Oakham Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Oakham 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 Oakham 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


Highlighting best practice
Dr Philip Jones, head teacher
Inspiring a love of
Oakham’s core purpose as a school is to provide a
learning-centred environment in which children can
thrive and develop intellectually, emotionally, socially
and physically. Its aim is to foster an atmosphere within the
school that prizes intellectual and academic development
as central elements to a successful and enriching school
experience. Head teacher Dr Philip Jones strives to promote
positive traits, such as cooperation and hard work, while
striving to ensure that all pupils at Oakham leave the school
with a love of learning that will inspire them for years
Getting to where we are now has been an extensive journey of continuous
improvement and consolidation, focused on improving children’s learning
experiences by elevating standards across the board.
The journey began in earnest with the development of a clear and shared view of
learning to influence teaching and future improvements. Our definition recognises
learning as a reflective and interactive activity, allowing a learner to build upon prior
knowledge and experience to formulate new knowledge, skills and understanding.
This avoids many of the “fashionable” pseudo-scientific methods of teaching that
I have encountered during my 17 years of being a head teacher, providing a basis
for a clarity of understanding that allows teachers to create a purposeful learning
environment conducive to academic progression. Our supportive and positive ethos
is reflected through the excellent learning attitudes of our pupils and their thirst for
»Head teacher: Dr Philip Jones
»Founded in 1939
»Based in Tividale, Sandwell,
West Midlands
»Type of school: Local authority
maintained primary school
»No. of pupils: 483
»National support school
»Ofsted: “Outstanding”,
Oakham Primary
The outcome of our adaptations has
culminated in children making good
progress during their time at Oakham.
While standards are not merely about
Key Stage 2 results, they remain the
measures by which we are judged.
At Oakham, children progress from
very low entry baselines to well above
national levels upon leaving. Our
2017 results place us in the top 1 per
cent for progress in maths and the
top 2 per cent for reading progress,
while we have been within the top
5 per cent for progress nationally
for many years. Within these results,
our disadvantaged children have
made equally good progress at rates
significantly above national levels. They
are situated within the top 2 per cent
for reading and the top 3 per cent for
maths nationally, emblematic of their
stark improvements that have been
fortified through effective teaching
and adept leadership.
Our local authority is the 13th most
deprived out of 326 – based on the
2015 “Indices of Deprivation”. At a time
when austerity and declining education
funding places even greater pressure
on schools, never has Leadbeater’s
notion of “living on thin air” been
more apt than in the currentclimate.
In such an environment, the
importance of high-quality teaching
is vital. Our aim is to keep things as
straightforward aspossible.
Teaching involves a clear
understanding of what children need
to learn, devising the best way of
doing this and then putting it into
practice. While the development of
knowledge and skills is important,
their application is equally as
significant as children acquire greater
understanding. Learning is active in
the sense that children are expected to
think, not merely to be rushing around
“busily”. While some consistencies
are required, good teaching must take
account of, and allow for, individuality
and creativity. It cannot be about a
“non-negotiable” formulaic approach
as it requires elements of improvisation
and compromise to achieve the best
results. Teachers concentrate on
planning and preparing next steps,
with marking kept to a minimum.
They recognise the importance of early
intervention through immediate verbal
feedback and believe that this is better
than written distance marking. In such
a scenario, assessment plays a vital
role, as the identification of “what is
currently known” allows the next steps
in learning to be made. Assessment
at Oakham is seen as a continuous
process integral to the learning cycle,
certainly one that isn’t mired in
pointless numerical data collection and
endlessly systematic tickboxes.
In sustaining the drive for our
continued improvement, we have
taken a view that a steady approach
is best, finding out what works well
Looking at things in
different ways
Reading for pleasure – a
fundamental element of
learning at Oakham
involves a clear
of what
children need
to learn,
devising the
best way of
doing this and
then putting it
into practice
Highlighting best practice
and sticking at it, modifying along
the way to improve processes and
accommodate relevant changes. We
consult and duly reference academic
studies in generating sound and
reputable methods of teaching, which
are generally adapted and customised
throughout the course of their
integration within our syllabus. We
have learned that there are very few
“off the shelf” solutions in existence,
but there are many glib notions with
little substance.
Our School Improvement Plan (SIP)
does not suffer from a lack of longevity
or failure to finish associated with
initiative overload, but it concentrates
primarily on ensuring ideas and
developments take hold and become
embedded in practice. Therefore, the
SIP is to-the-point and is concise, not
congested, allowing responsiveness
and flexibility. Consequently, our plan
maintains our attention on what we
know works and is important – our
strategic intent – while addressing
the secondary issue of constantly
changing external demands. In this
way, we maintain a concentration
on what is important and not merely
what becomes urgent, thereby
A key part of our improvement
is the acquisition and retention
of staff. With teacher shortages
increasingly impacting the education
sector, we have taken the view
that it is better to train staff in-
house rather than outsource and
have taken on a School Direct role,
leading the training of new teachers.
This, in addition to the persistent
enhancement of existing staff, means
that there is a positive climate of
professional development with all
staff being given the necessary time
to develop. As such, staff meetings
are focused upon pedagogy as far as
possible, with staff happy to discuss
and share ideas and thoughts or
ask questions, seeking clarification
and further knowledge around
concepts. This means as little time as
possible is wasted on straightforward
organisational or administrative issues
that can be dealt with more simply.
At Oakham, we have created a learning
culture that recognises the importance
of learner agency, where the acquisition
and application of knowledge and skills,
alongside making learning a conscious
object of attention, enables children
to do well. By keeping things simple
and maintaining a distinct focus on
what matters, with a clear approach
to teaching and learning our foremost
priority, the raising of standards will
undoubtedly follow.
A key part of
is the
and retention
of staff
Absorption, engagement
and collaboration
Teaching and learning
is at the heart of


This article was sponsored by Oakham 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 Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy