Leechpool School’s best practice showcased in this year’s Parliamentary Review
The Parliamentary Review is an annual series of powerfully influential publications spanning the UK’s key public and private sectors. Their role is to stimulate improvement and reform through the sharing of insight and best practice amongst the nation’s organisational leaders and policy makers.
Nicola Davenport, Leechpool’s head teacher was invited to contribute this year, a tribute to the remarkable changes that have transformed the school in recent years.
Her article pulls no punches. She writes of the extraordinary challenge of addressing “so many issues – including pupil behaviour, curriculum change, teaching quality, the learning culture, staffing structure, quality assurance and assessment processes – while bringing everyone and everything together and resolving major infrastructure issues”.
Clarity of vision and powerful leadership together with dedicated teamwork by the whole school – including pupils and parents – shine through her description of a journey that transformed the culture and the infrastructure of the school and then, in two short years, persuaded Ofsted’s inspectors to revise their judgement from ‘requiring improvement’ to a high level ‘GOOD’.
“Throughout this process”, writes Mrs Davenport, “we refused to compromise on our broad curriculum in which music, modern foreign languages, art, PE and sport add to our children’s energy, fun and understanding. Education is about preparing our children for life beyond school.”
Her description of the way in which each challenge was addressed highlights the multi-dimensional demands faced by today’s head teachers. Focus on the academic and social well-being of pupils has to be accompanied by a rapid response to rolling changes in regulation and curriculum requirements and a laser like attention to the minutiae of budgeting. She writes “Successive reductions in our grant funding have forced us to cut all non-academic costs ... We thrive only because we pursue imaginative solutions that secure value for money and long-term sustainability.”
Like all her fellow head teachers who are facing down their own major challenges, Mrs Davenport is deeply concerned about future funding. The Rt Hon The Lord Blunket writes in his Forward to the Review that this summer’s report by the House of Commons select committee on education “could not have been clearer about the need for substantial funding and a long-term ten year commitment”. “We all know that our nation’s future will be greatly challenged unless this message is heeded” commented Mrs Davenport today “and I am at one with Lord Blunket in seeking to highlight the tragedy that those who have been most damaged by lack of funds are children with special educational needs”.
“Good schools like Leechpool play a vital role in providing a safe, stable, nurturing and rewarding environment for their pupils” commented Leechpool’s chair of governors, Stephen Humphreys. “Mrs Davenport’s important contribution to this year’s Parliamentary Review reminds us that no school achieves these goals without a clear vision and immense effort. Outstanding leadership has its costs. Nicola does not spare herself, or her staff. Together, they are tireless in their determination to provide every child with the wherewithal to thrive in school, and beyond. I, and my fellow governors, are proud to give them every support with this critical mission”.
The 2019-2020 Parliamentary Review’s South of England Primary Education edition includes contributions from the heads of 14 schools and is accompanied by feature articles from leading figures in politics and the media. Leechpool is the only Sussex primary school to be featured in this year's edition.
Nicola Davenport's article is reproduced at the bottom of this page together with photographs of the Head and Stephen Humphreys, Chair of Governors, attending the Review's gala reception at the the Palace of Westminster in November 2019
Click the button below to download Nicola Davenport's important article as a pdf file