St Joseph's Catholic Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by St Joseph's Catholic 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 Joseph's Catholic 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

Outdoor colour mixing in EYFS
We Are Warrington
performance with Arts
Cheshire-based St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School
has two main focuses: one is their ethos, which calls
upon everyone to engage in the “spirit of service”,
and the other is their firm belief in the importance of making
sure all staff have a clear and evidence-based understanding
of what good pedagogy looks like in practice. The school’s
leadership believed this was especially important after receiving
a disappointing Ofsted judgment in 2013. However, they also
believed this was an opportunity to examine more closely where
the school had been lacking and how it could improve. Since
then, they have gone from strength to strength – a journey
which headteacher Alan Saunders tells
The Parliamentary
more about.
We’re a Roman Catholic school that’s voluntary aided. At the time of writing this
article, we are a one-and-a-half-form-entry school with around 290 children on roll.
The first thing to mention about our school is that in 2013, Ofsted found that it
required improvement – particularly in terms of writing and governance. Since that
time, however, we have continuously and dramatically improved.
A journey begins
The 2013 judgment came as a great shock at first – it made us look closely at
ourselves and our practices. We therefore had to evaluate closely what good
learning looked like and how we could implement this. It also required a more
»Headteacher: Alan Saunders
»Founded in 1963
»Located in Penketh,
Warrington, Cheshire
»Type of school: Catholic
voluntary aided maintained
mixed primary
»No. of pupils: 288
»Our recent section 48 RE
Inspection rated St Joseph’s as
outstanding overall and in all
nine areas
St Joseph’s Catholic
Primary School
Highlighting best practice
thorough understanding of children’s
needs. As far as we’re concerned,
each child remains an individual with
individual needs, even if you have 30 in
a class – and it’s with this always borne
in mind that teachers need to perform
Thus, one of our first steps was to
become much more involved at the
individual level in terms of determining
what steps we need to take for the child
to make progress. Ultimately, this focus
on putting each and every child at the
centre of everything we do – regardless
of their ability – is what put us on
the right path. And it’s on this path
we’ve remained ever since. We never
lose sight of the fact that children’s
outcomes – not box-ticking or number
scoring – is what matters the most.
Reviewing ourselves and the
path to take
Another component in our
improvement was ensuring everyone
– both teaching and non-teaching
staff alike – shared the same clear
and consistent vision. Furthermore,
we not only had to share this vision
but also had to believe passionately
in it and act accordingly. Integral to
this shared belief was the view that
behaviour has to be nothing short
of excellent if we want to create an
environment fit for learning. With this
renewed focus embedded at all levels
– from the senior leadership team to
teaching assistants – we got to work
on producing a better framework.
What’s also important to note is that,
as a Catholic school, we believe that a
“spirit of service” must prevail. This is
why we believe strongly in the motto:
“Christ at the centre, with children at
the heart.” Even for those staff who
are not Catholic (of whom we have
a considerable number), this basic
ethos still resonates. Alongside this
spirit of service, we also believe it is
vital to always promote values such
as inclusion and aspiration so that
all children aim to be the best they
can be. The Liverpool archdiocese
is exceptionally helpful in terms of
helping us attain these objectives.
Aliens themed week:
a rocket has crashed
on the school field
and forensic scientists
are carrying out
investigations. We
engage with our wider
community to enhance
the learning of the
The Liverpool
archdiocese is
helpful in
terms of
helping us
attain these
Developing teachers is a crucial aspect
of improving for all schools, which
is why we took special care to get
things right in this department. Having
researched in considerable detail
what good pedagogy looked like in
practice, we ensured every member of
the teaching staff was up to speed. In
addition to this, we put in place NPQ
programmes for middle or aspiring
senior leaders so they can meet their
full potential. The hope is that in the
course of doing this, we will also
develop leaders.
This research, however, does not entail
an unthinking adherence to trends
and new findings. Rather, we are
always seeking to do what works and
drop that which doesn’t. The ultimate
measure of whether or not something
is worth doing is whether it is good for
the children.
A broad, balanced and
experiential curriculum
One of the things we do well is
themed weeks – for example, our
Aliens Week, during which we made
rockets and “launched” them into
space. I was even “abducted” by
aliens at one point. Similarly, we had
a week which explored the theme of
the First World War, celebrating 100
years since its end, during which we
invited elderly people to offer the
children their own insights into the
country’s past. Although all of these
events are fun in their own right
and we dress accordingly, the goal is
nevertheless to use these entertaining
experiences as a way of plugging
genuine learning into the children,
thus allowing them to remember
it more easily and vividly. We enter
into these weeks through science,
mathematics, art, English, history,
music, etc.
As we move forward, we will continue
to strive – to the best of our ability – to
be a truly excellent school and a hub
in the community. We are one of 15
schools in this part of Warrington, so
we don’t feel too ambitious in hoping
to become the best for children in
the area. It’s an aim that I personally
believe we will accomplish given how
hard our staff work for the children,
whom they love. For us at St Joseph’s
Catholic Primary School, it’s onwards
and upwards.
The ultimate
measure of
whether or
not something
is worth doing
is whether it is
good for the
Lower Key Stage
2 collaboration in

This article was sponsored by St Joseph's Catholic 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