Portland Place School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Portland Place 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 Portland Place 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


Headmaster David Bradbury
Year 8 music lesson
Portland Place School has been in the top 10 per cent of
schools nationally for value-added at A level for the last
two years. A value-added measure compares a student’s
projected results, based on prior attainment, with their actual
results. Students at Portland Place School regularly achieve
one to two grades higher than expected. Headmaster David
Bradbury is very proud of this achievement and is working hard
to ensure this continues for many years to come. What is often
asked of him is “How do you do this?”, with the unstated
assumption that there is one trick to apply that will lead to
such success. There of course isn’t; it is the accumulated effect
of many elements. What is set out here is what David believes
to be the key elements of what he and his team do, perhaps
uniquely, at Portland Place School to achieve this.
Ensuring high-quality teaching
In my experience improving classroom practice is best served by the open sharing of
ideas within the school between teachers who are working with the same students.
We have several mechanisms for sharing good practice among our staff. We
provide a great deal of in-house continuing professional development (CPD) for our
teachers and the welcome recent addition to this process is social media, be this
in the form of Twitter or blogs, where teachers can share their ideas for improving
classroom practice.
»Headmaster: David Bradbury
»Founded in 1996
»Based in central London
»Type of school: Co-
educational, independent
9-18, non-selective school
»No. of students: Over 300
»Described by The Good
Schools Guide as “Agodsend
for the discerning parent who
can see through the merry-
go-round nature of 11+ and
wants to make sure their child
is educated rather than exam-
»Portland Place is in the top
ten per cent of all schools
nationally for value added at
Alevel for the last two years
Portland Place School
Highlighting best practice
A co-ordinator leads our teaching
and learning development group and
organises our “Teach Meets” – events
where teachers present three-minute
pieces on techniques and activities
they have found particularly useful
that other teachers can then adapt to
their classes. This is our internal version
of events that take place regularly for
teachers at a national level.
Understanding our students
as individuals
The quality of relationships between
teachers and students ensures that
lessons are lively and engage with
collaborative learning at the heart of
our lessons. Our aim with every student,
in every subject, is that they can both
demonstrate an improvement in their
understanding and know what they
need to do to reach the next learning
goal. This means individual teachers
develop a detailed understanding of
all their students as people and as
learners. It also relies on clear and
informed use of data about a student’s
prior performance, their baseline level
in key skill areas and the tracking of
their improvement. This approach to
teaching recognises that learning is not
a linear and steady progression – it has
a pace that ebbs and flows over time.
Pastoral elements are key here – as
a secondary school, we are teaching
students running the full gamut of
adolescence, with all the social and
familial tensions that thisentails.
One third of our students have some
degree of dyslexia. To support the
needs of these students and to enable
them to make excellent progress, we
have embarked on an extensive CPD
programme for all our teachers. Led by
our highly skilled special educational
needs and disabilities (SEND) team,
we are working towards the Dyslexia
Friendly School status accredited by the
British Dyslexia Association (BDA). This
multisensory approach to teaching,
recommended by the BDA, benefits
Inspiring students to explore
Learning beyond the classroom is
exemplified by our STRIVE programme.
This is aimed at encouraging students
in years 7 to 10 to further explore
ideas, themes and topics they find
particularly interesting from their
lessons. Students are pointed towards
a range of further reading, video
clips, podcasts, places to visit and
activities that will stretch and deepen
their knowledge, whether it is of
Napoleonic battles or string theory.
Though this programme is voluntary,
in our experience many students
choose to become involved and their
engagement is evident in the improved
progress they make in the classroom.
The whole cast of
Year 6 science lesson
Learning is not
a linear and
– it has a pace
that ebbs and
flows over
Seamless transition
Bridging the gap between GCSEs and
A levels we run a series of transition
programmes. These include “A-level
taster weeks” where year 11 students
follow sixth form lessons and an A-level
fair where parents can explore the
additional subjects available at Alevels.
Year 11 students are given subject-
specific “bridging booklets” for
summer work. Following on from their
success, these will be given to our year
9 students to help them prepare for
their GCSE studies.
In our sixth form, we have an academic
writing programme designed to support
students who are studying subjects
where a significant written response
will be required in an exam – such as
economics, sociology, psychology, etc.
– but who have a lower-grade pass in
GCSE English language (a grade 4 or 5).
Bringing these elements together to
create that culture within our school
demands much from the leadership at
all levels. The headmaster and senior
leaders must, of course, set the tone
and provide the clear vision, aims
and framework of expectations. The
headmaster in particular must always
focus the attention of the whole
school community on this.
Leadership at all levels must contribute
to building those structures and to
innovations in practice. Our STRIVE
programme and “bridging booklets”
grew out of innovations by my head
of humanities. The “Teach Meets”
are organised and led by my head
of biology, who recently completed
a master’s degree in education.
Academic writing has been developed
by my deputy head academic. Though
primarily a pastoral role, heads of year
have a clear picture of the academic
progress of all the students in their
cohort and are able to discuss this with
students, parents and other teachers.
In a recent development, posited
and led by a member of my science
department, we have a programme
for students in years 10 to 13 – the
examination years – encouraging their
leadership in aspects of school life,
from community service and academic
interests to creative pursuits. There
is a strong emphasis on citizenship
and preparing our students for life in
modern Britain.
What I describe here makes an
education at Portland Place School very
different from the one I received 35
years ago. It makes it very different to
the education being provided in the
first school I worked at 25 years ago. It
is what education could and should be
for all children in this country.
Bridging the
gap between
GCSEs and A
levels we run
a series of
Upper school show –
Our Country’s Good
From left: Lucas
Henrekson Watson,
playing Loopy Louis, and
Ronan McCarthy


This article was sponsored by Portland Place 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