THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
36 | MARYLAND PRIMARY SCHOOL
Maryland’s senior leadership team from left to right:
Anastasia Boreham, DHT; Lorna Jackson, head teacher;
Ola Simisaiye, AHT; Darren Lock, DHT
Pupils use Google
Chromebooks to
create their own online
publications – an idea
we developed from a
research trip to Swedish
schools
REPORT CARD
MARYLAND PRIMARY SCHOOL
»Head teacher: Lorna Jackson
»Founded in 1968
»Based in Stratford, Newham
»Type of school: Local authority
maintained primary school
»No. of pupils: 458 (520
including nursery)
»EAL: 85 per cent
»More than 40 nationalities and
60 languages; 20 teachers
»www.maryland.newham.sch.uk
Maryland Primary
School
When Lorna Jackson became head of Maryland Primary
School in Stratford, East London, in 2001 she faced
a huge problem. All the accepted ways of promoting
literacy simply did not work and in a number of instances it
got to the extent that some pupils were leaving the school
age11 functionally illiterate. Lorna explains how research-based
innovative leadership has transformed this and many other
aspects of her school.
Despite trying many intervention strategies available at the time, like Reading
Recovery, Maryland’s English reading results remained at a low level, with only
around 43 per cent of students attaining level 4 and above aged 11. The local
authority responsible for the school – Newham – expected me as a new head to do
something about these below par results.
Everyone else I spoke to claimed that one of the established methods worked for
them. My research led me to Ruth Miskin who had recently developed her phonic
based literacy programme. I visited her school where the system was operational.
Iknew immediately that this was something new, different and that it could work
at Maryland.
Despite working in a failing school with several change-averse staff, I managed to
ensure everyone bought into this by getting every teacher and key support staff
to visit the school – you don’t need to persuade your staff if you enthuse them.
Within a year of starting to teach reading using systematic phonics – against the
recommendation of our local authority and other head teachers that I spoke to –
no more children were leaving our school functionally illiterate.
37MARYLAND PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
After we began hosting national and
international visitors who had come
to see how our systematic phonics
worked, we became a model school
for Read Write Inc – the programme
created by Ruth Miskin.
Our phonic screening tests are
consistently above the national average
(93 per cent in 2017). This is also in a
school where more than 85 per cent
of the pupils are from a non-English-
speaking background.
All well-conducted research and
innovation starts with a simple question.
Sometimes you can’t find the answers
in schools around you. So if the best
isn’t here, you must find it elsewhere.
Fortunately the school’s governors were
enthusiasts for thisresearch.
Back in 2013, I asked myself why our
pupils lack resilience when they get
stuck, making them so dependent
on their teachers? Our successful
critical thinking initiative resulted from
this. Alongside deputy head teacher,
Lorraine Cooper, our research led
us to visit private schools in the UK,
including Eton, and to innovative
schools and institutions in Japan. Our
resulting publishing venture – branded
Ready Steady Think – with an expert
in this field and training for staff, has
changed the culture in the school.
More recently, Growth mindset –
promoting a positive rather than
defeatist attitude to problems – is an
added element that helps us continue
to develop in this area.
Our current longer-term project
addresses the question, why are the
schools with the highest number of
computers not making the progress
expected in integrating computing
into the curriculum? We had been very
impressed with a trial school in Osaka
on that research trip because of the
skills even very young pupils showed
and how creatively their teachers were
embedding computing into all areas
oflearning.
We also looked for the countries in
Europe that were succeeding. Sweden
was way ahead of the pack and a trip
there revealed why. We saw schools in
Stockholm where not a single piece of
educational software was used. Their
philosophy is simple. Use technology
as part of the learning process not as
entertainment. Our pupils can teach us
much about consumption in technology
with their gaming skills. If, however,
you use all the software that prepares
pupils for adult life, and as a result they
Children are challenged
through questions
and encouraged to be
“critical thinkers” at every
opportunity – a lesson
we learned in Japan
Our visit to Finland inspired us to
treasure our library and bookshop,
reviving a love for reading real books
All well-
conducted
research and
innovation
starts with a
simple
question.
Sometimes
you can’t find
the answers in
schools around
you. So if the
best isn’t here,
you must find
it elsewhere
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
38 | MARYLAND PRIMARY SCHOOL
produce writing and use spreadsheets
and apps that demonstrate and
enhance their learning, then integration
is no longer an issue.
Our wE-PUBLISH website –
www.marylandwepublish.org – that
resulted from the Sweden research,
shows what a powerful tool online
publishing can be. It successfully
motivated some of the most reluctant
pupils to begin writing and hopefully
developed a passion for writing that
they could carry forward. Of course,
empowering staff to become the
experts is a challenge, but not an
insurmountable one. On a development
trip to Singapore, we saw exactly the
same principles in place there and we
have learnt much from their practice
too. As a result, we are now leading
our borough in embedding the Google
Education platform, not just in the
curriculum, but also in our efforts to
become paperless and streamline our
systems and communication.
A research-based approach enabled
us to be wary and question received
wisdom. It takes courage to challenge
accepted views and practice. For
example, some years back, Finland was
hailed as the highest achieving country
in maths in Europe. We wanted to
understand why to help us address our
stalling maths results. On a research
trip to Finland with Lorraine Cooper,
we found that the international data
source constantly quoted to us (PISA)
was applicable to 15-year-olds and
had no bearing on the success of
primary schools, including ours, in the
UK. Much of what we were teaching
our pupils, was at least a year ahead
of Finnish primary schools. What
we did discover, however, was that
arithmetic is the “hero” of the Finnish
curriculum. As a result, Lorraine wrote
and published a book for us to provide
free to parents to help develop pupils’
speed at the maths basics. It has been
highly successful and “Mental Maths
5 a Day” is being adopted by more
and more schools, nationally and
internationally, to enlist the help of
parents. With the impending Key Stage
2 times tables tests, such a resource is
extremely valuable and remains highly
effective.
Success breeds success and as our
track record has built up, it has
become easier to enlist the confidence
and enthusiasm of staff, governors and
also external agencies, in particular
to secure additional funding. The
wE-PUBLISH initiative resulted in
funding from ESA (European Space
Agency) to establish the website and
an opportunity for our children to
share their writing project and meet
astronaut, Captain Tim Peake. Our
outdoor learning and sustainability
initiative resulted in commendation
from horticulturist Alan Titchmarsh,
and a five-star gold award from the
RHS for our nature garden, which
has been an outstanding resource for
science learning for our own pupils
and those from other schools who use
it.
Being courageous and taking informed
risk has benefited my school in so
many ways and makes it the success
it is today, despite facing the myriad
social challenges typical of schools
such as ours.
As we saw in Singapore
schools, research and
investigation permeates
every area of learning,
hence the Maryland
outdoor lab was
developed
Being
courageous
and taking
informed risks
has benefited
my school in
so many ways
and makes it
the success it
is today,
despite facing
the myriad of
social
challenges
typical of
schools such
as ours