St Michael's RC Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by St Michael's RC 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 Michael's RC 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

Headteacher Katharine Sexton
The whole school
community enjoying the
summer fair
Katharine Sexton joined St Michael’s Roman Catholic
Primary School in 2015 and has instigated a programme
of change that has resulted in the school receiving its
first “good” assessment from Ofsted and being the highest
performing school in the Medway local authority for their 2018
Key Stage 2 SATs. Situated in an area of deprivation, in which
over 50 per cent of their pupils have English as an additional
language, they have developed a speciality for catering to these
needs, employing Polish-speaking teachers and support staff
and designating selected students as language ambassadors
to support their peers. Katharine discusses how this success
has been achieved and how they are adapting to the national
teacher recruitment shortage.
Based in a challenging area in regard to deprivation, we are a 420-student primary
school with a 52-place nursery. Half of our pupils have English as an additional
language, and nearly 30 per cent are entitled to the pupil premium. The school was
established roughly 100 years ago to serve the local Catholic community. I came to
the school in January 2015, having gained experience as a headteacher at another
school. This move marked a big change for me, and I knew it would be a challenge.
When I arrived, the school was classified as “requires improvement” and had never
received a “good” Ofsted rating. The main issue that I noticed upon my arrival was
the high rate of staff turnover. This constant turnover made consistency difficult,
and I felt that it was having a significant impact on the standard of teaching and
»Headteacher: Katharine Sexton
»Established in 1929
»Based in Chatham
»Type: Primary school with an
attached nursery
»No. of students: 420, with 52
in the nursery
St Michael’s RC
Primary School
Highlighting best practice
learning. More generally, the school
had low self-esteem, low aspirations
and, in some cases, a lack of faith in
the ability of the students. Out of the
nine Catholic schools in the area, we
were the lowest attaining, so my first
objective was to change this mindset.
Changing mindsets, improving
The deputy and I made it clear that we
had high aspirations and clearly laid
these out. Initially, there was a period
of turbulence, as some staff found it
too challenging, while others came
to terms with the changes. This gave
us the opportunity to promote our
good staff and recruit new teachers,
ensuring that each member was
aligned with our ethos. A number of
these new recruits initially came to us
through teaching programmes, and
this helped us to solve our recruitment
issues. After a while, aspirations
became high across the school and
things settled down. We implemented
systems to ensure that everyone knew
what was expected of them and
began a monitoring and reflection
programme. Standards began to rise;
13 months after I arrived, we were
classified as “good” by Ofsted.
We initially focused on maths and
English, as it is essential to be
numerate and literate to access other
parts of the curriculum. When this
had been achieved, we knew we had
to think about the wider curriculum.
Since then, we have been trying to
ensure that our curriculum is strong
across the board. Previously, the school
had been very isolated, so I reached
out to other schools and went to study
their best practices, reflecting on how
we taught and how we could improve
our pedagogy.
Adapting to our student
One of our main strengths is working
with EAL children – something that
is essential for schools like ours.
Often, students arrive with no English
whatsoever, and we work closely
with the local authority to make sure
that they are integrated as quickly
as possible. We specifically focus on
disadvantaged children and have made
them part of our appraisal process.
We set each of these students targets
and help them to reach them. We also
organise support workshops for these
disadvantaged students. Precision
teaching takes place from half eight
Learning the advantages
of healthy food and
One of our
main strengths
is working
with EAL
children –
that is
essential for
schools like
in the morning to assist the students
with structured tasks and work that
has been specifically designed to meet
their educational needs.
Our main student demographic is
Polish and eastern European, so
we have Polish-speaking teachers
and children who act as language
ambassadors to support their peers.
We invite parents into the school for
celebratory occasions to promote
Catholicism runs through the entire
school and is a central part of our
ethos. Alongside our circle values
and school houses, this helps to bind
the school community together.
Many of our children do not have
access to the opportunities afforded
to others, so we regularly organise
exciting trips, including seeing a West
End show. In order to pay for this,
we ask the children to come up with
entrepreneurial activities to raise funds,
such as organising cake sales, creating
products to sell, having a school
sleepover for year 6 and holding dress-
up days.
Tackling the national
recruitment issue
Like many schools across the
country, one of our main challenges
is recruitment. We are at a slight
disadvantage, as we cannot pay the
high salaries and offer the incentives
that schools in neighbouring outer
London fringes can. The government
is working as hard as we are to
alleviate this problem, and one of the
main ways we can impact this is by
studying our teacher workloads. By
making sure that these workloads do
not become overbearing, and clearly
showcasing the growing success of
the school, teachers are more likely to
stay and thus the need to recruit staff
is lessened. We also promote staff
who show particular aptitude and use
pay incentives to ensure that our best
teachers are rewarded. Beyond this,
we are very proud of our continuing
professional development – something
that encourages our staff to stay
We welcome Ofsted’s decision to focus
more on the breadth of the curriculum
than simple exam statistics. As each
school is different, it is important
that schools be given the freedom to
choose their own ways. Similarly, the
new emphasis on middle leadership,
rather than just senior leadership, is a
positive step.
As for the future, we are looking
to maintain the progress we have
made and are continually reviewing
our curriculum to ensure that it is as
balanced as it can be. Beyond this, we
are searching for exciting experiences
outside and inside of the classroom to
make sure that we can offer the most
engaging education possible.
We are
searching for
outside and
inside of the
classroom to
make sure we
can offer
the most
Working hard during
Black History month

This article was sponsored by St Michael's RC 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 Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development