St. Mark's C.E. Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by St. Mark's C.E. 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. Mark's C.E. 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

Highlighting best practice
Stephanie Bryant, head teacher
Focused group work to close
gaps in learning
St Mark’s Church of England Primary School is a popular
inner-city school that serves its local community and the
parish of St Mark’s. Its staff team are fully committed to
ensuring that students are given the best possible learning
opportunities by providing high quality creative, fun and
challenging learning experiences.Head teacher Stephanie
Bryant comments on creating the right culture and ethos,
restructure, coaching high expectations and the future.
Despite wonderful children, and dedicated staff and governors, the school was far
below the floor standards. We were in trouble. This was the picture of the school
back in September 2014. A review conducted by a teaching school alliance in
conjunction with the local authority confirmed that the school was good on paper
but inadequate in all areas.
Creating the right culture and ethos
I believe that all children can achieve. Sometimes, as school communities, we can
use the demographics as an excuse why children do not. There were and still are
barriers to high levels of achievement. This is due to a high number of children with
SEND, arriving children being new to English and a mobile cohort.
On the first Inset day together in September 2014, we developed our new vision,
that as a community we would work together to ensure that all children reached
“beyond their potential” through a strong Christian ethos.
»Head teacher:
»Founded in 1883
»Based in Southampton
»Type of school: Church of
England voluntary controlled
primary school
»No. of pupils: 461
»SEND: 28 per cent
»Pupil premium: 27 per cent
»Number of languages spoken:
St Mark’s CE Primary
Focus was moved from enrichment
activities and back to the basics.
Children needed to learn, to read,
write and achieve in maths.
I took the brave decision to
communicate to the parents within
the first half-term of my appointment
that we were a failing school. Ofsted
was due any minute and I did not want
this fact to be a shock to the parents,
even though I knew I was risking
them removing their children from the
school, which sadly some did.
In December, one parent said to the
deputy head, “We don’t have dress-
up days anymore; it’s just learning.
Where is the fun for the kids?” As
soon as I heard this, I knew that our
vision was working. The children had
spent so much time dressing up and
raising money to go on trips rather
than asking the parents to pay for
them and, thus, their education was
suffering. Through engaging lessons
the focus was placed on reading,
writing and maths. No longer would
any of our pupils leave year 6 below
the national average. All children
were expected to make at least good
progress and for the first time, leaders,
teachers, teaching assistants, admin
teams and estate staff had the same
performance management targets that
focused on outcomes, standards of
teaching and leadership.
Before starting in the September, I
met with the senior leadership team.
They all had worked at the school
for several years and were passionate
and dedicated to St Mark’s. However,
it was clear that they had received
no clear direction for some time and
were just doing the best they could
for the children. Additionally, middle
leaders, despite external training,
were given pastoral roles under
their direction rather than focusing
Each leader was given a clear purpose
for the year and, for September 2015,
a complete leadership restructure
was completed so accountability was
high and roles were created to drive
standards. Unlike many inadequate
schools, the senior leaders have
stayed, and new members of the
senior and middle leaders have been
appointed with the same passion. I
was immensely proud that when we
had our Ofsted in July 2015, although
the school was judged as “requires
improvement”, the leadership was
“good”. The team deserved this
recognition and in our Ofsted in
September 2017, leadership remained
a key strength of the school.
Coaching high expectations
I knew that in-class coaching was
paramount in supporting teachers
to teach well. Leaders were trained
to coach teachers and additional
coaches were bought in to ensure
that teachers were upskilled rapidly.
Most of the staff were very capable
of teaching. They had received little
support in the past with no systems,
structures or policies in place to help
them. Over the past few years, staff
have left, but what remains is the
willingness of all staff to be coached
in this way and continue to strive for
outstandingoutcomes. Year 5 learning fractions
through the maths
mastery approach
I took the
brave decision
to the parents
within the first
half-term of
that we were a
failing school
Highlighting best practice
In June 2017, we achieved “good”
in our SIAMS inspection and in
September 2017 “good” in Ofsted.
For three consecutive years, for the
first time in the school’s history, our
children were performing above the
floor standards in year 6.
We have achieved this by engaging in
the Pie Corbett Talk for Writing project.
This has enabled the school to have a
commonality in our writing processes,
not only to improve on grammar and
spelling skills but also to develop a rich
and varied use of language features
and vocabulary, which is often a gap
for our pupils. This, alongside the
teaching of whole-class reading and
relentless phonics instruction, has
improved our readingoutcomes.
We have also achieved this by
embracing maths mastery. One of
our senior leaders is a member of the
Solent Maths Hub and has visited
Shanghai as part of this project. This
complete change in our mathematical
teaching methods and mathematical
thinking is having a phenomenal
impact on our pupils. SEND and
EAL children who were once given
repetitive mathematical skills to
practice without any real conceptual
understanding are now reasoning to
high levels and are keeping up with
the rest of their class. Other schools are
also coming to St Mark’s to observe
our teachers teach maths.
The future
Our focus has been on reading,
writing and maths, but we are now
in a position where we can also
concentrate on the wider curriculum
to ensure that knowledge and skills
for all subjects is embedded and
complementary to the core subjects.
This is enhancing the overall school
experience for the children.
We have begun to adopt a behaviour
curriculum called Positive Behaviour
Strategy. Although originally an
American system (PBIS), we are
working with an expert to devise and
deliver a curriculum that teaches our
children how and why to behave. This
is already having a major impact on
our good behaviour.
Our goal is to be outstanding in all
areas. Training of staff is paramount,
including helping teachers to become
strong middle and senior leaders.
We’re looking at opportunities to
form stronger partnerships with other
local schools so that expertise and
opportunities for staff are developed,
not only for excellence for the pupils
of St Mark’s School but also for the
children in the wider community.
In June 2017,
we achieved
“good” in our
inspection and
in September
2017 “good”
in Ofsted
In-class coaching supporting the improvement of
teaching and learning
Leaders working strategically together to
plan the next steps of improvement

This article was sponsored by St. Mark's C.E. 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 Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister