The Willow Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Willow 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 The Willow 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

Senior leadership team, from left
to right: Natasha Beckles, Duwan
Farquharson, Dawn Ferdinand,
Edyta Ballantyne, Sarah Harris
Pupils work and play together and enjoy
very positive relationships”
– Ofsted May 17
The Willow Primary School is situated in the heart of
Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham – known to be one
of the most notorious estates in the country. We are part
of Broadwaters Inclusive Learning Community where we share a
state-of-the-art site with The Brook Special School and with the
Broadwaters Children’s Centre. Underpinning everything we do
is our wholehearted belief in our inclusive ethos. We believe that
if a child cannot “make it” with us, then they will not be able to
“make it” in any primary school anywhere in the country.
I became head teacher of Broadwater Farm Primary School – now The Willow – in
January 2008. At that time the school was rated “satisfactory” by Ofsted, having
previously had a judgement of “serious weaknesses”. From that very first day, my
vision was to create a school that would give every single child a remarkable, unique,
creative, diverse, aspirational education that would equip them for whatever the future
could throw at them. Despite the many obstacles along the way, I have held true to
that vision. Indeed, it has taken less than a decade for The Willow to leave behind
Ofsted’s judgement of “serious weaknesses” to gain an “outstanding” judgement
in May 2017.
The Ofsted report glows with praise for the school, but my favourite quote
unequivocally captures the very essence of our school: “Staff share the head
teacher’s philosophy of ‘we never give up on any child’.” Our community is beset
with challenges on a daily basis; however, amid all of these difficulties our school
provides our children with stability, consistency and warmth – in other words,
a safe haven. We value every single one of our children and, no matter what
emotional baggage they bring to school, we find a way to support them.
»Head teacher: DawnFerdinand
»Based in Tottenham, Haringey
»Centred in the Broadwaters
Inclusive Learning Community
»No. of pupils: over 600 (school
and children’s centre)
»Shared site with The
Brook Special School and
Broadwaters Children’s Centre
The Willow Primary
Highlighting best practice
The Willow “offer”
Our success lies in the support that we
give to any child who walks through
our door. Like most other schools,
our aim is for every child to achieve
the best possible outcomes. We are
determined to ensure that all our
children leave with the skills they will
need to succeed in later life. That is
why excellent quality first teaching
and learning is never compromised.
So, for example, in all year groups last
year and for most of this year, we have
allocated three teachers to two classes.
This made a significant contribution to
improving our attainment and progress,
especially for some of the more
vulnerable children who benefited from
working in smaller classes.
We fully recognise, however, that our
school comprises over 500 individual
children who have a variety of needs
that very definitely challenge the
“norm”. We therefore go the extra
mile to ensure our provision for all
children is inclusive. So, for example,
for ten children with high-level needs
(i.e. statements/EHCP), we opened an
“alternative provision” class (taught
by one teacher and supported by
three special needs assistants) in
order to ensure they received the
specialist teaching they needed.
Ofsted’s comment on this provision
in May 2017 was: “Pupilswho have
special educational needs and/or
disabilities they [sic] make very strong
progress from their starting points in
We also have engaged a school
counsellor, a family support worker,
a parental engagement officer and a
speech and language therapist in order
to offer a broader range of support to
our children and families.
We believe that nurturing the whole
child and developing their natural
abilities is vital for each child’s future
success. We therefore employ specialist
teachers in music, art, dance, gymnastics,
sports, French and computing; these
teachers’ enthusiasm, passion and
expertise for their subject fosters equal
passion in our pupils and provides them
with expert scaffolding to develop
their skills. This is then supplemented
by our extensive, affordable, after-
school provision where we host over
20 clubs each week, offering activities
such as ballet, individual music lessons,
gymnastics, street dance, photography
and swimming. We want our children
to get the experience they would
automatically be offered if they were
born into a more affluent family.
Pupils’ behaviour is impeccable”
– Ofsted May 2017
This is not an exaggeration. The learning
behaviour of our children is genuinely
amazing. This has been brought about
and maintained by several means:
A) First class quality teaching and
learning – our teachers are trained to
deliver exciting, high impact lessons
which excite children and draw them
into their learning. Children want
to learn and are therefore seldom
engaged in offtask behaviour.
B) Consistent behaviour management
systems grounded in restorative
approaches. We understand that
children make mistakes with
behaviour just as they do with all their
learning – they are not “punished”
“ Teaching assistants
are well trained and
knowledgeable and
provide timely support
to pupils”
– Ofsted May 17
We want our
children to get
the experience
they would
be offered if
they were
born into a
more affluent
but are given time to talk through
and reflect on their behaviour,
supported by peer mentors and our
excellent learning mentor team.
C) INCREDIBLE learning powers – we
teach our children what it means
to be a good learner through the
acronym INCREDIBLE – inquisitive,
nurturing, collaborative, resilient,
enthusiastic, determined,
independent, brave, limitless,
expressive. In most lessons, one of
the steps to success is an INCREDIBLE
learning power. All children know
this and are able to articulate how
these learning powers will help
them to be successful. As one
child said recently “If you haven’t
made a mistake, you haven’t learnt
D) Supportive parents who believe in
what we are trying to achieve and
are always on hand to support the
school systems. Our attendance
figures have improved over the last
four years and are now consistently
at or above national average; this
is because parents believe in our
mantra “
Come to School Every
– knowing that we can only
teach children if they are present.
Leadership and management
The 2017 Ofsted report attributed the
Willow’s improvement to the quality
of leadership and management: “The
school has improved from ‘good’ to
‘outstanding’ because of the high
expectations, tenacity and ambition of
senior leaders and governors.” We are
a data-driven school and concentrate
our efforts on systematically collecting
and analysing data. These are then
used to drive improvements across
the school in many areas: teaching,
progress, behaviour, attendance,
to name but a few. No school can
be outstanding unless leadership,
at all levels, contributes to school
effectiveness. We believe in distributive
leadership and our middle leaders
are as confident and competent
talking about the school’s strengths,
weaknesses and drive for improvement
as are senior leaders and governors.
Quality teaching and learning is
developed and maintained through
excellent professional development,
which is systematically linked into
performance management and school
improvement priorities. We believe in
“growing our own” staff and have an
excellent relationship with TeachFirst
and the Institute of Education (IOE). We
encourage development at all levels,
as evidenced by our current deputy
starting her career with us as an NQT,
an NQT starting as a teaching assistant
and a former pupil at our school
returning as one of our teachers. All our
trainee teachers – whether TeachFirst,
assessment only route or PGCE final
placements – have passed their
respective courses with “outstanding”.
Staff are the driving force of an excellent
offer and we value their contribution
at every level of the organisation; that
is why we are one of a very few living
wage schools in London.
While maintaining clear systems, we
fit our school around the needs of
ourchildren. Our success lies in our
commitment to making sure that no
matter what challenges our children face,
we never “give up” on them–ever!
Our success lies
in our
commitment to
making sure
that no matter
what challenges
our children
face, we never
“give up” on
them – ever!
Every child in year 4
learns to play a musical

This article was sponsored by The Willow 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 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