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 The Ferrars Academy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
The Ferrars Academy
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP
1THE FERRARS ACADEMY |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Principal Sarah Green
opportunities are planned
to enhance and broaden
Sarah Green has been with The Ferrars Academy since 1997
and was appointed principal in June 2017. The school
strives for excellence in early years education as a nursery
and infant academy up to year 2. While previously judged
to require improvement by Ofsted, thanks to a combined
effort from all members of staff, it was graded successfully in
May 2017. Sarah and her team strive to provide an excellent
foundation for future learning with their early years provision;
The Parliamentary Review
Difficult circumstances at the start of the 2016/17 academic year seriously affected
staff morale; when I took over, however, we began to really move forward and
make improvements. Raising morale was a priority; we had to ensure all staff were
on board with the school’s shared vision and that their efforts to promote this were
recognised. When our Ofsted inspection finally came in May 2017, we were judged
as “good” – “outstanding” for personal development and behaviour.
Overcoming endemic staffing issues
One of the biggest issues we faced when turning the school around was
recruitment; while it is still ongoing, both for us and other schools up and down
the country, we have tackled it in-house. We have decided not to appoint new
teachers, opting instead to be more creative with internal staffing.
With fewer staff, however, you have to ensure you do not compromise on quality.
To this end, we redeveloped our performance management and appraisal system
THE FERRARS ACADEMY
»Principal: Sarah Green
»Chair of Governors: Carole
»Founded in 1960
»Based in Luton, Bedfordshire
»Type of school: Nursery and
»No. of pupils: 302
»No. of staff: 54
»EAL: 55 per cent
»Pupil premium: 17 per cent
»SEND: 23 per cent
The Ferrars Academy
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| THE FERRARS ACADEMY
in school and looked at developing
our own staff; we approached TAs,
for instance, asking if they wanted to
develop a teaching career. Someone
who has already worked with us for
a number of years already has the
knowledge and passion for the school
and is on board with our beliefs
Developing leadership teams
Prior to June 2017, I was the vice
principal. When the previous principal
retired in 2016, I was given the
position on an interim basis without
a deputy; that was challenging. Once
officially appointed, however, I set
about working on the leadership team
and brought on a great deputy who
shared my beliefs.
We continued to develop leadership
teams together, first by appointing
strong English and maths leads. It
was clear that these middle leaders
would be the steering points that
would change the direction of the
school. With a new team in place, we
started to develop a distributed model
of responsibility and accountability,
before looking at the other strategic
changes we wanted to make.
After that, we set our sights on
improving our governing body. We
had a massive recruitment drive to add
some professional expertise into the
team – we knew it would really help to
direct the school going forward.
To this end, we also brought in
consultants to train existing governors,
covering the core responsibilities
they had while also making them
aware of their role for the school. We
wanted them to develop and become
able to appropriately support and
challenge us; that process proved to be
invaluable and has continued.
Raising expectations and
Next, we set about raising expectations
across the school and improving our
teaching and learning. Having been
a “requires improvement” school,
morale was naturally low; we knew we
had to improve staff resilience so they
could in turn develop their skills and
make the changes necessary for the
school to advance.
Instilling an open-door culture went
a long way in achieving this. All
staff were happy to be observed
by one another on a formal and
informal basis; this paved the way to
a comprehensive system of sharing
good practice. Staff were soon able to
see that they could build on and learn
from each other’s strengths.
These newfound expectations started
to translate across the entire school.
We made a huge drive to improve
the presentation of pupils’ work and
ensured that all staff and parents were
part of this process. The engagement
of parents through workshops and
practical sessions was fundamental
in raising expectations and outcomes
for all pupils; this was recognised by
our being awarded the Leading Parent
The school has a wealth
of enthusiastic teachers
who help foster a love
to grow our
own, we still
3THE FERRARS ACADEMY |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Finally, we deployed a comprehensive
moderation system to ensure consistency
and appropriate challenge across all year
groups. We also employed the services
of external consultants and trainers to
achieve this, and the end product was a
personalised, well-developed curriculum
which offered breadth to allpupils.
The remaining challenges:
recruitment, budgets and
Recruitment remains an issue in spite
of the tremendous things we’ve
achieved. Even though we’re happy
to grow our own, we still recognise
the value of recruiting teaching staff
from outside of the academy so it can
continue to evolve. The challenge,
however, lies in finding high-quality
teachers whose vision and personal
ethos align with the school’s.
Budgets and falling admission numbers
are another challenge. Schools continue
to open in Luton, and if we have a
low year group intake, we do feel the
detrimental effects on a financial level.
When we also consider an increasing
number of children with SEND,
whose diverse needs require specialist
provision which we do not have, the
financial strains do start to build up.
A constant focus on progress
We passionately believe we will
continue to develop as we forge a new
path forward and build on the excellent
foundations we’ve already laid. We
pride ourselves on being proactive, not
reactive, and with every passing day I
see good things gettingbetter.
We also want to diversify and develop
certain curricular areas further; we are,
for example, embarking on the journey
of becoming an Artsmark-recognised
school and have established a working
party to this end.
We are also dedicated to focusing on
both the wellbeing of children and
their emotional resilience as well as
that of our staff. It continues to drive
our work as we move forward; all
new initiatives we have planned are
grounded in a belief that children learn
and attain best when engagement
is high and links between home and
school are effective.
We have set down foundations
for a school that will only carry on
developing and innovating, and we
want to see our children continue to
succeed, thrive and flourish throughout
those integral first few academic years.
and with every
passing day I see
in school life is
fundamental in raising
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.