The Priory CE School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Priory CE 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 The Priory CE 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
Rachel Gibb, head teacher
The school in its setting of
outstanding natural beauty
In September 2016, Rachel Gibb took over leadership of a
school from a head teacher with 22 years of “outstanding”
verdicts from SIAMS under his belt. The school retained its
Ofsted judgement of “good” in February 2018, but Rachel was
concerned that, while the school had a history of good GCSE
outcomes for students overall, results and rates of progress
for students from disadvantaged backgrounds were not good
enough. It was also clear that the changes to GCSE syllabuses
required the ability to teach greater content and in more
depth. This has been a significant challenge and presents even
greater challenges to students with low prior attainment. It was
abundantly clear that a shift in classroom teaching was required,
as was a review of the additional layers of support that teachers
historically added to the timetable for year 11 students. In response
to this, the leadership team, itself newly formed, decided to
review the school’s approach to learning from top to bottom –
a process which Rachel Gibb explains.
New methodologies
On taking up the headship at The Priory School, it was clear that the school had
a very traditional approach to lesson observations, which were formal, graded
according to Ofsted criteria and linked to the staff appraisal system. The consensus
among staff was that this process did nothing to change or improve teaching in any
»Head teacher: Rachel Gibb
»Founded in 1994, but existed
previously as Sondes Place
»Based in Dorking, Surrey
»Type of school: Church of
England voluntary-aided mixed
comprehensive school
»No. of students: 800
»No. of teaching staff: 55
The Priory CE School
way. The leadership team proposed a
different model, which put a stop to
formal observations and the judgment
of individual lessons. Instead, each
member of the SLT was assigned a set
of teachers with whom they would
work regularly over the academic year.
All members of the leadership team
were included, not only to conduct
visits to the lessons of their colleagues,
but to visit each other’s lessons too. In
an education setting, a short visit to a
lesson or series of lessons is referred
to as a “learning walk”, which was
the terminology we decided to adopt
to differentiate it completely from the
formal lesson observations that had
happened previously.
As the school runs on a two-week
timetable, the new system meant
that every member of staff would
be included in a learning walk once
each fortnight from their allotted SLT
member. For every colleague, a short
initial meeting discussed what the
class teacher wanted the focus of the
visit to be, and to expand on that into
the themes they wanted to explore
over the course of the year and with
which students. The direction was
steered very clearly based on what
each teacher had identified as of
particular and personal interest. This
was to encourage new and creative
practice to support the teaching of all
students, but particularly those who
are disadvantaged.
The learning walk took the form of a
15-minute drop-in into a lesson which
would sometimes be pre-arranged
between the SLT member and the
teacher, or on other occasions would be
into an appropriate lesson completely
unannounced. This approach was
agreed on so that staff did not spend
a disproportionate amount of time
planning a lesson for “observation”,
and so that SLT line managers could
see typical practice in each classroom.
It also meant that SLT could visit two or
more different lessons within the space
of an hour with different colleagues
to make the learning walks as time-
efficient aspossible.
Adding the final touches
prior to baking
Our aim is to
create a
flagship for
learning and
which will
support better
»The school’s swimming pool was opened in 1973 by SirBarnes
Neville Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bomb
»Every year, the school runs a sponsored walk from the school site
up to the Leith Hill Tower. The tradition is that everyone takes
Marmite sandwiches to throw as treats to the bears that live in the
Surrey Hills to make sure they do not eat any unsuspecting year
Writing up results following
a lot of hard work
Highlighting best practice
It was acknowledged from the
start that the programme would
be resource-heavy in terms of time,
especially for members of the SLT,
so it was very important to counter
this with a light touch regarding
paperwork. To achieve this every
colleague was provided with a learning
journal; those conducting a learning
walk could use their journal to make
simple notes about the lessons they
saw and teachers could make simple
notes during the 15-minute discussion
they had following the classroom visit.
No other paperwork was required.
External collaboration
We also acknowledged with our
colleagues that improvements to
teaching could not be expected
without any external input. In July of
2017 the school joined the Schools,
Students and Teachers network
(SSAT) and invested in its Teacher
Effectiveness Enhancement Programme
(TEEP). The school had not invested in
any whole-school shared training on
learning and teaching for some years,
relying instead on off-site courses
It seemed to be the right time to
embark on shared and common
training by working together as a
school community. So, over two days
in late September 2017, all teaching
staff worked together through a range
of activities, discussions, methods,
examples and good practice, led by
colleagues from other SSAT schools
who have been trained to be “lead
practitioners” in learning and teaching.
The days were full, exciting and really
engaging, and staff left feeling that
they had full permission to inject
further creativity and experimentation
into their lessons at every key stage
and in every subject. A follow-up day
in November allowed further discussion
and sharing so that colleagues could
showcase what they had done that
worked well, be honest about the
disappointments (as all good teachers
know, you learn more from your
mistakes than you do from getting
it right first time) and openly discuss
plans for future learning.
Schools are fast-paced organisations,
and so even during the course of
this first year of radically adapting
our approach to improving learning
and teaching, the SLT has constantly
reviewed the impact of this work so that
it can be refined and made better for
the next academic year. As a result of
what we have learnt, six staff from a mix
of disciplines and stages in their career
have volunteered to lead TEEP hubs and
have had additional training to support
this. Our support for disadvantaged
students has improved, but we know
we have more work todo.
One of our aims as a school, which is
articulated in our school’s vision for the
next five years, is to create a flagship
for learning and teaching which will
benefit our students and support
better outcomes for all, but especially
for our disadvantaged and most
vulnerable students who need the very
best start in life. Our journey towards
achieving this is well underway, and
we can see very clearly the next steps
that we need to take in order to turn
our vision into reality.
Staff left the
training feeling
that they had
full permission
to inject further
creativity and
into their
lessons at every
key stage and
in every subject
Our Greenpower kit car
team who have competed
at Goodwood, Dunsfold
and Rockingham racing

This article was sponsored by The Priory CE 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