Portswood Primary Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Portswood Primary Academy'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 Portswood Primary Academy 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


CEO Dr Keith Watson
Exceptional teaching
balances direct instruction
with hands on, experiential
Portswood Primary Academy, led by CEO Dr Keith Waston
and Principal Tony Head, prides itself on being a centre
of excellence in teaching and learning. Keith, who joined
the school twenty years ago as a middle leader, tells
Parliamentary Review
how fortunate he has been to be involved
in the school; first becoming a beacon school and later one
of the first 100 Teaching Schools in the country. Much has
changed since he joined, but Keith points out that what hasn’t
changed is the school’s unrelenting focus on teaching and
learning based on a culture of coaching.
I have been at Portswood Primary for 20 years and often reflect upon how
fortunate I have been to witness such sustained excellence. It is remarkable that
Portswood was again in the top 100 primary schools in the country in the Key
Stage 2 SATs of 2017, given that 55 per cent of its pupils have English as an
additional language. With over 25 languages in the school, it feels as if the whole
world is under one roof – such is the cultural diversity. This uniqueness is celebrated
and constitutes a real strength, along with the pupils’ wonderful attitudes to the
academy. When asked what the best thing about the school was, a year 2 pupil
simply replied, “Learning.” She clearly knew what schools are for.
The coaching culture
Professional development is at the heart of the way the academy operates, and
a key element of this is the coaching for teachers. The coaching system which
originated at Portswood Primary has been showcased nationally through research
»CEO: Dr Keith Watson
»Principal: Tony Head
»Founded in 2012 (as academy)
»Located in Southampton,
»Type of school: Primary
»No. of pupils: 470
»Portswood was the first school
in the country to win the
NACE Award for able child
provision three times
Portswood Primary
Highlighting best practice
publications and Her Majesty’s
Inspectorate case studies. Our
coaching system is an entitlement
for all teachers and is unusual in that
our coaches go into the classroom
and coach alongside teachers during
a lesson, rather than just observe.
We have named it “parrot on the
shoulder” coaching, and we have now
trained hundreds of schools in this
method. The HMI report stated:
Teachers welcome the coaching
in this supportive way through
a non-threatening environment.
As one said: ‘At other schools,
I have been told what my
weaknesses are, but here
they are dealt with and I am
supported brilliantly. This has
resulted in my being a much
better teacher.’”
– HMI 2014
The aim is to develop professional
reflection and a research-based
mentality equal to other professions.
Ofsted (2010) noted that:
Staff in the school refer to a
culture within which they trial,
research and review strategies to
improve teaching and learning.”
A few years ago, recruitment became
an issue. We responded by creating
an Early Teaching Career pathway,
which includes our School Direct,
Newly Qualified Teacher and Second
Year Teacher programmes. These
programmes all include training, visits
to other schools and coaching support
at every step of the three years. This
is integral to the right culture being
embedded over time.
A vibrant curriculum that
reflects our values and ethos
At Portswood, we provide an enriched,
high-quality curriculum. Creativity is
encouraged, and essential skills and
knowledge are taught and applied in
real-life contexts. Children are central
to this and viewed as lifelong learners.
Our curriculum provides exciting
opportunities to engage and inspire
children to be the best they can be;
to develop a sense of excitement and
curiosity about the world around
them; and to gain knowledge and
skills to experiment, investigate,
invent, create and imagine. We
believe that developing a mastery of
skills that can be transferable enables
self-confidence and creativity. This,
in turn, fosters a sense of pride and
The coaching culture in
the academy leads to
teaching which develops
high levels of pupil
is at the heart
of the way the
operates, and
a key element
of this is the
coaching for
achievement; whether that’s learning
about Elmer the Elephant in reception
or creating movie trailers for Macbeth
in year 6.
Teachers are encouraged to think
imaginatively, while ensuring that
skills are understood and applied in a
variety of forms. We make use of our
own “backyard” to fascinate children
and inspire them to develop a deeper
understanding of the world. Local
trips and visiting theatre groups bring
learning alive.
Our curriculum is ever evolving to
ensure that we match the needs and
interests of our pupils and use the
strengths and skills of our staff. Our
curriculum is not only the subjects
on the timetable; it is the whole
experience of education.We provide
memorable experiences, which in turn
provides memorable learning. National
initiatives come and go. We do not
dismiss them out of turn, but, instead,
we consider whether they would
benefit our children. If they do, then
we embrace them. If they do not, then
we reject them. We know our children
and community best.
Working beyond the school
Portswood Primary was the founding
school for the Portswood Primary
Academy Trust. The trust is now
comprised of three Southampton
schools with over 1,600 pupils. Each
academy retains its own identity but
works together to improve standards
and provide a rich learning experience.
Portswood is an outward-facing
organisation that has links to many
schools and organisations. We value
collaboration highly. We are also the
centre for the Portswood Teaching
School Alliance, which works with
over 70 schools to provide support
and training. Again, this has been
externally recognised:
The PTSA has many case studies
of support that has led to
schools improving to a ‘Good’
Ofsted judgement.”
– Teaching school review, 2017
Over the years, it has been a challenge
to maintain such high standards while
also seeking to play a role in system
leadership. The moral purpose is
strong though, and our staff want
to contribute to improving the wider
educational landscape. The success of
Portswood over nearly two decades
is down to their commitment and
the team ethic based upon the PPAT
goal of “Pride, Passion and Achieving
Together”. Long may it continue.
Teachers are
encouraged to
while ensuring
that skills are
understood and
applied in a
variety of forms
Portswood benefits
enormously from an
inter-cultural mix, which
includes 25 different
languages being spoken


This article was sponsored by Portswood Primary Academy. 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 Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development