Standish Community High School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Standish Community High 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 Standish Community High 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, MP
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP

Executive Headteacher
Andrew Pollard
Standish Community High
Standish Community High School is a secondary school
located in Wigan, Greater Manchester. Serving students
from the age of 11 to 16, it aims to deliver the highest
levels of academic achievement, personal growth and lifelong
fulfilment. Its motto, “be outstanding”, represents the belief that
all students deserve the very best education and opportunities
that enable them to flourish and grow. Executive Headteacher
Andrew Pollard explains how students develop the skills and
expertise to become happy and well-rounded individuals.
Three years ago, many leaders in education read the writing on the wall. The
reforms to GCSEs, the Key Stage 3 wasted years and life without comprehensive
levels pointed to a necessary refocus on the curriculum. In a system that ruthlessly
pursues a high-stakes accountability agenda and against a background of punishing
austerity measures, many leaders attempted to weather the storm by making
superficial changes.
Courage to start again
It takes courage to cast an unflinching look at the curriculum with no agenda
other than the needs of the students in your school. It takes courage to ignore
our Ofsted and Department for Education masters and the crippling squeeze that
Progress 8 imposes on our beliefs about what constitutes the best in education.
Many of us, facing the fear of losing both jobs and careers because of a poor set
of results, know that it’s not easy to be radical. Yet that is exactly what is necessary
with curriculum reform. It requires pioneers who are prepared to pull down and
»Executive Headteacher:
Andrew Pollard
»Founded in 1978
»Based in Wigan
»Type of school:
Comprehensive secondary
»No. of students: 1277
»No. of staff: 147
Standish Community
High School
Highlighting best practice
build new. My team and I chose not to
keep our heads down or make minor
modifications and instead plucked up
the courage to overhaul our curriculum
and start afresh.
We knew it would involve planning
new schemes of work that would be
taught in different ways with new
assessment structures as well. We
set about constructing new learning
programmes, providing challenge at
Key Stage 3 as well as Key Stage 4.
We developed interleaved units of
study that enabled opportunities for
recall and memory. We recognised
the need to encourage, in all subjects,
a successful interplay between
knowledge and skills development.
Equally, the new schemes had to be
taught by talented teachers adept
at explaining, as experts to novices,
the depth and passion of the subject
knowledge they possessed.
Furthermore, they needed to model
the application of understanding and
develop skilled practice in students to
achieve successful long-term memory
learning. This had to be supported
by a revitalised assessment system
placing feedback front and centre. We
wanted, for our classes, feedback that
could successfully achieve a reciprocal
process of informing next steps for the
student while enabling teachers to be
responsive at the point of learning.
This adaptability meant that teachers
could no longer plan lessons weeks
in advance but from one lesson to
another in the frame of a sequence
I’m glad to say that three years later
our Progress 8 score remains positive.
As the changes are having greater
effect over time, however, we’re
seeing better learners coming through.
The natural sense of enquiry, the
resilience and the character and the
ability to self-regulate all appear to
Courage to follow the moral
Fundamental to the changes we
wanted to make was the importance
of empowering our subject leaders
to become curriculum designers.
We gave them complete authority
over their own schemes of work, the
key concepts they wanted to teach,
the way they wanted to plan for
progression and the way it was going
to be taught. We actively discouraged
subject leaders from simply equating
the schemes of work to an exam
syllabus. We also encouraged these
leaders to work closely with members
of their team. Latterly, this work
has been translated into the intent,
implementation and impact language
of the new Ofsted framework.
Senior leaders had the responsibility of
journeying with subject leaders using
regular curriculum dialogue meetings.
To be successful, any dialogue needed
to have common understanding
and common values. We spent time
ensuring that a common language for
learning and curriculum development
was spoken by all teachers. It is vital,
for consistency of approach and depth,
that all reference to terms such as
formative assessment, reliable data and
high expectations are communicated
in dialogue meetings both fluently
and articulately. For distributed
leadership to truly work, trust has to
A common language for
learning and curriculum
It takes
courage to
cast an
look at the
stave off any temptations to stray into
Courage to hold the line
We place an emphasis on a rigorous
appraisal system, for teaching to be
delivered to the highest levels. While
we make clear our expectations that
colleagues will meet – and excel in –
the teacher standards, we also ensure
that they are up to date with the type
of evidence needed. Over the 30 years
I’ve been involved in teaching, the kind
of evidence required has changed.
I remember having to apportion
time spent on visual, auditory and
kinaesthetic learners, not to mention
starters and plenaries. I believe, under
the proposed new framework, we
have arrived at a much more powerful
definition of teaching.
Judging standards is one half.
Developing talented teachers is the
other. Our learning hubs, spirals of
enquiry and coaching programmes
help the school tie together the
appraisal objectives with a clear
programme of training. At the heart
of our endeavour is excellent teaching
and learning. Unfortunately, for many
schools, through the temptation to
plan endless sessions of intervention,
leaders are discovering that
intervention is no substitute for a well-
taught lesson. Although intervention
follows the law of diminishing returns,
it is too easy to fall into the trap of
placing the school’s energies into
Courage to trust
The best school systems, I believe,
are based on trust. Michael Young,
Knowledge and the Future School
claims trust to be the “one factor
that stands out with most successful
systems of public education”.
When leaders of education become
paralysed through a plethora of
educational initiatives and their
courage is stifled by the fear of a bad
set of results, trust needs to break
the stranglehold. Fortunately, the
change I lead at our multi-academy
trust has been less daunting because
I’m privileged to work with teams of
excellent senior leaders and trustees
who back me to the hilt. I often
remember the quote my father gave to
me about leadership, from Hamlet: “To
thine own self be true.” Trust has to
find its place in the thinking, planning
and policy of government ministers
and system leaders. With trust will
come the courage to transform.
The best
systems, I
believe, are
based on trust
With trust will come the
courage to transform

This article was sponsored by Standish Community High 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