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 RC Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
St Joseph's RC Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP
1ST JOSEPH’S RC PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Aileen Byrne
Established in 1912 by Mother Camillus
Dempsey and the Sisters of Mercy
St Joseph’s Primary School was founded by the Sisters of
Mercy in 1912 and has been a central part of the inner
London Bermondsey community for over a century. The
school has been designated “Outstanding” by Ofsted and has
been invited to contribute to a number of projects designed to
raise standards including the “Bold Beginnings” report. A strong
Catholic ethos and commitment to high quality education for its
pupils are at the core of all that the school does. Headteacher
Aileen Byrne explains how they have achieved this success and
what they have planned for the future.
St Joseph’s is a Catholic primary school situated in Bermondsey, in the heart of
London. We were founded in 1912 by Mother Camillus Dempsey and The Sisters
of Mercy and have been an integral part of the Bermondsey community for over a
century. The Catholic ethos and Gospel values are central to our daily life, routines
and practices. As an inner-city school, our student population is culturally mixed, with
significant levels of deprivation. We are a one and a half form entry, with 30 pupils in
nursery and 45 pupils in each year from reception to year 6, totalling 345 pupils in all.
We have been designated “outstanding” by Ofsted and were judged as grade 1 in
all categories of the Section 48 religious education inspection. Over time, attainment
and progress data for pupils in all groups has continued to be significantly above
national averages. Recently, we were identified as one of the highest performing
schools in the country and were requested to participate in the Bold Beginnings
report – a review of best practices in early years education. Wearea designated
national support and teaching school, working within the Catholic Teaching Alliance
to provide support and share best practices with a range of other schools.
ST JOSEPH’S RC
»Headteacher: Aileen Byrne
»Established in 1912
»Based in Bermondsey
»Type: Primary school
»No. of students: 345
St Joseph’s RC
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| ST JOSEPH’S RC PRIMARY SCHOOL
Mission statement and ethos
Our mission statement is at the
core of all our work. All pupils at
St Joseph’s understand and live the
mission statement, which is regularly
reviewed by staff and pupils alike.
This creates a shared vision and
purposeful environment to allow for
collaborative and effective learning.
Our ethos is based on the highest of
expectations in every facet of school
life. Planning and provision are tailored
to meet the needs of all pupils as
individuals. Great emphasis is placed
upon pupil responses and interactions.
Pupil behaviour is exemplary, with a
focus on developing positive learning
behaviours, as well as encouraging
discussion and reflection about
negative behaviour to inspire pupils to
take responsibility for their actions and
promote change. As a result, pupils
have an excellent attitude towards
their learning; they actively engage
in the learning process and produce
work of a high standard, which in
turn contributes to exceptionally high
As well as the drive for academic
progress, within the context of a
Catholic school, there is an equally
important focus on the spiritual
development of all pupils. Collective
worship guides the pupils in their
understanding of their faith, how to
put this into action in their daily lives
and how to consider the needs of
others. The most recent Section 48
inspection report stated: “The quality
of collective worship is outstanding
and is at the heart of school life. It is
always well planned and meets the
need of all the pupils. Pupils at St
Joseph’s participate in the many forms
of collective worship offered by the
school. They are always sincere and
prayerful, and their mature behaviour
makes every act of collective worship
something special and memorable.”
Teaching and learning
The curriculum design is very carefully
thought through to ensure that
learning is meaningful and relevant
for all pupils. Curriculum links and
coverage of topical issues enrich
pupils by extending learning within
and beyond the classroom. Our
teachers have the ability and flexibility
to adapt the provision and content
continually to engage pupils, develop
their understanding and maximise
their progress. Recently, a four-year
project commemorating World War 1
culminated in the year 5 pupils visiting
the largest commonwealth cemetery,
participating in a Last Post Ceremony
at the Menin Gate and laying a wreath
A strong school ethos built
upon a strong mission
needs of all
3ST JOSEPH’S RC PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
at Dud Corner in memory of a past
pupil who lost his life at the end of the
At a time when many schools are
trying to manage a growing teacher
workload, we try to achieve this by
remaining focused on the fundamental
principles of planning, teaching
and marking. The view is that all
lessons should be well planned and
teaching should be of a high quality
to meet the needs of all pupils while
containing an appropriate level of
challenge. Following lessons, the
teachers review children’s work to
inform future planning and teaching,
and they provide pupils with individual
feedback to move them forward
in their learning. Within the ever-
changing landscape of education, the
management team continually ask: “Is
it statutory? Is it effective in its impact?
Is it manageable?” to ensure that the
school concentrates on the essentials.
Sometimes it is necessary to de-clutter
some of the guidance, advice and
outside influences in order to meet the
real needs of staff, pupils and families.
A collaborative approach
The induction of staff, pupils and
parents is of critical importance to
enable us to continue to meet the high
expectations that have been established.
A lot of time is invested in helping new
staff to understand fully the practices
and processes at the school. Teaching
staff, for example, take part in a
personalised induction programme,
supported by experienced senior staff
members. All new and prospective
parents visit the school to learn more
about the expectations they can have of
the school, as well as the expectations
the school will have of them. A range
of meetings, including welcome, review
and transition meetings, guide the
parents in supporting their children
on their learning journey. A carefully
thought through settling-in programme
allows the pupils in the foundation
stage to develop their confidence
within the school environment and
interact with their peers in a supported
manner for a successful start on the
first steps of their learning journeys.
Is it statutory?
Is it effective
in its impact?
ensures learning is
meaningful and relevant
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.