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 Southam Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Southam Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1SOUTHAM PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Teamwork – learning in and
outside of the classroom
Inspiring a love for lifelong
As a community school, Southam Primary School seek
to provide their pupils with inspiration and aspiration
– something that they believe is important to get right
at primary school age. Their broader goal is to deliver an
education that allows everyone to meet their potential. To help
achieve this, they are providing their children with a curriculum
enhanced with first-hand experiences and bringing parents
closer to each child’s education. Headteacher Emma Longworth
more about these ambitions and
how the school goes about realising them.
We are a community school with 304 pupils and are located in a small town,
although this is changing, as new housing is being built at a rapid pace. In recent
times, we have taken on a significant number of children in new groups as a result
of these new housing developments. The majority of our intake are from Southam
and some of its surrounding villages. The spot we’re located in is special because
there are three primary schools in town – one is Catholic, the other is Church of
England, and then there’s us: a community school.
Experiences that inspire
Our aim at Southam Primary is to be inspirational and aspirational. We want
our children to have as broad a range of experiences as possible. It’s especially
important that primary school children have these experiences, because as they
enter secondary school, feedback from previous students indicates that peer
pressure begins to constrain their willingness to try things – for example, learning
SOUTHAM PRIMARY SCHOOL
»Headteacher: Emma Longworth
»Became an academy in 2018
»Located in Warwickshire
»Type of school: Primary school
»No. of pupils: 304
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| SOUTHAM PRIMARY SCHOOL
to play different types of musical
instruments, taking part in a variety of
sporting events and working alongside
artists and published authors. If
children love these experiences,
then we can foster this interest and
develop their skills further. If, however,
they are not inspired to continue
the experiences, then at least we
can say we have given children the
This approach has been very successful,
in that many pupils have capitalised on
these opportunities and have gone on
to succeed in a number of fields. For
example, we’ve had children take part
in athletic competitions at Southam
Primary and then, later, go on to
represent the county. Other children
have gone on to join local choirs and
orchestras. Some of our children have
even had writing published.
This experiential component to our
school also features in our curriculum.
This means, for example, that all
of the children in Key Stage 2 are
given musical instrument lessons –
something we pay for as a school.
Furthermore, everyone in the school
until year 5 has swimming lessons.
Other examples of the experiential
aspect of our curriculum include a
trip to the Natural History Museum,
visits to the Houses of Parliament,
residential trips, artists coming in to
create pieces of work with the children
and children writing poems with a
poet in residence. These activities have
greatly enriched the lives of Southam’s
children and have broadened
The curriculum, we believe, must be
inspiring and aspirational. It has to
hook children into learning – and in
order to achieve this, we must also
make it as inclusive as possible. When
reviewing our curriculum, we look at
how it will have the biggest benefit on
the children. As many of our children
have limited experiences, one of the
changes we made was to the timing
of educational visits, moving these to
the start of a topic so that children
can draw on their experiences while
learning. We also have immersion
days at the start of a topic, which is a
fantastic way to launch a new topic
with the children.
Ensuring everyone strives to
be their best
These efforts are accompanied by
a broader set of values, which is
respect – our school
values which were
developed by all children
3SOUTHAM PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
perhaps best encompassed by our
motto: “Where Getting Better Never
Stops”. We want our children to reach
high and try hard – we want them to
understand that they shouldn’t feel
demotivated when things are hard, but
instead should apply themselves harder
in order to accomplish their goals. In
other words, we want them to know
that it’s fine to find things difficult.
Another focus of ours is on the quality
of teaching – we will settle for nothing
less than the best-possible teaching
for our young ones. When we say
“Where Getting Better Never Stops”,
we mean this in every area of the
school. Indeed, the staff never stop
learning and refining their skills. We’re
all reflecting on how we can improve,
adapt and adjust to improve outcomes
Budget squeezes and moving
Services like occupational health,
speech and language assistance, and
mental health were once available via
referral, and we could access these
kinds of agencies externally. Now,
however, schools are being expected
to perform these skills in-house and to
deliver them accordingly. This is a real
challenge for schools, not least ours.
Another difficulty we’ve been facing
is the increasing number of children
starting in Reception who are not
“school ready”. This is problematic for
the school, as it concerns a part of a
child’s life which we have no control
over – namely, the period before they
enter our school. This is a political
problem with a political solution.
