A Northampton headteacher has credited working with Northampton Saints’ community team in helping to turn his school from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’ in the eyes of OFSTED.
Leigh Wolmarans has been head teacher at Lings Primary School since September 2011. When he took over the school had been in special measures for nearly 18 months. But by using sport, including establishing strong links with the Saints’ community department and Study Centre, he created an ethos within the school that earned praise for “driving forward many improvements”.
Lings Primary is based in east Northampton, and when Wolmarans took up his position over half of the students were receiving free school meals, with the school also among the worst 200 in the country, based on their Key Stage 2 results.
But by bringing in the focus on the values of sport he brought about remarkable change, and by March 2012 the school had become good in every category, leaving special measures well behind them.
“Lings had a history of low performance, but they also had great staff who wall wanted the school to improve,” Wolmarans says. “They were a positive group that had a belief in what the school could do. There were a few members of staff that were passionate about sport and a HLTA that was a force of nature in this department.
“I also knew that there were some incredibly talented children in the school that just needed this talent to be nurtured, developed, challenged and set free. The children needed to understand the importance of what it meant to be a Lings Primary pupil before we did anything else, and we started by building up an ethos and vision for sport, focused on a solid base of behaviour and discipline.
“We set up as many opportunities as we could. This meant a great structure of after-school clubs that were run by staff and quality professionals.
“We also started to tap into the brilliant clubs organisations and structures we have in Northampton, and as a Saints fan I was on the phone in an instant as I knew that the Saints Study Centre and the activities that they run have a real impact.
“We also tapped into the phenomenal work that they do with their coaches in schools and programmes they run to highlight the importance of sport.”
With Northampton Town FC, Northamptonshire CCC and a variety of other organisations also on his callsheet, Wolmarans adds that a multi-sport approach also helps to pay such great dividend when it comes to developing young people.
This in turn has helped Lings be named Northampton’s Sports School of the Year for two years running, and then Northmaptonshire County Sports School of the year in 2014.
“We made sure that the children were constantly out and about and were involved in as many competitions, festivals and opportunities as possible,” he says. “Our answer to any invite was, and always is, ‘YES!’.
“The work we do has had an incredible impact on the standard of what we do and the level of pupil leadership that is evident in our school.
“You need to start by developing a growth mindset on life that is built on a concrete base of morals, discipline and respect. You then need to use the power of sport, the arts and creativity to develop all learning equally so that our children become the individuals that we need in our society, so that they can one day enjoy teaching their children the importance of education.”