St George's CE Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by St George's CE 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 St George's CE 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

Graham Warnock, head teacher
Bishop Jeff leading
In April 2016 Graham Warnock became head teacher of
StGeorge’s School in Blackpool. It had been underperforming
for quite some time, especially in terms of pupil progress, and
had quickly moved, from a ‘good with outstanding features’ to
‘requires improvement’, alongside a budget deficit. Graham’s
task was to broaden the focus towards academic excellence,
ensuring sustainability in all aspects of the curriculum and
effecting positive change in student outcomes.
Re-vision – the direction of travel
With the sustained support of Angus MacLeod, our chair of governors and the
CIDARI MAT, we rapidly established a shared vision of how we wanted our school
to look in five years. My first piece of advice to any new head teacher would be
to “establish the direction of travel together so that the journey is owned by
everyone”. Working with Right to Succeed we ran a series of consultations with
all our staff, a group of parents, our governing body and numerous students. In
these sessions it quickly became clear that we were very proud of our outstanding
pastoral support and Christian ethos but that we needed to broaden our focus.
Our vision came to write itself –
“Outstanding through the provision of consistent
academic excellence within a caring Christian community”
This then became the
driving force in all our subsequent steps.
»Head teacher: Graham
»Academised: April 2014
»Location: Marton, Blackpool
»Type of School: Church of
England voluntary-aided
academy, ages 11-16
»No. of students: 1014
»No. of staff: teaching 72,
overall 120
»“Outstanding” SIAMS
»Pupil Premium: 42 per cent
»Oversubscribed in pupil
numbers for five years, 500
applicants for 210 places
St George’s School:
ACE Academy
Highlighting best practice
Re-structure – fit for delivery
A structure had grown organically
over the years which had made
lines of accountability very blurred.
Leaders were leading leaders, leading
middle leaders, leading teachers.
Key messages had not always been
translated effectively. We undertook
a restructure to streamline senior
and middle leadership positions
across the school and create a
transparent structure with clear lines
of accountability. The leadership team,
although longstanding, was also
restructured. As a school we moved
from two deputy head teachers and
six assistant head teachers to a flat
structure of two deputy head teachers
and two assistant head teachers. The
restructure involved the departure of
many staff along with people who
did not feel they could commit to the
vision. My second piece of advice is to
“build a leadership team in whom you
have100 per cent faith and are aligned
and committed to your vision”
Recruit the best
Having excellent staff remains the
best strategy for raising achievement.
I believe that if you fill your school
with the best teachers then you could
stop every other strategy and initiative.
Recruitment is not easy – one reads
about it all the time. Recruitment in
Blackpool, with all its negative press,
is particularly difficult. That’s why
having a clear vision that articulated
our caring Christian ethos but also our
relentless standards-driven academic
focus was important and this was
made clear in our recruitment packs.
We presented a journey, not a finished
product. In total we had 26 positions
to fill and we recruited subject
specialists in 26 positions. In truth we
could have recruited more and now
are fortunate to have a waiting list of
teachers. My third piece of advice is
“when recruiting never compromise
on quality – it will only cause pain
in the long run”
Only recruit and
develop the best staff possible, not
only with the current job in mind but
thinking about succession planning
and future needs. If that means
advertising again then so be it – it is
easier to replace a missing link than
trying to fix a broken one.
Re-shape – quality teaching
Being secure with the depth of quality
of staff, we have concentrated on
Our pupils excel in
performing arts and sports
Shine Saturday school – Literacy &
Numeracy outside of the classroom
Our Vision is
through the
provision of
within a caring
our philosophy towards teaching and
learning. As part of our recruitment
we appointed eight lead practitioners
to support teaching and learning
across school. We developed our
philosophy to focus on identification
and removal of barriers to learning.
This runs throughout the teaching,
learning and assessment strategies.
We further improved the quality of
this through the development of
the “Three R’s”; reteach, removing
barriers and research. In essence this
is a data and feedback-informed
approach which focuses on “teaching
pupils what they don’t know”, a
concept shared with us by StMarys
Catholic Academy, which they call
DAFITAL (data and feedback-informed
teaching and learning).
This builds on aspects of current
good practice, mastery learning,
collaborative planning, coaching and
mentoring across school. The quality
of teaching is now, as a minimum,
“good” and continues to improve,
with inconsistency of standards across
subjects being eradicated. My fourth
piece of advice is to “not over-
complicate teaching; teach students
well and if they still don’t get it,
identify what the issue is and reteach
We don’t prescribe a specific style
– whatever works, works.
Our vision remains our clear focus,
with a determination to do the right
thing and keep it simple. My final
piece of advice is that if it is not a
nine or a ten for impact then maybe
it’s not worth doing. We try very
hard to not over-complicate an idea
and remember our core business as a
school, which is quality teaching and
learning. None of this is revolutionary
or will make the morning headlines
but we have applied successful
business processes to an educational
setting and this is resulting in a rapid
upward trajectory.
»Progress 8 rapidly closing to 0
»English and maths grades 4 and 5 in
line with or above national average
»An inclusive school with exclusion
figures significantly below national
»A school of parental choice which is
heavily oversubscribed.
»A school of choice for teachers
All these changes are culminating in
making our vision a reality. As with
any journey challenge awaits, but
StGeorge’s is well-placed with a
forward-thinking strategy to achieve
something truly special.
If it is not a
nine or a ten
for impact
then its
probably not
worth doing
Red – Reteach
Emphasised systems for ensuring consistency, organised around a shared model
of teaching and learning. For example, behaviour incidents/poor academic
progress can serve as a trigger for learning interventions. A shared model and
purpose creates coherence in everything we do.
Blue – Removing barriers – monitoring & training
This cycle is pupil-focused through a robust system of learning walks, work
scrutiny and pupil voice. Our monitoring is systematic, relentless and forensically
focussed on identifying and removing barriers to learning for pupils and staff.
Green – Research
This cycle allows all staff to engage in evidence-informed practice that has been
tried and tested by lead practitioners from a national evidence base and known
impacts on current profiling of pupils at our school.
St George’s school

This article was sponsored by St George's CE 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 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