Marish Primary School

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

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 Marish Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


“Empower to Deliver” team
building training
Year 4 children enjoying a
boat trip in Paddington
Marish Primary often goes beyond what is required of
most schools. Executive head teacher Gill Denham
explains that in recent years it has been transformed
into a dynamic learning community that established a powerful
reach into the homes and hearts of all its stakeholders.
Located in Slough, Berkshire, Marish serves a culturally diverse
community where two thirds of our 800 pupils have English as a
second language and over 40 languages are spoken. Increased
deprivation, overcrowded housing, a higher than average
proportion of refugees and immigrants and children with complex
special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are some of the
challenges the school faces and is now beginning to overcome.
In 2010, prior to my arrival as head teacher, Marish was put into “special
measures” by Ofsted, but within 15 months it was judged to be a “good”
school. To achieve this rapid improvement, I focused on changing the leadership
at all levels and improving the quality of teaching. In 2013 we took on a school
in “special measures” as a sponsored academy and, while the school improved
significantly, the leadership of Marish was compromised. Set against the backdrop
of a local authority choked by the demand for school places and other services,
inadequate social care provision for children, and with the bar raised in terms
of school inspection, Marish’s 2014 judgement of serious weaknesses was
unsurprising. It would have been easy to give up. Instead, being at rock bottom for
the second time in four years became the catalyst for tremendous change. It was
time to stop another downward plummet in the school’s rollercoaster history.
»Head teacher: Gill Denham
»Became an academy in 2012
»Based in Slough, Berkshire
»Type of school: Community
primary academy
»No. of pupils: 800
»Marish’s Resource Base for
children with complex needs
has grown from only 4 pupils
in 2013 to 45 in 2018
»Our new extension wing to
accommodate it within the
main school building is due to
be completed in early 2019
Marish Primary School
Highlighting best practice
This was not a one-person job and
has proved to be a great challenge. I
had to relinquish some of my control
and trust my team to design a shared,
strategic vision that would build
resilience throughout the school. It
culminated in genuine distributed
leadership that delegated autonomy,
not just tasks, to staff at all levels
and was the springboard for a
subtle change in direction. Over the
last three years stakeholders have
worked together to shape an ethos
that enables everyone to exceed
expectations and become the best they
can be. As our new motto suggests,
we “strive for the heights”
We have managed to achieve this in
a time of financial constraints and
crisis in teaching recruitment. We have
continued investing in people, whether
they are children, staff, partners or
families. Education is a field in which
we are experts, where we focus on
positive outcomes for all and think
outside the box. When it comes to
removing barriers, we do whatever
it takes. Pupils’ attendance is an
excellent example of this. In 2014 poor
attendance had a considerable impact
on pupils’ progress and attainment
and previously our only response had
been to refer parents to the local
authority. In 2018, we have changed
our approach and begun implementing
a range of initiatives, including hiring
minibuses to collect children with
attendance issues.
Today, rather than becoming
frustrated with partner agencies,
we meet needs instead. Marish now
provides food, clothing, transport,
counselling, language support and
childcare. We offer free support to the
families of our students as well. We
have offered help to adults looking
into higher education and offered
guidance to those looking for new
employment opportunities. We focus
on the whole family and the “whole”
child. It is evident from our progress
that a child cannot learn if they do not
attend school regularly and punctually.
Equally, children cannot learn if they
arrive at school hungry or upset
about issues they are experiencing at
home. At Marish we have developed
a solution-focused approach that is
responsive to the needs of everyone.
This enables our staff to work with
parents to address problems that
may be deep rooted within homes
and families. The impact has been
»Pupils’ attendance rose steadily from
2014 and exceeded 96 per cent in
the academic year of 2016-17 and
persistent-absentee numbers have
dropped every half term;
»There have been no permanent
exclusions over the last eight years
and in 2017 fixed-term exclusions
are at an all-time low;
»Pupils are well behaved, exemplify
British values and make a positive
contribution to the community;
»Pupils are well prepared for
their secondary education and
disadvantaged pupils attain as well
as their non-disadvantaged peers;
»Marish’s results in 2017 were above
national averages in all respects and
Key Stage 2 results were in the top
ten per cent of all schools nationally;
Everyone, regardless
of their background, is
proud to belong to our
pupils attain
as well as their
peers and in
fact the
progress of
group often
exceeds the
progress of all
other tracked
»Our resource-based provision for
pupils with complex SEND is heavily
»Marish is full and all year groups
have a waiting list.
In 2014, recruitment to school posts
in Slough was in crisis. Sandwiched
between Berkshire and the London
boroughs with salary enhancements,
we had to think of alternative
incentives to attract and retain
teachers and leaders. To combat
this crisis I designed a tailor-made
leadership training course “Empower
to Deliver” (E2D). It provides
personalised development training and
annual visioning days that sustain our
team. To date, over 200 staff, from
site managers and physical education
coaches, to governors and senior
leaders, have benefited. As a result,
Marish is fully staffed and our future
leadership capacity is secure thanks to
this policy of “growing our own”. The
impact is evident:
»Four deputy head teachers and eight
assistant head teachers have been
promoted from within the team;
»12 team leaders and four special
needs coordinators were trained over
the last four years;
»15 teachers have been trained in the
last 18 months;
»Four deputies have been promoted
to headship;
»Second-generation training courses
have followed for groups of staff
with specific needs such as fast-track
for new leaders, trainee programmes
for new teachers and the aptly
named BLAST programme for
learning support staff;
»A collaborative partnership has been
established in 2017 with another
school to aid their improvement.
This is visionary leadership at its best.
The Marish team build partnerships,
trust and bridges into our community.
Better still, we make it possible for
parents, staff and pupils to cross
those bridges. We have improved
rapidly and our capacity for sustained
growth assures us that the best is yet
to come.
Marish is fully
staffed and our
capacity secure
– thanks to this
policy of
“growing our
As Marish`s motto suggests,
we; ‘Strive for the heights’.
Role-play fun, while learning in the
floating classroom, London


This article was sponsored by Marish Primary School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.