Many of the children who come to our
school would have previously benefited
from a wide range of experiences and
support through our local children’s
centre. Unfortunately, due to budget
cutbacks and restructuring, many of
these opportunities are no longer
available to families, and schools are
having to pick up these issues.
This, however, feeds into a broader
problem that we have, which is
reaching some parents who are
elusive. One of our stronger ambitions
is to get as many parents involved in
their child’s education as possible, even
if it means working with their child in
an art or DT lesson, or visiting a class
assembly. We appreciate that coming
into school can be difficult for those
who didn’t have the most positive
experiences at school, so we do all
that we can to be as accommodating
as possible. If we get this right, it will
make the school community broader,
more collaborative and more fruitful.
Our ultimate goal, though, is ensuring
that all children reach their potential
regardless of barriers. In this regard,
we are restlessly proactive in finding
solutions (a strength our staff regularly
display). This means being open to
new ideas, but it also means keeping
hold of that which has proved itself
in the past. With this strong sense of
purpose, we face the future with a
great deal of optimism.
Due to budget
many of these
are no longer
Getting better never
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
A new Prime Minister, a new Education Secretary and, as we're all painfully aware, a deeply uncertain future. It is in this context that the education service continues to deliver for individuals, communities and of course for our nation.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the education service as a whole, schools, post 16/Further Education, and yes, lifelong learning, needs the most enormous injection of cash. Independent analysis shows that there has been at least an 8% average reduction in the amount of spend per pupil in our schools. Those damaged most by this have been pupils with special educational needs, whose voices are sadly rarely heard. The necessity of urgent action was underlined in July by the report of the all-party House of Commons Select Committee on Education. They could not have been clearer about the need for substantial funding and a long-term 10-year commitment.
At the same time, there are a number of reviews taking place. One of them, in relation to post-16 qualifications, is in danger of a classic mistake by politicians and officials who have little or no understanding of the complex territory they're dealing with. Namely, the ridiculous proposition that BTEC National Diplomas might be set aside because 'T Levels are the gold standard'!
I'm in favour of T Levels, but in the right context and for the right outcome. They are intended to be extremely focused specialist qualifications in defined areas of employment. When and if they eventually take off – there is predicted to be just a thousand students in 2021-22 taking up the qualification – they will not replace the BTEC, which has been the workhorse providing a general and high-quality education for decades. The BTEC has equipped young people for a variety of opportunities in a very changing employment market where the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and changed working practices makes confining the choice of vocational pathways to one narrow focus, frankly ridiculous.
Meanwhile, her Majesty's Opposition continue to throw out titbits which do not give, as yet, a very clear idea of what, if elected, Labour would do in office. What is needed is positive proposals. Abolishing this, that or the other – assessments/tests for those leaving primary school, for instance – is not the same thing as a very forward-looking agenda for radical improvement in standards and equity between those who can and cannot afford additional help for their children.
There are a handful of Labour Party members, supported by some people who ought to know better, who have decided that a full-frontal assault on private education would be a good idea. For those worried about this, stop worrying. A party that put this in its manifesto wouldn't get elected, and if by some fluke it did, it would be challenged in the courts to the point where all the contradictions would be exposed for everyone to see.
Just contemplate one simple fact. 20% of secondary schoolchildren in the borough of Hackney attend private schools! Yes, Hackney. This is because a large number of parents, some of whom scrape the money together, are sending their children to private education in London which happens to be the area of England with the best academic outcomes from state education. What's more, very large numbers (again, particularly in London) pay for private tutors. At the last estimate 40% of parents in London had at some point over the last year paid for a tutor for their child!
Perhaps therefore an opposition party, hoping to provide unity rather than division, opportunity for all rather than a futile class battle against educational privilege, would seek ways of ensuring that those who can't afford tutors have the kind of support outside school that would put them on equal terms.
One thing is very certain, no government would be able to stop parents buying additional tutoring for their children.
So, a practical agenda for equalising opportunity, for investing where it's needed most, for transforming the pipeline from school through college, apprenticeships, or university, is a goal worth fighting for. A positive way of linking business and education through political decision-making, with the delivery by excellent professionals in the education service, to the children of today and the economy of tomorrow. Surely that is a much more progressive and less negative way forward for both government and opposition.