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

In reception, our beans are
growing well, and are almost
ready to plant
Year 2 writing a fantasy
Through the Secret
Alison Walsh is the headteacher at Palfrey Infant School,
which is located in an urban area of Walsall, West
Midlands. Palfrey’s intake is comprised of 362 pupils
aged between three and seven, who predominantly come
from backgrounds of high deprivation and speak English
as an additional language, some with no English at all. The
close-knit and richly diverse community of Walsall serves as an
excellent backdrop for the school’s inclusive philosophy – its
pupils speak 18 different languages between them. Alison tells
TheParliamentary Review
more about how their staff strive to
have “happy children, aiming high”.
“Happy children, aiming high” is our motto, and it serves to reinforce everything
we do. We look for aspiration, to provide children with opportunities in later life
and to ensure basic skill thresholds are met in every area.
Ninety-six per cent of our children speak English as an additional language, and
we have 27 per cent of pupils eligible for pupil premium. Additionally, a large
proportion of our families are classified as being “working poor”, so we provide a
lot of support systems for Palfrey pupils.
We foster resilience and encourage independence in our work – both in an
emotional and academic capacity – and believe this is of such paramount
importance. Key to this methodology is our close partnership with parents and
the local community – our school supports the entire family, rather than just
»Headteacher: Alison Walsh
»Founded in
»Based in Walsall, West
»Type of school: Local authority
maintained infant school
»No. of students: 360
»Palfrey pupils speak 18
different languages
»The school keeps chickens and
takes part in Walsall Against
Single Use Plastic, or WASUP
Palfrey Infant School
Highlighting best practice
Our governors are also well-respected
in the local area, and they love being
a part of the school. They take their
roles seriously and recognise our
success, not just as a school, but as a
Delivering quality education
My favourite word for education is
“independently” – and while quality
teaching and learning should be at
the top of the agenda for any school,
fostering independence is equally
We recognise this, and consequently
drive opportunities for children to
develop independence on a daily
basis as a backdrop for their learning.
This allows them to recognise
and improve their aspirations and
objectives for learning, and translates
as high expectations for learning in
This is something we get our teaching
staff to recognise, too – these high
expectations for behaviour as well as
academic attainment are upheld in the
adult manner in which staff converse
with pupils. This, in turn, allows
them to develop communication
skills – something that’s of integral
importance when 96 per cent of
our children speak English as an
These expectations also translate in our
approach to assessments – it has been
recognised as “well-organised and
administered”, allowing us to discover
where children have natural gaps in
learning and address those sooner
rather than later.
Across school years 1 and 2, we
start to sculpt the curriculum in a
more personalised manner, tailoring
it to individual needs and our high
expectations for learning.
Outstanding EYFS provision
Our attitude towards early years and
foundation stage education is by no
means a groundbreaking one, but
it has worked for us consistently in
the past. We provide a stimulating
and productive learning environment
with a great many opportunities for
children to practise and demonstrate
their skills – both inside and outside
The staff who work with our early
years children pride themselves on
knowing their children incredibly
well and challenge them to develop
by asking them difficult questions
and expecting detailed answers.
We settle for nothing less than the
best with communication, manners
and behaviour. This not only helps
to prepare our children for later life
and education; they also treat one
another and staff with courtesy and
respect, minimising unsociable or
Mentoring and development
– at every level
We employ a skilled learning mentor to
fulfil a number of roles in supporting
the work we do. These include
implementing one-to-one and group
interventions to support behaviour
Reception: The egg
hatched and out popped
a dragon, creating
interest for boys’
imaginative writing
aiming high”
is our motto
and leading workshops on attendance
– the effectiveness of which is
demonstrable in our low persistent
absence and high attendance. Finally,
our mentor serves as a link between
the school and other external agencies
and families to ensure the appropriate
additional support is made available.
As well as our learning mentor, our
governors and I also work hard to
foster relationships with parents –
many of whom are now more involved
than ever with their child’s education
given the crucial role they have to
play. I deliver a phonics session to
high numbers of them on a regular
basis which, for many of them, is
instrumental in supporting their child
to read and write English.
End-of-year assessments – the
framework is sometimes not
When children are assessed at the end
of Key Stage 1, there is not an option
to withdraw or disapply them ahead
of time. Their results are checked and
rolled into the rest of the data set,
even if the child in question has only
been in the country two months and
cannot speak English at all.
If our intake increases midway through
the term and those children cannot
understand the questions on the
assessment paper, our results go
down automatically as a result. We
have to take children above numbers
– we have 94 in our year 2 cohort at
present, instead of the standard 90,
and the additional four do not speak
English. That’s something we are of
course happy to do, but when you’re
also judged by the attainment of those
children, it makes things difficult.
In Key Stage 2, there is an option to
disapply and withdraw new-to-country
pupils. This needs to be reflected at
Key Stage 1 so infant schools like ours
are not judged by unfair results.
The curriculum needs to stay
the same
When it comes to what the DfE could
further do to help us, it’s really very
simple – keep the curriculum the
same with a period of stability. Just as
we get used to a new framework or
policy, everything seems to change; the
carpet is pulled out from beneath us
in a sense, often without warning. We
try to stick to teaching basic skills and
developing a sense of independence
in our children, and that does tend to
tick most of the requisite boxes, but
stability would certainly be welcome.
Nonetheless, we will continue to move
forward by delivering outstanding early
years and Key Stage 1 education to the
best of our ability; our plans to further
develop our forest school are coming
to fruition too, and our children could
not be more excited about this.
We foster
resilience and
Physical and emotional
health are supported
through happy playtimes

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