Westcourt Primary School

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

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 Westcourt Primary School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


Reading is the key to unlocking
all areas of the curriculum
Deputy Headteacher Viv Hart and
Headteacher Mags Sexton
Westcourt Primary and Nursery School has grown
alongside our pupils since its foundation. The school
joined the Primary First Trust in February 2017
and Mags Sexton was made acting head of the school in
September of the same year. Her appointment coincided with
the realisation that changes were urgently required to further
the quality of education the school was providing. Below, Mags
explains how she helped turn things around.
One third of our school have English as a second language, and as such, a number
of our children enter into the system with the language skills of a considerably
younger child. If children are behind in learning from when they begin, catching
up can seem an insurmountable challenge. With just under 20 ethnic groups at
our school, we recognise the importance of raising the standards of language
acquisition across the school.
Power of reading
When I took over the school, our Key Stage 2 results did not reflect the ability of
our pupils. The leadership team and I realised that something had to change to
improve the combined pass rate of 43 per cent. Through engaging with a range of
initiatives we have been able to improve the teaching we offer and the education
of our children.
First, the deputy head redesigned the English curriculum with a focus on the power
of reading. Through implementing a range of reading strategies, we immediately
»Headteacher:Mags Sexton
»Founded in 1932
»Location:Gravesend, Kent
»Type of school: Academy Trust
»No. of students: 321
Westcourt Primary
Highlighting best practice
saw the impact on our children’s
use of language. The introduction
of language walls allowed our staff
to introduce words that were new
to the children, ensuring that they
were challenged and encouraged in
Through using high-quality texts, our
pupils were able to write more and
were encouraged to read different
books themselves. Encouraging
reading throughout the school saw
an increase in the number of books
our children engaged with, in addition
to their complexity. The power of
reading was described best by one of
our year 3s, who said, “It’s like going
on an adventure without leaving
Who wants to be a millionaire?
We have also introduced reading
half millionaires and millionaires.
This allows pupils to see how many
words they have read across their time
during an academic year and to track
their progress, developing a sense
We created the power of reading
scheme to establish what constitutes a
“high-quality” text, ensuring that our
children find themselves challenged to
an appropriate degree. The list includes
books without words, showing the
way in which we can communicate
non-verbally, and our pupils are
asked to create their own captions for
Our word of the week initiative was
set up by our deputy head in the hope
of encouraging our children to use a
wider range of vocabulary. Children
are expected to find out what the
word means and find an alternative,
and eventually the world will be added
to a feature wall. This scheme has been
so successful that children will suggest
a word of the week, and we now have
a waiting list for the next word.
Children are given both individual and
class-wide reading targets. When a
class reaches their target, they have
a reward afternoon. This encourages
children to help one another, in
addition to encouraging a sense of
class ownership.
Westcourt children
enjoying selecting and
reading from a range of
books in the library
We created
the power of
scheme to
establish what
constitutes a
text, ensuring
that our
children find
challenged to
an appropriate
Bridging the gaps
We find that parental engagement
is one of our central challenges.
A number of our parents do not
see the importance of reading and
spelling, both skills that benefit from
reinforcement at home. Since I began
as headteacher, we have worked to
encourage parents to read with their
children at home. Our blue box system
rewards children, drawing out the
name of a child who has reached a
specific challenge and who is then
given a prize. We also provide awards
for children who reach specific targets
in reading.
Continuing to develop a love for
reading in our pupils is another
challenge we face. Of our EAL children,
we have found that while they may
have picked up English and learned the
language quickly, their comprehension
was perhaps not where it should
have been. As teaching staff, it is our
job to ensure all children are able to
comprehend what they are reading,
and this has presented us with an
additional challenge.
In an effort to bridge this gap, and
in recognition of the fact that these
children do not have English as a first
language, we have introduced key
stage challenges to ensure they obtain
both speed and rigour in their reading.
This has proven successful thus far,
and we are confident it will do so in
the future.
Reading the future
In the coming years we hope to
continue to promote the importance
of reading in school, as well as reading
at home. We believe that reading can
open minds, and open worlds, and this
was acknowledged in our receipt of a
“good” rating from Ofsted recently.
The pandemic of 2020 has challenged
the school in many ways but the
question of how children could
continue to read from home needed
to be addressed. Many children had
limited access to books but we did not
want them to lose their love of reading.
An online platform of over 1000 books
was the answer. Since September we
have had 292 children out of 320
reading online, with an average of
49.2 pages being read a week. We
believe that our future will continue to
demonstrate that reading is a right as
well as a joy. Here at Westcourt, we
are proud of how far we have come,
and how far we have to go.
We believe
that reading
can open
minds, and
open worlds,
and this was
in our receipt
of a “good”
rating from
Enjoying being outside


This article was sponsored by Westcourt Primary School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.