Christopher Pickering Primary School: Improving practices, provision and performance of Early Years language, communication and mathematics
From an interview with Jane Marson, Head Teacher at Christopher Pickering.
Prior to becoming Head Teacher at Christopher Pickering Primary School in Hull, Jane Marson was a Foundation Stage Co-ordinator and a Deputy Head. Passionate and purposeful, Jane has always been a champion for quality improvement in Early Years education – and Christopher Pickering Primary is a shining example of the academic and pastoral improvement that schools can achieve using the Quality Mark accreditation framework.
Inclusivity is at the heart of Jane’s approach to education, and this is evident throughout the school. The modern, airy, light and spacious building which opened in 2012 is co-located with a Hearing Impaired Sensory Resource Base (IPaSS), the primary department of Ganton Special School and The Windmill Children’s Centre. The curriculum is immersive (expertly combining structured, sensory and exploratory learning), and bespoke to the children in the school. At Foundation Stage, this school specialises in guided investigations that grow from the children’s interests, inside and outside the classroom.
The Qualified Teacher-to-child ratio is high – and every member of the team is dedicated to encouraging and enabling the children to “dream big” and “fulfil their potential to do what they want to do”. Jane explains why this is an important measure of success for the school:
“We have a rigorous whole-school focus on developing learning skills, which means English and maths are embedded in every lesson – freeing up our Teachers to invest all their energy into making sure the pupils are excited to learn. This in turn fosters really high standards of attitudes in our pupils who are respectful and considerate of their learning opportunities. For us, these measures of success are as important as our academic results”.
Believing wholeheartedly that striving to achieve and maintain the Quality Mark accreditation is key to improving teaching and learning year on year, Jane continues:
“First and foremost, Quality Mark is a valuable external validation of our school’s commitment to quality in the practice and provision of English and maths. Practically, it is a great checklist to remind us of the work that is being done and helps us celebrate our successes – but it is so much more than that. Particularly in Early Years, the Quality Mark framework is an effective way to keep key English and maths skills development at the forefront of everybody’s mind, every day.”
The school recently appointed two new teaching staff to the team – ‘child-initiated, adult-guided play’ was a completely new practice to them. The Quality Mark framework helped to ensure that throughout their training, they developed challenging but play-based teaching methodologies.
The school’s new Foundation Stage co-ordinator is now a champion for the Early Years Quality Mark, also believing in its merits as a useful tool focussed on improvement. Jane adds:
“When staff move on or we appoint new staff – we know we have consistently high standards in place. The Quality Mark framework continues to evolve and improve - for example, the new simplified format with ‘think bubbles’ that document all elements on one page really help with application - but it continues to be a familiar and reliable tool for all members of the team, old and new”.
In a school with a distributed leadership model that invests in identifying aspiring leaders and coaching staff through the process – the Quality Mark is a very valuable asset for middle leaders. At Christopher Pickering Primary School, which has achieved the Quality Mark from Early Years through Primary, it has always been the responsibility of middle leaders to work directly with Quality Mark Assessors to collect the data and actively take part in observational learning walks. It means that all middle leaders have an accurate understanding of the school’s effectiveness and how they can drive the improvement plan. All of which, Jane reveals, is “excellent preparation for Ofsted”.
The relationship between the staff at Christopher Pickering and the Quality Mark Assessors has always been positive, supportive, constructive and focused on the school improvement plan. The external experts document and share their tailored advice in a challenging, but non-threatening way. This nurtures a culture of continuous learning and professional development that means teachers at the school thrive in their roles.
Jane concludes that using Quality Mark as a long-term planning tool ensures it doesn’t get labelled ‘just another framework’:
“Everyone in the team knows it’s just the way we do it here. Committing to the Quality Mark standards means all our evidence is ready to hand, it’s not a chore or an onerous task, and our whole team across the school is on the same page about what we’re trying to achieve… My advice to any Head Teacher looking to improve the quality of language, communication and maths in their Early Years setting is to apply for the Quality Mark. It will help them reflect on what they do already and identify how they can strive for, and evidence, improvement. I’m extremely proud of the unit and staff here, and Quality Mark is a wonderful way to celebrate their success and keep a lot of momentum and focus on English and maths – whilst juggling all our other subjects, initiatives and commitments”.
Tribal has worked with many Early Years providers to achieve the nationally recognised Quality Mark accreditation. Christopher Pickering Primary School in Hull is a shining example of how it can help schools overcome challenges and stay focused on improving the practice, provision and performance of English and mathematics.
Key reasons why Christopher Pickering Primary uses Quality Mark to improve standards in English and mathematics:
- Embeds a consistent full school improvement framework from Early Years
- Recognises the commitment of staff to improving standards
- Makes preparation for Ofsted inspections less stressful/more routine
- Challenges and supports staff with external advice on practices/provision
- Keeps best practice front of mind to guide continuous improvement
- Aids onboarding/training of new staff and consistency of delivery
- External validation of performance in English and maths
- Ensures the team celebrates excellence and improvement