Whinstone Primary School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Whinstone 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 Whinstone 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


Highlighting best practice
Busy in early years
Mike Poppitt, head teacher, believes we are better
by helping each other to be the best we can be
Whinstone Primary School is a three-form entry school
in the centre of the largest private housing estate
in Europe – Ingleby Barwick in Stockton-on-Tees.
The oldest of six primary schools on the estate, it was originally
intended as a one-form entry school 25 years ago. Whinstone
has quickly expanded, however, in order to accommodate the
ever-growing community. Head teacher Mike Poppitt discusses
the growth of the school in the years since its foundation,
and his recent decision to establish the school as an academy
– something he believes will benefit the school and wider
community going forwards.
The capacity of the school has fluctuated throughout its history as the estate has
expanded and schools have opened or been enlarged within areas of new housing.
We last received an Ofsted inspection in January 2016, when it was confirmed
that we continued to be a “good” school. Despite our stability and good standing,
governors recently made the decision to convert to academy status and join a small,
local multi-academy trust, Vision Academy Learning Trust (VALT).
Education as it should be
It may sound clichéd, but we endeavour to provide an education, offer
opportunities and provide experiences that we would want our own children to
receive. Several staff live on the estate and their children have been through or are
currently attending our school. We strive for high academic standards – outcomes
»Head teacher: Mike Poppitt
»Established as an academy in
»Based in Stockton-on-Tees
»Type of school: Recent
converter academy three-form
entry primary school
»No. of pupils: 621
»No. of staff: 70
»SEND: 5 per cent
Whinstone Primary
in early years, phonics and Key Stages
1 and 2 have been consistently above
national standards, and our children
have made significant progress in
attainment for these key stages over
many years. High standards in core
skills provide a firm starting platform
for our children moving on to one of
the area’s many secondary schools.
Beyond strong achievements in
phonics, reading, writing and maths
we pride ourselves on our broad
curriculum. We believe in educating
the whole child with knowledge and
skills that will serve them in life beyond
school. Due to economies of scale we
can offer specialist teaching in PE, MFL
and music. Residential experiences play
a key part in a child’s life at Whinstone
too, with experiences of outdoor
education on the nearby North York
Moors and further afield in northern
France, where our year 6 children visit
in the summer term before moving to
their secondary education.
New technologies play an increasing
role in the lives of all of us and we
endeavour to provide our children with
the necessary skills to keep themselves
safe in their online lives. The school
has a consistent focus on online safety,
and updates from our in-house CEOP-
accredited trainer (Child Exploitation
and Online Protection) help us in
equipping children with such skills as
we never needed at their age.
There is a low staff turnover,
ensuring the provision of experience
and knowledge across the school.
This can have a negative impact,
however, when budget-setting,
due to high staff costs. This is
compounded by comparatively
low pupil premium funding. The
consequence of this is that we do
rely on parental contributions for
many additional events. We are
fortunate that we have a small but
strong support group – “Friends of
Whinstone” – who tirelessly support
us, enabling us to provide a wealth
of experiences to the children. We
are conscious that planned events
should not be just about fundraising,
as important as this is, but also
about fostering relationships within
our school community. The biennial
“Whinstonbury” festival is a date
for everybody’s calendar, when we
showcase the musical talents of pupils
past and present.
Becoming an academy
As a “good” school there was no
external pressure for Whinstone to
convert to academy status. Indeed,
I initially felt that the change to an
academy was purely political and
not necessarily aligned with school
improvement. Whinstone had always
maintained a positive relationship
with the local authority – a strong
relationship that has continued post-
academisation. The governing body
was aware, however, that in a number
of adjoining local authorities a rising
number of schools were converting
to academy status and the support
provided by their respective authorities
was dwindling. The governing body
was keen to explore the possibilities
presented by academisation before the
agenda was forced upon us. Year 4 exploring the
nearby North York
It may sound
clichéd, but we
endeavour to
provide an
education, offer
and provide
experiences that
we would want
our own
children to
Highlighting best practice
I was consequently tasked, four years
ago, with investigating the advantages
and disadvantages of academisation.
After attending several conferences,
visiting schools that had converted –
including sponsored academies – and
discussions with CEOs I decided to
recommend the transition, becoming
an academy as part of a multi-academy
trust (MAT) due to the concrete
school improvement opportunities it
promised. The key discussion had to
be around the values and ethos of the
MAT and ensuring they aligned with
the established values of Whinstone
Primary School. My advice was that
within the right MAT, we could build
on all we had achieved and accomplish
even greater outcomes for our
children by drawing on other schools’
experiences, at the same time offering
these schools the benefits of our
own achievements and areas of best
When the governors approved my
recommendation, I endeavoured to
find the right MAT, and entered into
discussions with the CEO of VALT.
VALT had only established itself in
September 2016, and was then
composed of three schools within
Stockton-on-Tees. One of the schools
is a highly successful secondary school
where an increasing number of our
children now transfer for year 7, whilst
the other schools are primary schools
within Stockton-on-Tees but not in
our immediate vicinity. Following our
addition to VALT a fifth school has
also joined as a sponsored academy.
The partnership work and mutual
skill-sharing is abundant, fostering an
exchange of best practice between
schools. This sharing also takes place
between phases with year 7 teachers
raising their expectations after
workingclosely with year 6 teaching
staff and increased moderation of
assessed work in years 6 and 7.
Vision for Whinstone
Whinstone Primary School is a good
school and improving further. Working
within VALT there is a genuine belief
that we are well placed to achieve
greater success and continue raising
standards for children at Whinstone
and across all the schools in VALT.
Schools are dynamic organisations and
there will be challenges along the way
due to unforeseen factors. We are,
however, ambitious and resilient with a
determination to provide the very best
for our children and hopefully deliver a
model of working that others will want
to emulate.
Within the
right MAT we
could build on
all we had
achieved and
even greater
outcomes for
our children
Every two years we hold
our Whinstonbury Music
Festival, celebrating
musical talents of pupils
past and present


This article was sponsored by Whinstone 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