St John's CE Primary School

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

A welcoming environment
Strong links with the church
St John’s CE Primary is a one and a half form entry school
based in north Walsall, West Midlands. As a Church
of England school, they retain strong links with their
local church and serve a socially diverse intake of students,
the majority of whom come from working class families.
Headteacher Andy Mills tells
The Parliamentary Review
their ethos, based on community and family values, has helped
improve outcomes across all ages and helped the school retain
its “outstanding” Ofsted rating.
I applied to become headteacher of the school in 2012, following the previous
lengthy recruitment process that had yielded few suitable candidates. As a result,
I was appointed as an acting head in September 2012, before applying formally
and being appointed in November 2012. When I spoke with a potential applicant
during the initial process, he told me that he was put off the role because there
was no room for improvement within an “outstanding” school.
For me, though, the fact that this is an outstanding school made me more
determined. We have an ethos based around family, community and church
values that nurtures a welcoming atmosphere and provides students with a happy
environment in which to learn. The classrooms are open plan and lessons are
collaborative and fun. We offer a vast range of opportunities to every student
including sport, music, drama and art and we support pupils in learning to
be gracious in victory and success while becoming able to accept failure and
»Headteacher: Andy Mills
»Founded in 1857
»Located in Walsall Wood,
West Midlands
»Type of school: Church of
England primary
»No. of students: 351
»Designated as a National
Teaching School in 2016
St John’s CE Primary
Highlighting best practice
Attachment training and
Christian values
Being a school with an outstanding
reputation led to a sudden intake of
“looked after” children who were
accommodated by either foster
families or the local authority. This was
something of a shock and it had some
initial detrimental effects on behaviour
that we perhaps did not expect. The
staff team and I resolved to ensure
that we helped these children receive
the best education, a challenge
magnificently led by our deputy head.
Behaviour issues included children
running out of class and disrupting
other students, so we took an
innovative approach to attachment
training in order to help them cope
with their studies. Attachment issues
are often the cause of behavioural and
emotional problems in children, and
our training was aimed at identifying
the issues early and intervening in a
way that had a long-lasting impact.
We had plenty of help from Walsall
Council, and the use of the training
in school has helped many of these
students stay in mainstream education.
As a result of our work, we were
nominated for an award from the
Attachment Research Community.
The way the school embraces
the Christian values of patience,
kindness, mutual respect and love
for one another has been another
important factor that has allowed
these students to thrive. We work
closely with our local church and
the vicar has been a governor for a
number of years, which has helped us
underpin the culture of the school in
these values. This was reflected in our
recent SIAMS inspection, when we
retained our “Outstanding Christian
Distinctiveness” grade.
Helping our staff and
Getting the best out of the children
is our primary aim, but this can only
be achieved by regular investment
in our staff. Our staff feel valued
and listened to at all times, whether
they are teachers, support staff
or administrators, and they take
responsibility for their conduct and
work, understanding how their actions
have an impact upon the children. We
also place an emphasis on excellence
in teaching and we ensure this by
providing staff with the necessary
equipment and training they need
to excel. We are pushing our staff
Always striving for
We work
closely with
our local
to improve all the time and we have
invested in new techniques such as
reciprocal reading and BIG Maths to
keep them ahead of the curve.
We became a trial school for reciprocal
reading in 2017 and the results were
instantaneous. The programme,
which is endorsed by the Education
Endowment Fund, is now a regular
feature of our Teaching School CPD
offer. We are now working closely
with the organisation to ensure its
proper implementation. We are also
a national advocate for BIG Maths as
one of the first schools to take it on.
Our most recent Ofsted inspection
commented on the programme and
we are now partnering with schools
from around the UK that want to use
the programme too.
In July 2016, we were designated as
a national teaching school and this
afforded us new streams of funding
from the Department of Education, so
we could partake in school-to-school
support. The local authority would
contact us after identifying a school
that needed help and we would send
in staff to work with them and help
them improve. Community is a value
we place a lot of importance on and
we always looked to get the best out
of them. On many occasions, after
the funding was over, they would
contact us and continue an informal
relationship, so we could keep sharing
After working with one school over
the summer, Ofsted commented
in the school’s first returning visit
how much progress they had made.
Although we don’t get paid for the
informal work, and funding is tight,
we are happy to help a local school
because we genuinely care about the
children in our area and not just at
our school. We work closely with the
University of Wolverhampton too,
helping to train the next generation of
teachers and giving them the best start
before they move on to other schools.
In the future, we will look at more
opportunities to continue as a leader in
our field and enhance our reputation
as a forward-thinking, community-
minded school.
We genuinely
care about the
children in our
The selfish giant

This article was sponsored by St John's CE Primary 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 The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett.

The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett

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. 
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett