yet more priority
to the task of giving children the best-
possible experiences at school, and this
also means ensuring that our children
feel secure and protected.
Ensuring a strong future
Making sure our children are happy
is a profound responsibility that I take
very seriously. Not only is it important
in itself; it also maximises learning and
improves outcomes. We want them
to believe in themselves, be tolerant
and develop the confidence that will
make them ethical human beings and
skilled and independent learners. I
encourage everyone to be brave and to
be different. I want them to embrace
every opportunity that life throws at
them. Only by being self-confident and
ready to confront the world can they
capitalise on such opportunities.
In terms of teaching and the curriculum,
we pride ourselves on being quirky
and alternative. Our goal is to promote
purposeful learning and excitement
that drives learning. Our broad creative
curriculum ensures that all talents and
dispositions are catered for, which is
why we value dance, drama, music,
sports and other arts subjects. After all,
I believe everyone has a talent, which
is why, when Ofsted asked me to give
them a gifted and talented register, I
handed them a list of every child in the
school. After all, ever child has a gift
and a talent, and it is our purpose in
school to findboth.
Inclusiveness as a core value
Inclusion is a real passion of mine,
which is why I was delighted when,
12 years ago, we had an amazing
opportunity to become an enhanced
school for children with a physical
disability and develop a PD Outreach
department to support all settings
in Walsall. Ultimately, many children
face challenges, but with support and
Carrying out research
into mental health
are happy is a
that I take
3LINDENS PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
encouragement from peers, we are all
able to “reach for the stars”.
We allow everyone to have a
meaningful and substantive say in
the direction of the school, be it the
community or the parents or the
children themselves. Indeed, much
of the school’s design and art work
is created by the children – they have
true ownership in the environment in
which they learn.
All of these efforts culminated in
Lindens being rated “outstanding” by
Ofsted in 2010 and in me becoming a
national leader of education. This has
enabled us as a school to develop and
work in partnership with many other
schools, sharing best practice while
reflecting on our own.
The wonder of teachers
None of this could have been achieved,
however, without the phenomenal
dedication of the staff. The teachers
breathe life and energy into the
school and are always reflecting on
their practices to see what they can
do better. Through our Teaching
School, we are privileged that we are
supporting over 30 newly qualified
teachers in their quest for a future in
education. Being surrounded by such
talent and energy always keeps me
fresh and on my toes.
We foster and nurture the
development of prospective teachers
– they are our future. Through the
School Direct teachers’ programme,
we have coached and mentored many
outstanding teachers who have joined
this amazing profession. After all,
we want as many people to aspire to
become teachers as possible.
A bright future for all
Taken together, everything mentioned
in this article speaks of our overall
mission – which is to promote
wellbeing and opportunity for all. We
are proud of the extent to which we
have achieved this.
Looking to the future, we have total
optimism. We will continue to do
everything we can to ensure a bright
outcome for every child under our
care. For as long as this ambition
remains at our core, and for as long as
our dedicated team share this vision,
we anticipate only positive things in
the years to come.
from peers, we
are all able to
“reach for the
Our amazing orchestra
Receiving an MBE from
the Queen for Services
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
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.