Lord David Blunkett praises progress of town primary school during Northampton visit

Lord David Blunkett with Kat Johnson, headteacher, and pupils from The Arbours Primary School in Northampton
Lord David Blunkett with Kat Johnson, headteacher, and pupils from The Arbours Primary School in Northampton

Former Government minister David Blunkett said he believed academy chains were the best model for education success during a visit to a primary school in Northampton.

Lord Blunkett, who served as Education Secretary between 1997 and 2001, visited The Arbours, Kings Heath and Eastfield primary schools on Thursday as part of his new role as chairman of the David Ross Education Trust (DRET).

During the visit to the Arbours, which has made a rapid improvement in the past four years, Lord Blunkett said he believed schools worked well in academy chains.

In 2012, the Arbours Primary School was in special measures and rated as one of the worst performing in the town with only 34 per cent of pupils achieving the expected level in reading, writing and maths.

The latest results show the number of pupils reaching the expected level has now more than doubled to 84 per cent.

Lord Blunkett said: “This school has done a phenomenal job in improving outcome measures for the children.

“It is a big challenge as it is a very diverse group of pupils with 35 languages. The headteacher has done a great job over the last three years making very good progress.

“Academy chains are now the inevitable way forward. This is going to be the pattern. We have actually come full circle. What we are doing is putting the glue back to make good schools work in partnership like they did in the nest practice of local authorities.

“We are moving away from schools being individual, atomised institutions.”

Lord Blunkett said he had chosen to work with David Ross because, although he disagreed with his choice of political party, he admired his commitment to improving schools.

He said: “I started my career in education and I’m really enjoying the role. I find it very uplifting talking to youngsters.”

Kat Johnson, headteacher of The Arbours Primary school, said having a high number of pupils that did not have English as a first language did not prevent them from becoming successful in their SATS exams.

She said: “The level of deprivation in the catchment area is high but that is not a reason that would prevent any child from being successful in school.

“We describe the school as a family and we make sure that every pupil feels very safe here.”