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 Monica's Catholic Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
St Monica's Catholic Primary School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1ST MONICA’S CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Amanda Ruthven
Nurturing the next
generation of talent
Based in Hoxton, London, St Monica’s Catholic Primary
School believe that their pupils need to experience as wide
a cross-section of the world as possible. This is because
not everything worth learning can be taught in a classroom.
There is also a strong ethical dimension to St Monica’s, whereby
children are encouraged to display good civic qualities early on.
Headteacher Amanda Ruthven says more about the school’s
ethos and general approach.
Although we are based in London, our Hoxton community has not been hit
by gentrification and still retains a sense of close community feeling. We are a
bustling, family-oriented school with children of all backgrounds. We have on roll
around 240 children, ranging from two-year-olds to Key Stage 2 pupils.
A community feel, founded on Christian values
One of our closest relationships is with the parish church – a place regarded by
many as a hub of the community. In addition to our aim of fostering community
solidarity, we make sure the school has a homely and holistic feel – or, as is
sometimes said, “feels like a home away from home”.
For me, it is a blessing to be a teacher at this school. To be given the opportunity
to teach the next generation of proud, ethical and proactive citizens is a huge
privilege. In trying to achieve this goal, we, as a Catholic school, put our Christian
ethos at the heart of everything we do. This means championing notions such as
ST MONICA’S CATHOLIC
»Headteacher: Amanda Ruthven
»Founded in 1864
»Location: Hoxton, London
»Type of school: Catholic
»No. of students: 231
»Jean Olwen Maynard
published a book in 2018
called ‘Saint Monica’s Church,
Hoxton Square – A History’
St Monica’s Catholic
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| ST MONICA’S CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL
human dignity, social responsibility and
striving to be the best you can be.
However, this Christian ethos does not
come at the expense of other forms
of religious education. It’s equally
important, for instance, that we teach
our children about the wide variety
of faiths in the world – something
achieved through our rich religious
education curriculum. It’s vital that we
get this ethical dimension correct, as
childhood is a profoundly formative
period of one’s life.
It remains true, though, that academic
skills are an essential part of school life.
I believe that our goal as a school is to
prepare our pupils as much as possible
for secondary school, especially since
there are many children who, for a
number of reasons, experience a dip in
performance as they transition to this
next stage of their life. At St Monica’s
Catholic Primary School, we place
particular emphasis on maths and
reading skills – these, after all, are the
foundation of any good education.
At all times, I’m fully aware that the
job of a school is to nurture the next
generation of talent – that is, the next
generation of nurses, firefighters,
doctors, pharmacists, artists, investors,
academics, civil servants, leaders or
any other occupation that matches the
needs and aptitudes of our children.
For those who are not academically
inclined, we nevertheless want them
to aspire to roles that will bring them
personal satisfaction and a good
To do this, it’s important that they
believe in themselves and their
abilities. Indeed, given the diversity
in background of our intake, this is
doubly necessary, as too many feel
held back by their origins, class or
A fun and enjoyable
At all times,
I’m fully aware
that the job of
a school is to
3ST MONICA’S CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
ethnicity. Everyone must feel proud of,
and confident in, themselves. As far as
it lies in my power to do so, I’ll ensure
no child is left behind.
One of the reasons I feel so
passionately about this is because I
myself had a less-than-ideal experience
of primary education. I therefore know
how important it is for me to get
things right at this school. Our efforts
in this area are yielding results. Our
teaching and learning are strong, and
if one looks at our results over time,
one can see that the quality of the
education we provide continues to
One of the ways in which we ensure
children aren’t left behind is through
offering them a broad range of
experiences. After all, much of what
we learn in life is not from books or
classrooms; a great deal is learnt simply
from experiencing and being in the
world. For this reason, I have arranged
trips to the sea and other out-of-
London excursions, which many of our
children simply haven’t experienced
before. Indeed, as part of our modern
language provision in year 5, we took
a group of our pupils to Spain. Aside
from enriching pupils’ understanding
of the world, such experiences make
school enjoyable and fun, meaning our
pupils can look back on their school
years with pride and happiness.
Moving onwards and
upwards despite difficulties
Like many schools, we face challenges.
In our case, the most pressing issue
is budgets. Changes to funding have
meant restructuring and disruption,
which, as a school, is not what we
want to direct our energies towards. If
the situation were to get much worse,
it could mean cutting staff – again,
something we do not want to see
happening under any circumstances.
Ultimately, education should be at
the forefront of politics – it is the key
not just to keeping society alive and
moving but also to improving and
progressing humanity. We cannot
afford to let our children down in this
way. It therefore almost goes without
saying that I want to see funding in all
areas of education ring-fenced.
These challenges are not grave
enough for me to lose faith in the
long-term health and future of our
school and children. I continue to
strive for the school to become a
beacon for excellence for all – a source
of inspiration and best practice for
schools up and down the country.
Our outcomes testify to our holistic
approach and hard work, and so long
as we keep going with this journey,
I predict a continued onward and
upward path for St Monica’s Catholic
As part of our
year 5, we
took a group
of our pupils
Engaging our children is
a core aim
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.