Mulberry School for Girls

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Mulberry School for Girls'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 Mulberry School for Girls 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


Dr Vanessa Ogden, CEO of
Mulberry Schools Trust and
head teacher of Mulberry
School for Girls
Mulberry is a comprehensive community
school in the heart of East London
Situated in Tower Hamlets is Mulberry School for Girls, a
school that believes any individual should be able to inhabit
any public space, place or profession, regardless of gender,
class or ethnicity. Close to their heart is the belief that the world
would be a better place if decision-making bodies were more
representative of the society they serve. However, the head
teacher, Vanessa Ogden, says that for this ambition to become
a reality, all pupils need to be enabled to develop an original
and authentic academic voice, and the confidence to use it,
regardless of background. This, she believes, will not only help
them achieve the highest grades, but will also ensure that their
voices are truly heard, considered and respected in all spaces.
Where we were and are heading
At Mulberry we have travelled a long way in achieving this ambition. We are
a comprehensive school serving one of the most economically disadvantaged
wards in Tower Hamlets (67 per cent disadvantaged; 97 per cent EAL; majority
Bangladeshi pupils). Despite this, against a backdrop of more challenging
qualifications that place greater emphasis on a pupil’s ability to communicate with
sophistication, confidence and flair, our Progress 8 score in 2017 was 0.7, placing
the school in the top 3 per cent for progress overall; the top 1 per cent progress for
high-attaining students in English; and our disadvantaged cohort outperformed all
national KS4 averages. Of the 90 per cent of year 13s who went on to university,
37 per cent gained places at a Russell Group university and in total 67 per cent
»Head teacher: Vanessa Ogden
»Founded in 1965
»Based in Tower Hamlets
»Type of school: Academy girls’
secondary school and sixth
»No. of students: 1,400
»Received a visit and speech
from Michelle Obama in 2015
»In 2006, Mulberry school was
designated a specialist school
for the arts in English, media
and the expressive arts
Mulberry School
Fetch me a
pen – I need
to think
Highlighting best practice
of students gained places at top 50
universities. A number of former
students are now working in influential
careers such as special adviser to the
prime minister for counter-terrorism,
adviser to the Kofi Annan Foundation,
member of parliament and trade
investment bankers at Morgan Stanley.
The key to this success has been the
strategic development of effective
pedagogy and practice over the
last seven years that improves the
academic literacy across subjects. At
the heart of our approach has been
the development of teaching and
learning strategies that improve the
confidence and skillsets of a range
of subject teachers so that they are
able to explicitly teach subject-specific
academic literacy. In turn, this has
improved the capacity of pupils of all
abilities, specifically disadvantaged
pupils, to develop and experiment
with academic language to deepen
their understanding of subjects and
to communicate in a higher-order
scholarly vocabulary.
Beginning in 2010 within the English
faculty at Mulberry, an academic
writing coordinator (now a leading
practitioner) was appointed to
research current academic theory
and research. Using the research
of Queen Mary University and
others, short academic writing units
were developed and trialled by all
KS3 English teachers. These units
demystified academic writing for
teachers and pupils, allowing more
sophisticated arguments to be formed.
Beginning as stand-alone units, they
soon became embedded across
the English curriculum, such that
academic writing became a tool to
deepen pupils’ understanding of the
texts they studied, as well as rapidly
improving the quality of their written
assessments. By 2012, 24 per cent of
pupils achieved A*–A in GCSE English
language (compared to 12 per cent
in 2010) and 24 per cent of pupils
achieved L7+ in year 9 (15 per cent
higher than their KS3 target).
Practical, implementable
This pedagogical approach to academic
literacy needed to be shared, so, in
2013, a custom-tailored professional
development programme named
“Fetch Me a Pen” was born and, with
funding from the London Schools
Excellence Fund, we worked across
subjects and with local schools to share
our approach.
Pupils engage with
challenging texts in
order to expand their
academic vocabulary
The trouble
with Mulberry
students is
that there can
only be one
prime minister
at a time
Jude Kelly OBE, artistic
director of the
Southbank centre
The specific aims of “Fetch Me a Pen”
»To increase teacher knowledge, skills
and confidence around literacy in
order to improve teaching methods
»To create resources that will improve
the delivery of lessons on writing in
specific subjects
»To increase student knowledge,
skills and confidence around writing,
thereby improving educational
»To embed academic writing work
in the participating schools, their
departments and curricula, and
to disseminate work among other
schools and organisations
»To evaluate our work to judge its
impact and inform our future steps.
Our approach focused on working
alongside colleagues to identify key
subject-specific literacy issues. We then
co-constructed, trialled and evaluated
teaching and learning strategies and
resources appropriate for their context.
Since 2013, we’ve produced many
practical strategies which continually
evolve as new colleagues join the
programme. We have a website and
are currently engaged with schools
across Greater London and further
afield to share this approach.
The results
“Fetch Me a Pen” has been
particularly useful in engaging
teachers who have not formally
studied grammar before. This is
largely down to the creation of a safe
space for teachers to admit their own
insecurities with academic literacy,
as well as a focus on how experts
write. The scheme respects that each
subject has its own academic register.
There has therefore been a real desire
from teachers across all subjects
and schools to better understand
how subject-specific academic
Most rewarding is seeing how,
with time, confidence and the
opportunity to experiment, all pupils
can learn to develop an academic
voice. Mulberry pupils, long since
benefiting from “Fetch Me a Pen”,
can now soar academically and
have been empowered to articulate
opinions and influence change.
They’ve been listened to seriously
by people in positions of power
and, no doubt, Mulberry scholars
will continue to use their academic
voices wisely and responsibly to
enact positive change.
I was greatly
impressed by
how articulate
and confident
your pupils are
and enjoyed
answering their
probing and
Sir Nick Clegg, former
deputy prime minister
Pupils develop their
academic literacy
through high-level
“Fetch Me a Pen” in
action in a science lesson


This article was sponsored by Mulberry School for Girls. 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